A Toronto Raptors Season Preview: Back from Extinction
Record: 33-49, Fourth in Atlantic Division, 13th in Eastern Conference.
Scored 99 points per game and gave up 101.9 points per game.
Hedo Turkoglu (via sign and trade), DeMar DeRozan (via draft), Marco Belinelli (via trade), Antoine Wright (via trade), Reggie Evans (via trade), Rasho Nesterovic (via free agency), Jarrett Jack (via free agency), Amir Johnson (via trade), Sonny Weems (via trade)
Shawn Marion (via sign and trade), Anthony Parker (via free agency), Roko Ukic (via trade), Carlos Delfino (via trade), Pops Mensah-Bonsu (via free agency), Kris Humphries (via trade), Nathan Jawai (via trade), Jason Kapono (via trade), Joey Graham (not re-signed)
PG: Jose Calderon/Jarrett Jack/Quincy Douby
SG: DeMar DeRozan/Marco Belinelli/Antoine Wright
SF: Hedo Turkoglu/Antoine Wright/DeMar DeRozan
PF: Chris Bosh/Reggie Evans/Amir Johnson
C: Andrea Bargnani/Rasho Nesterovic/Patrick O’Bryant
After the Raptors missed the playoffs and plummeted down the Eastern Conference standings during the 2008-09 NBA season, Bryan Colangelo promised that there would be changes made to the roster—but nobody expected the complete overhaul that occurred.
Colangelo brought in nine new players through the NBA draft, trades, and free agency, and he said goodbye to nine familiar faces. The Raptors have been the busiest team this offseason and are hoping that the moves made will catapult them back into the upper-echelon of the Eastern Conference.
The Raptors will once again turn to All-Star power forward Chris Bosh to lead the team.
Bosh has experienced his fair share of ups and downs as the franchise player for the Toronto Raptors. He led them to their first Atlantic Division title just three seasons ago, but the Raptors have regressed each season since then.
However, this season is different for Bosh and the Raptors.
Bosh’s contract is up at the end of the season and he will look to prove to everybody around the league that he is worthy of a max contract and is capable of leading his team to the playoffs. Look for Bosh to step up his game this season on both ends of the floor.
No longer will Bosh have to put the Raptors on his back night in and night out as he now has legitimate help on the offensive end of the floor to lighten the load on him.
This will enable Bosh to play more aggressively on the offensive end, and more importantly, defensively as well. No longer will he have to be passive defensively because of the fear of getting into foul trouble.
With the help that he now has at the offensive end of the floor, we just may see Bosh play with the same tenacity on the defensive end of the floor with which we saw him play during the Olympics.
One of the biggest problems for the Raptors last season was their lack of a creative offensive wing player, and they added one of the best in the league during the offseason in Hedo Turkoglu.
Turkoglu gives the Raptors another offensive option, playmaker, and perhaps most importantly of all, a reliable option in the clutch, which is something that the Raptors severely lacked last season.
Having Turkoglu on the roster gives them a lot of options offensively as he is a very capable ball handler, perhaps one of the best point-forwards in the league today, and as a 6’10" small forward, he creates plenty of mismatch opportunities.
At times last season the Raptors became very predictable on the offensive end of the floor due to their lack of creative ball handlers, but with Turkoglu in the lineup, that is no longer the case.
Turkoglu was a crucial piece in the Orlando Magic’s run to the NBA Finals last season and the Raptors are counting on Turkoglu to help take them to the next level, in the same way he helped the Magic.
The ninth overall draft pick from USC, DeMar DeRozan, along with Marco Belinelli and Antoine Wright, give the Raptors a deep shooting guard rotation, which is something that they have not had the luxury of over the past couple of seasons. The best thing about this trio of shooting guards is that they all bring something different to the table.
Belinelli is the most offensively gifted of the three and he will give the Raptors another option whenever he is on the floor. He is a very good shooter and is also able to create his own shot off of the dribble, which will be a welcome attribute to the lineup.
Defensively, he isn’t great, but he is not a complete liability either.
Wright is a physical, hard-nosed defender that will certainly be given the task of guarding the opposing team's best perimeter player ever game. The Raptors have struggled guarding players at the point of attack, and having a defensive-minded player like Wright will go a long way to help fix this problem.
DeRozan is a very good athlete and possesses a lot of raw talent. It will take him time to adjust to the much quicker, stronger, and more athletic NBA game. He will have his fair share of ups and downs during the course of the season, but having depth at the two-guard gives the Raptors the luxury of bringing him along slowly.
This year when the Raptors are struggling at the wing positions, they have the option of going to their bench and inserting a new face into the game. They also won’t have to ask players to play outside of their games and do things that they really aren’t capable of doing. Toronto did not have the luxury of either of these things last season because of its limited depth at the wing positions.
Former first overall pick Andrea Bargnani was given a five-year, $50 million contract extension this offseason as a result of his solid play down the stretch of last season.
He is undoubtedly going to look to prove that he is worth the long-term investment that the Raptors made in him and improve on his play from last season.
Jarrett Jack gives the Raptors a reliable backup point guard behind Jose Calderon. Calderon was hampered by a hamstring injury for the majority of last season, and when he was not on the floor the Raptors struggled mightily without a reliable backup point guard.
Jack is a physical player that isn’t a pure point guard in the sense that he will look for his own shot quite a bit, but that change of pace and contrast in styles proved to be incredibly successful for the Raptors when T.J. Ford was with the team. One thing that Jack gives the team that they will be very pleased with is his physical defense on opposing guards.
The Raptors got bullied around inside last season and in order to help bring some interior defense, toughness, and rebounding, the Raptors added Reggie Evans and Rasho Nesterovic through a trade and free agency respectively.
Evans is a rugged rebounder that has a knack for getting under opposing players' skin. He is a very good agitator and is a great energy big man. He does not back down from anybody and is not afraid to get physical.
Nesterovic is a veteran that has been around the block. He has a very good understanding of the game, plays good positional defense, and is a very good veteran presence. He is back for his second tour of duty with the Raptors and will be an excellent backup center.
Rounding out the Raptors roster is power forward Amir Johnson, swingman Sonny Weems, center Patrick O’Bryant, and guards Marcus Banks and Quincy Douby.
Toronto is going to be one of the most offensively gifted teams in the entire NBA next season and will look to push the pace. They have gifted offensive players at every position and will have absolutely no problems scoring the ball.
However, the key for the Raptors next season is not going to be how many points they score, but rather how many points they allow their opposition to score. The Raptors are certainly not going to turn any heads with stellar, lockdown defensive play next season.
With the talent that this team has on the offensive end of the floor, as long as they are able to play average defense throughout the course of the game, they will put themselves in position to win the basketball game.
After a very disappointing season last year, the Raptors look to bounce back and once again be a playoff basketball team. They have made the necessary moves in order to surround Chris Bosh with talent, have addressed plenty of team needs through trades and free agency, and have generated an excitement among Raptors nation.
On paper the Toronto Raptors are a playoff team, but will that translate onto the court?
We will have our answer soon enough.
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