Toronto Raptors Returning to Form?

Dannie HaynesContributor IJuly 12, 2009

NEW YORK - JUNE 25:   NBA Commissioner David Stern poses for a photograph with the ninth overall draft pick by the Toronto Raptors,  DeMar DeRozan during the 2009 NBA Draft at the Wamu Theatre at Madison Square Garden June 25, 2009 in New York City. 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 Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

While many of last year’s top teams have been adding that “one last piece to the puzzle”, the Raptors realize that they are not on that level just yet. Their main concern remains keeping their franchise player, Chris Bosh, in a Raptors uniform. 

Their General Manager, Brian Colangelo, has had a very successful offseason, hopefully giving Bosh the tools he needs to stay in Toronto and win them the championship the city has been longing for.

The best place to begin the changes the Raptors have undergone is at the NBA draft. Brian Colangelo watched as Blake Griffin, Hasheem Thabeet, and Ricky Rubio were quickly swept up and obviously did not fall to the Raptors number nine spot.

While this was to be expected, it was hard to judge who would be the Raptors selection after Jordan Hill went to the Knicks. When their number was called, the Raptors took the player who may have the best chance at being a superstar, DeMar DeRozen.

While he is still a work in progress, he has a tremendous upside, showed great improvement through his freshman season, and someone I feel will play with a chip on his shoulder because many doubt he will become a better shooter. With the right coaching, he may be the superstar wing the Raptors lost a few years ago.

Once free agency started, it looked as though the Raptors might be in trouble when they were willing to pay Hedo Turkoglu over ten million dollars a year for five years. While this is the high calibre free agent the Raptors have coveted for years, the price would ultimately cripple the team in terms of filling out their bench.

Brian Colangelo, however, used his expertise in orchestrating a sign-and-trade in order to land Turkoglu, Antoine Wright, and Devean George in exchange for Shawn Marion, Kris Humphries, and Nathan Jawai.

This was truly an amazing turn of events for the Raptors, because it allowed them to keep the rights to Carlos Delfino, along with their Mid Level Exception, both of which would have disappeared had we outright signed Turkoglu.

In the end, the Raptors lost a four time all-star in Marion, who would have left town regardless, an expensive hustle player in Kris Humphries, and a career backup in Nathan Jawai.

In return they received an all-star coming off a great year in Turkoglu, a young wing player in Wright with a ton of potential, and a strong bench player in George, although I believe he may be bought out.

Also before the draft the Raptors traded Jason Kapono for Reggie Evans, which provided them with a strong post presence who gives them grit and determination off the bench. They also resigned former number one overall selection Andrea Bargnani to a five year deal that could ultimately be a steal if he properly develops.

While the Raptors are still by far a champion contender, they have no doubt positioned themselves for a return to the postseason. They gained some good young players in DeRozen and Wright, and still have money to sign some wing players in order to strengthen their bench.

As of right now, there are still some holes, such as starting shooting guard, and backup center and point guard, but in these early stages of free agency, there has been promising moves for a team that needs to establish a winning program now. This should allow Raptors fans to breathe a sigh of relieve that good times are sure to follow.