At the Gate Five studio during the Raptors TV program for Thursday night’s preseason game against the Houston Rockets, TV Analyst Leo Rautins made the bold observation that with nine new faces the Raptors may not have put everything together by the start of the season.
Leo may not have been the first person to have made this observation, but if history teaches us anything, it is that big changes often lead to big questions.
And change will be the operative word for fans following the Raptors this season. But for those who remember Bryan Colangelo’s first season with the Raptors, it’ll be nothing but deja vu.
The changes Bryan Colangelo made this offseason are eerily similar to the changes he made three years ago in 2006. And based on how the team has played during the previous season, a significant house cleaning was well justified in each case!
After a disappointing 2005-06 campaign ended with 27 wins, only six players were retained by the new general manager. Significant acquisitions were made to shore up the guard, forward, and center positions. And some of those acquisitions were of the unproven, but high potential variety.
Similarly, after missing the 2008-09 playoffs with a record well below expectations, the Raptors only have six players returning from last season. Once again, significant acquisitions were made at every position and some of these acquisitions are unproven.
Returning for 2006-07 were Chris Bosh, Jose Calderon, Morris Peterson, Derrick Martin, Joey Graham, and Pape Sow. This year Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon return again, but with Andrea Bargnani, Marcus Banks, Quincy Douby, and Patrick O’Bryant.
So, we have two of the same players returning, a young veteran returned each time, Bargnani in 2009 and Peterson in 2006, and three players came back who may not see much court time.
Comparing the offseason acquisitions is equally interesting:
- Rasho Nesterovic was acquired in 2006 and re-acquired in 2009.
- Jarrett Jack instead of TJ Ford
- Amir Johnson instead of Kris Humphries
- Hedo Turkoglu instead of Jorge Garbajosa
- Marco Belinelli instead of Anthony Parker
- Sonny Weems instead of Fred Jones
DeMar DeRozan, who is a rookie, is coming in with high expectations and in 2006 the Raptors were counting on rookie Andrea Bargnani.
The other 2009 big man acquisition, veteran Reggie Evans, is significantly ahead of the two rookie washouts, Uros Slokar and PJ Tucker, signed in 2006.
Antoine Wright, acquired in 2009, was originally drafted one spot ahead of former Raptor Joey Graham, who departed for Denver. There are more similarities here than most fans would care to admit.
It looks easy to rate the 2009 re-make as superior to the 2006 version by assessing the additions of Turkoglu and Evans as vastly better players. Plus, Bargnani three years later, looks to provide the Raptors much more than Morris Peterson could in 2006.
Also, the second year wing player Sonny Weems may provide athleticism the Raptors didn’t have in 2006, but place him on the unproven list for now.
The only edge going to the 2006 team additions would be for Anthony Parker, who in 2006 wasn’t considered a sure thing either.
However, the sheer volume of change suggests the 2009 Raptors will undergo similar growing pains.
In 2006, the Raptors started off slow with two wins and eight losses and followed that by going 5-5. But after that slow start, the team gelled and finished the rest of the season strong with 40 wins and only 22 losses. A franchise best record of 47 wins was achieved in 2006-07.
In 2009, expect more of the same. This new Raptors squad faces a tough early schedule that they are unlikely to be ready for so early in the season.
Predicting the early headlines this season may read: “Raptors Go 2 and 8 Out of the Gate ” as the Raptors face Cleveland and Orlando at home and then New Orleans, Dallas, San Antonio, LA Clippers, and Phoenix on the road.
After this, the new Raptors team should have found their game and with the talent Bryan Colangelo has put together, fans should be expecting the NBA will be noticing just how good the Raptors are by the start of the new year.
Before the All-Star break, expect the 2009 Raptors to be challenging Atlanta for fourth in the East.
The other trend Bryan Colangelo likes to follow is that he doesn’t sit idly by if he believes one of his new acquisitions isn’t measuring up during the season.
In 2006, Colangelo traded newly acquired free agent guard Fred Jones for Juan Dixon and waived PJ Tucker in order to make room for tryout Luke Jackson’s 10-day contract.
No Toronto fan should be surprised if Colangelo moves or releases some of this season’s acquisitions if they aren’t performing.
The risks for any team with a makeover of this scale are high and it would be hard to imagine a much bigger makeover than what Bryan Colangelo achieved this off season. But with the risks should come the rewards.
Prediction: I predict the Raptors to match their 2006-07 win total of 47 this season and secure a fourth or fifth place finish in their conference.
For those who prefer to play it safe, the betting line is 41.5 wins. Take that to mean if the Raptors’ remake doesn’t work, the risk runs both ways from there!
Look here for more predictions about: Teams in the Atlantic Division