By Louis “King of Roncesvalles” Pisano
The starting five for Toronto is laden with skill and has shown at times that it can measure up with any other team in the league, while bench players like Jarrett Jack are bringing the noise nightly adding that next dimension.
Yes, Chris Bosh is the leader of this team and is playing with new found toughness and emotion, he’s driving the basket with his quickness and left handed devious style, he’s getting to the line on a consistent basis, and is leading the NBA in double doubles.
Andrea Bargnani has been doing it in the paint, driving the hoop, hitting from beyond the arc, and is shooting the mid-range, pretty much scoring from everywhere.
Hedo Turkoglu continues to hit threes, find people in lanes while handling the ball extremely well for a big man and creating miss-matches with his craftiness.
Jose Calderon can hit threes, distribute the ball, and run the offence while playing with passion nightly.
Rookie DeMar DeRozen can hit from the outside and has some serious hops which he shows off as he becomes more accustomed to the NBA game and his comfort level rises.
They have all been able to score and have shown signs of tightening up on the defensive side of the ball as a unit.
But the true strength of this Raptors team is their bench.
The Raptors have always been known to have a deep bench and after the retooling of the roster and shuffling of players by Bryan Colangelo in the offseason, this new-look bench ranks near the tops if not the top in the NBA.
The new faces are Jarret Jack, Marco Belinelli, Antoine Wright, Amir Johnson, Sonny Weems and Reggie Evans. Returning players are Rasho Nesterovich and recently Pops Mensah-Bonsu.
In whatever combination off the bench this group has proved to be versatile, athletic, energetic, and dangerous offensively.
Jarrett Jack runs the offence with efficiency and understanding. He can drive, dish, shoot the mid-range and from the outside, and plays with great confidence.
Antoine Wright has been great defensively and brings energy along with a mix of scoring and rebounding.
Marco Belinelli has great composure, court awareness, and is not afraid to take his shots or handle the ball. He has no fear of going to the hoop.
Amir Johnson has very active hands defending and rebounding with tenacity inserting energy night in and night out and will go to the hoop with authority.
Sonny Weems is young and explosive and has a great first step when driving the hoop while continuing to show signs of weekly improvement.
Rasho Nesterovic is well known to Raptor fans and is that veteran presence on the floor while playing tough in the paint and can add a scoring touch when called upon.
Pops Mensah-Bonsu is a big body and plays physical on the defensive end of the court and fights for rebounds while possessing some good hops.
Reggie Evans once healthy will bring toughness, rebounding, and sound defensive play. He has been injecting energy through his veteran experience into the whole team from the bench so far and will continue to do that once on the floor.
There isn’t a really big name on the bench like a Jason Terry, Rasheed Wallace or J.R. Smith, but all together or when inserted into the line up separately this most young group are as productive and energetic as any other team in the league.
Together this team has all the right parts in place and as they continue to gel and define their defensive game while asserting their offensive prowess they will be able to beat any team on any given night.