Have the Toronto Raptors Need for Toughness and Defense Been Answered?

Brad NortonCorrespondent ISeptember 6, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - APRIL 26:  Reggie Evans #33 of the Philadelphia 76ers battles for the ball against Marcin Gortat #13 of the Orlando Magic during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at the Wachovia Center on April 26, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 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)

The Raptors are always criticized for being one of the "softest" teams in the NBA. They don't like to fight for rebounds or play aggressively in defence and usually just let the other teams players get easy baskets.  

Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo was tired of hearing those same sentences over and over again and decided to do something about that. It started last offseason as he brought in former all-star Jermaine O'Neal.

Unfortunately, that didn't work out so well as a front court of Bosh and O' Neal was a flunk, one could argue because of injuries, but, it just wasn't working. Something had to be done and after months of speculation on February 13, something was done.

As Jermaine O' Neal along with Jamario Moon was sent packing to Miami in exchange for a guy who's career averages are just under a double-double in Shawn Marion as well as Marcus Banks.

Marion was exactly what the Raptors needed and the Raptors were exactly what Marion needed. He provided the Raptors with some much needed toughness, defence and rebounding.

Alas, the raptors season was already pretty much a bust and in the time it took Marion to warm to his new team and role, the Raptors were basically out of a playoff spot.

Something more needed to be done to increase toughness, defence, and rebounding and it was as tough guy Reggie Evans was acquired in the beginning of June from Philadelphia for three-point expert Jason Kapono.

Things were starting to look better as it was the offseason and all the injuries could heal. The Raptors were looking at some players to increase their depth as well as re-signing swingman Anthony Parker and bringing back swingman Carlos Delfino.

Then, July came around and the raptors could dip their feet into signing free agents. First thing was first though, as they tried to re-sign their own guys. The Raptors had a lot of money to spend on players and wanted to insure they got their own guys re-signed before they went on to acquire any more new players.

Just as everything was getting brighter, it took a turn for the worst as Shawn Marion's agent, Dan Fegan and the Raptors management could not come to a deal and Marion would not be re-signing with the Raps. 

Then, some wacky Idea by one of Bryan Colangelo's henchmen was proposed to BCo and after some phone calls to NBA management, it was resulted as a legal move. So, Bryan got to work and came to a four team deal.

It ended up looking like this:

Toronto: Imports—Hedo Turkoglu, Antoine Wright, Devean George(traded for Marco Bellinelli)  

Exports—Shawn Marion, Kris Humphries, Nathan Jawai, $9 million trade exception

Orlando: Imports—$9 million trade exception       

Exports—Hedo Turkoglu

Memphis: Imports—Jerry Stackhouse(waived), 2016 second round draft pick

Exports—Greg Buckner

Dallas: Imports—Shawn Marion, Kris Humphries, Nathan Jawai, Greg Buckner(soon to be waived/traded)

Exports—Jerry Stackhouse, Antoine Wright, Devean George

Moving on, the Raptors got another tough defender in Antoine Wright. Who like Reggie Evans, isn't afraid to get down and dirty on defence. He also, unlike Reggie, can get you some buckets and shoot the ball.

The Raptors also drafted rookie DeMar DeRozan (who last time I checked was training with other NBA players to improve his skills. His most recent is three-point shooting with Jason Kapono) who has a roof top of potential higher than the CN Tower.  He's another player who is willing to play defence and do what he can to make it difficult for his opponent to score.  

We also saw shades of Bargnani last year playing tight defence and grinding up against his opponent. With his ever improvance (don't even know if that's a word. But, I think you know what I mean), I'm sure we'll see more defence and toughness from Bargnani.

Chris Bosh who has packed on something like seven pounds of muscle this offseason, is looking to improve defensively and his added bulk should help him improve his toughness. Jarrett Jack is another player who plays good defence and makes it tougher for his opponent to score.

I'm sure there will be other players, who will turn it up a couple notches on defence. Rasho Nesterovic is a guy who will press up against opponents on defence. Hedo Turkoglu also knows how to play defence.

Could this be the year that the Raptors finally put that "too soft" criticism to rest? Will the Raptors have enough defence to propel themselves to the second round of the playoffs? Are we going to see the Raptors totals and rankings in the defensive attributes like steals, rebounds, blocks go up?