Jurassic Spark: NBA Draft and Offseason Trades Renew Toronto Raptors Excitement

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Jurassic Spark: NBA Draft and Offseason Trades Renew Toronto Raptors Excitement
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The Toronto Raptors have been one of the busiest teams in the NBA during this years offseason making a variety of moves. President and General Manager Bryan Colangelo has been a very busy man and given the Raptors a complete makeover thus far.

Bryan Colangelo started it all off when he dealt small forward Jason Kapono to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for power forward Reggie Evans. Kapono had begun to wear out his welcome in Toronto and he never lived up to the expectations that Colangelo had for him when Colangelo signed Kapono in 2007 and really didn't fit on the Raptors.

In exchange for the sharp shooting Kapono, the Raptors acquired rugged power forward Reggie Evans. Evans is a terrific rebounder and a very tough, physical defender. The Raptors have been criticized for being a soft team, especially in the paint, and adding a player like Evans gives them a tough interior player.

The next move that the Raptors made came during the 2009 NBA Draft where they had the ninth overall pick. They decided to use their pick on a player by the name of DeMar DeRozan out of the University of Southern Carolina. DeRozan was considered to be one of, if not the best athletes in the entire draft and has a tremendous upside.

DeRozan will most likely not be an immediate impact player due to him still being relatively raw, but he has a great deal of potential and is just a fantastic athlete, something that the Raptors have not had on the perimeter since Vince Carter called the Air Canada Center home.

After the NBA Draft was finished, Bryan Colangelo set his sights on free agency, and one particular free agent stood out from the rest in his eyes. That free agent was Hedo Turkoglu who was coming off of an NBA Finals appearance with the Orlando Magic.

It seemed as though Colangelo would not be able to get his man though as Turkoglu had agreed in principle to sign with the Portland Trail Blazers. However, at the last minute, Colangelo was able to convince Turkoglu to come to the Raptors and sign a long term deal with the team.

Rather than signing Turkoglu outright which would force the Raptors to renounce the rights to various free agents and also force them to give up the Mid Level Exception, Colangelo managed to acquire Turkoglu in a four-team sign and trade that included the Raptors, Magic, Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies.

Along with acquiring Turkoglu and holding onto their Mid Level Exception, the Raptors also received Antoine Wright and Devean George from the Mavericks while giving up Shawn Marion, Kris Humphries, and Nathan Jawai.

With the blockbuster trade enabling Colangelo to use the MLE, he set his sights on another free agent. This time he was after the Indiana Pacers' Jarrett Jack.

Colangelo set aside around $5M of the MLE for Jack and signed him to an offer sheet which the Indiana Pacers would decide not to match, and as a result the Raptors strengthened the point guard spot by adding a very solid backup to starter Jose Calderon.

The Raptors struggled last season when Calderon was bothered by a hamstring injury and felt that it was necessary to go out and get a reliable backup and Jack is a great one.

The Raptors also locked up one of their core players for the next five seasons as they gave former first overall pick and starting center Andrea Bargnani a five-year, $50 million contract extension after he showed vast improvements to his overall game during the second half of last season.

By locking Bargnani up long term, it will prevent any sort of future questions about his role to the team and it completely solidifies his role as the teams future center.

With the Raptors in need of an experienced backup center, they turned their sights to former Raptor Rasho Nesterovic and the two sides had mutual interest.

Nesterovic absolutely loves the city of Toronto and was crushed when he had to leave the Raptors last year as apart of the Jermaine O'Neal trade so when it was reported that the Raptors were bringing the veteran Slovenian center back, it came as no surprise to anybody. Nesterovic gives the Raptors a solid interior defender and rebounder, as well as a great veteran presence on and off of the floor.

Lastly, Bryan Colangelo struck another home run when he acquired 23 year old Italian shooting guard Marco Belinelli from the Golden State Warriors in exchange for Devean George. This just may have been the best move that Colangelo made all offseason long and nobody saw it coming.

George really never fit into the Raptors plans and there was talk of the two sides coming to terms on a buyout, so being able to turn that into a young 23-year-old shooting guard with a pretty good upside was just an absolutely wonderful deal on the Raptors behalf.

I admit that I have been very skeptical of Bryan Colangelo in the past, but I have to admit that he has done a magnificent job this offseason.

Out are Shawn Marion, Anthony Parker, Joey Graham, Jason Kapono, Kris Humphries and Nathan Jawai.

In are Hedo Turkoglu, DeMar DeRozan, Reggie Evans, Marco Belinelli, Jarrett Jack, and Antoine Wright.

The Raptors have had a busy offseason making plenty of deals. They have changed the complexion of the roster and brought in plenty of new faces after the disappointment that was the 2008/2009 season in an attempt to surround star power forward Chris Bosh with talent and hopefully, in the process, proving to him that it would be in his best interest to resign with the Toronto Raptors.

These moves all seem to be for the best as on paper the Raptors look to be a much improved team heading into the 2009/2010 season, but will it translate onto the floor? That is a question that Raptor fans are all dying to find out the answer to.

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