Toronto Raptors: A Confusing Team to Follow
A Raptor fan does not know success. He or she only knows disappointment. Whether it was Vince Carter missing a game-winning three in the 2001 Playoffs or Richard Jefferson picking off Jose Calderon's pass in the 2007 playoffs. It may even be the Raptor fan having to witness dismal season after dismal season, always being disappointed by the franchise.
Now we are entering the 2009-10 season and Raptor Nation is filled with excitement. Why wouldn't they? The "best team" Bryan Colangelo ever built is coming off of a 33-49 season, yet in one mighty offseason, Mr. Colangelo has once again turned a mediocre team into a pretender (at least in the eyes of their fans).
Throughout the offseason, the Toronto GM has added Jarret Jack, Hedo Turkoglu, Antoine Wright, Reggie Evans, DeMar DeRozan, Rasho Nesterovic, and Devean George. However, they have also lost Shawn Marion, Joey Graham, Jason Kapono, Anthony Parker, and possibly Pops Mensah-Bonsu. Along with those moves, the Raptors have managed to lock-up Andrea Bargnani (2006 first-overall pick) long-term and sign Jay Triano as head coach for three more seasons.
Among Raptor fans, I've heard talks of a 50-win season and the second round. Let’s put things into perspective: The Raptors have improved, but not monumentally.
With Hedo Turkoglu, they've added a secondary ball handler who's a good passer. However, Hedo's game consists mostly of spot-up jump shots and mid-range step backs and fade-aways. Rarely does he penetrate into the lane, and rarely does he go to the free-throw line. Along with his terrible defense, how much of an improvement is he over Marion? Anything they gain on offense, they'll lose on defense.
Also, Toronto lost arguably its best defender in Anthony Parker. This guy was a winner, he did all the little things, he was every contender’s dream for a role player. Replacing him is Antoine Wright and/or DeMar DeRozan. Because both are unproven, it's too early to tell, but duplicating Parker's success is a very hard task.
The only great addition seems to be Jarret Jack, who can defend, shoot, penetrate, pass, and finish. This guy does it all, and he also keeps Chris Bosh very happy. If Triano was smart, he'd start Jack.
Raptor fans love Jose Calderon, but I don't see the hype. Sure he can find the open man and hit the open shot, but he doesn't penetrate into the lane, he doesn't create a shot, and he is without a doubt the worst defending point guard in the league.
Evans and Rasho give the Raptors some punch and depth up front, but with Bosh and Bargnani both garnering 35+ minutes, the team will be soft up front and give up a lot of offensive rebounds (also considering none of the Raptor-guards can rebound). Not to mention the team will get bullied down low by premier low-post players.
For the past couple of seasons, offense has never been the problem, it's been the defense. How is it that all perimeter threats would have great games against the Raptors? That's because no help defense and slow perimeter defenders. That doesn't change, especially with Hedo and Jay around.
Last let’s look into Jay Triano, who was the interim head coach last season. He went 25-40 last season, and while people are quick to point out the squad, it should also be pointed out Sam Mitchell managed to go 8-9 in his short stint. Tony Dileo went 32-27 for the Sixers and got removed as head coach. Triano went 25-40 and gets a three-year extension? Raptors are rewarding mediocrity?
The team however will be much better primed for the fourth quarter, with Jack and Hedo both being able to make the correct plays in crunch time. The only problem is you can't hit the big shots when the game’s not close. Good teams will pounce on the team early, especially their inability to defend or take a hit.
The Raptors have the fire power offensively, but only Bosh shows up consistently. Even so, good teams find ways to get stops, and Triano isn't known for great offensive sets and great offensive execution. Hedo will have trouble being the offensive threat he was in Orlando without Dwight Howard down low.
So as the Raptor fan pops their popcorn for their upcoming season hoping for a great year, the Raptor players should know that a disappointment this season could hurt more then a missed three or a picked off pass.
The Raptors remain an enigma; are they a success, or a disappointment? Only time will tell.
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