Why the Toronto Raptors Will Make the Playoffs Next Season

Mark ElishaContributor IJuly 6, 2009

TORONTO - OCTOBER 31:  The Raptors Dance Pak perform during the game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre on October 31, 2007 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  The Raptors won 106-97.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

As things stand, the Raptors' future is about as clear as mud. With rumors that Hedo Turkoglu is on his way to the Raptors, some Raptor faithful have reacted jubilantly while others are dismayed.

On one hand, we get a good scorer who could potentially make it easier for both Andrea, whom I think is our best player, and Bosh to score because he can stretch the defense with the three. In addition, he is a good mid-range jump shooter. He is useful in the post and is a good passer.

Now the flip side of this deal is that the Raptors have to give up two guys that might be their only good defenders in Anthony Parker and Shawn Marion, both because of salary cap issues and because it is impossible for a team on the fringe of being a contender to carry two starting small forwards.

Additionally, losing The Matrix means that we lose rebounding which as the Raptor Nation knows well killed us many times last season. The one upside of Turkoglu is that he will average as many points and assists as both of these guys combined, so offensively this move would be an upgrade in my opinion but defensively still not looking too good.

Now let us assume these starters for now:

Center: Andrea Bargnani

Power Forward: Chris Bosh

Small Forward: Hedo Turkoglu

Now, many Raptor fans will be wondering what about point guard, Jose Calderon, right? Wrong. Now hear me out: He is a good point guard when he and the Raptors are knocking down shots and the offense looks good.

The problem with the Raptors, though, is that the offense often stagnates and the team turns into a straight jump shooting team. Many offensive possessions turn into pass-->maybe one more pass-->then chuck up a brick.

There are two people who mainly take the blame for this sort of impotence: Jay Triano and Sam Mitchell, aka the coach and the point guard.

This is not even the biggest drawback though. Jose cannot defend his position, many a point guard has gotten past him with ease only to find the paint completely empty because there is no help from the bigs or to find one of his teammates wide open for a three.

See Utah versus Toronto last year to see what happened to Jose when he was up against Deron Williams.

My recommendation is to re-sign Parker as our starting point guard. That move immediately improves our defense and keeps a good shooter on the floor. AP filled the position well when Jose was down injured, so I really think it can work. Plus, I think we can get good value for Calderon in a trade.

Realistically though, I do not see this move happening, so let us move on to backup PG. We have three back up PGs on the roster, count em one, two, three. Douby, Banks, and Ukic. I do not know much about Douby to be honest; he was with the Raps for a pretty short time last year.

Banks is a guy who got a fat contract, then, to coin a phrase, I found on ESPN.com "signed and retired" this move prevented the Suns from signing Rajon Rondo when they drafted him, so let us disregard him as a contributor.

I think Ukic is the best backup we have. He played well last year in his rookie season. He can defend his position, has a decent shot, and he attacks the basket aggressively getting to the line and even coming up with acrobatic finishes.

Shooting guard has been a black hole for the Raptors since Vince Carter left. The best that the Raptors have come up with is AP or a platoon of him and Delfino.

Now based on the assumption that Hedo is in, AP is out, and Delfino (he is the only guy we can resign affordably) and DeRozen are the remaining SGs on the team. This position has great black hole potential yet again. Rookies with terrible stats in one year of college never fill me with confidence.

I suppose the kid needs a chance. They say he's athletic, has good size, and seeing as he is a rookie, maybe he will work hard and D up...yeah right. Maybe, I guess you never know.

Delfino is at least experienced averages almost 10 points so not that different from AP, can play a little D and attacks the basket with emphatic flushes on occasion but personally I do not really rate him that highly. He was not very impressive two years ago in Toronto and likewise in the Olympics for Argentina.

Now we move to the bench. Brian Colangelo deserves a lot of credit for fooling the Sixers into taking Kapono and his ridiculous contract off of our hands. We get a a bruiser, a tough, who will add some steel to this often times spineless team and also will give us a couple baskets and a handful of rebounds and maybe even play defense.

A lot of Raptor players suffer from a rather popular form of I-couldn't-careless-about-defense syndrome which has turned into a pandemic or is it epidemic in the NBA.

Next, we have Pops. Man, I love this guy (no homo). He gets rebounds, runs the floor, finishes at the basket, has size, can defend and the crowd loves him. Can't wait to see him in the lineup for a full season.

Delfino and DeRozen swap time on the bench so that takes care of SG. Center we have O'Bryant and Jawai, hopefully they will contribute just a little bit. And all we have left is Humphries (aka nothing to see here).

I sincerely think that Andrea is going to be absolutely beastly this year. He is the second coming of Dirk, but he is starting to enjoy getting in the paint, he's starting to defend and he drives the lane better than any Raptor currently on the roster. He is the main reason the Raptors will have success next year.

Now even if Colangelo signs Hedo, there will still be salary cap left over to improve this team, right now, without Hedo, Toronto's salary cap is sitting at only $46 million (compare this to $76 million for the Lakers right now).

A front court of Hedo, Andrea, and Bosh can run with anyone in the league in my opinion and we can anticipate 60 to 70 points from that combo. And with Andrea and Hedo draining threes, the offense starts to look a lot like the Magic's last year, which, needless to say, served them very well.

If the defense improves the Raptors suddenly become a very tough team to compete with. This is possible since playing defense is a mentality, not necessarily a physical thing. 

So the Raptors make it to the playoffs at the expense of the Bulls in my view, they won't be cracking the top four unless everyone plays out of their skins but if we can get in at five and avoid the Celtics and Shaq and LeBron (wow that sounds scary) we could very well see this team in the second round of the playoffs.

Yup you heard it here first and this is not a typo and I'm not high or drunk right now, I am predicting second round of playoffs for the Raptors and it is not even the 10th of July.