Toronto Raptors: Eastern Contenders or Continued Failures?
Living in Indiana, it hasn’t been a secret that for the last four or more years Jermaine O’Neal, has been phoning in his play, and that the All-Star center wanted to relocate to L.A. or New York.
Despite his lackluster and injury-shortened 2007-2008 seasons, Pacers fans do remember that J.O. was the best center in the East for several years.
At only 30, it seems that O’Neal could bring that former excellence with him as he travels north of the border.
Jermaine may not have been sent to his ideal city, but the Raptors look to potentially have one of the best frontcourts in the NBA.
O’Neal will join All-Star, Chris Bosh, and former No. 1 overall draft pick, Andrea Bargnani, to complete a forward/center trio that includes no one shorter than 6′10″.
While height isn’t everything, these players’ collective talents are.
Bosh has developed into a near-clone of what O’Neal was in his Pacer prime and is considered by most to be one of the premier big men in the Eastern Conference behind Kevin Garnett and possibly Dwight Howard.
His numbers from last year look a little something like this: 22.3 PPG, 8.7 RPG, and 2.6 APG.
He’s been putting up these same numbers for the last three years, and he is at the top of his game physically and mentally.
Bargnani is somewhat of the wild card here, aside from O’Neal’s passion for the game and his new city.
He’s put up just 10.8 PPG/3.8 RPG in his two seasons. However, even with Bargnani as the weak spot, this starting trio could be churning out 50+/20+ nightly.
This stacks up with league leaders.
The Lakers’ frontcourt trio of Gasol, Odom, and Bynum only mustered 46.2/29.0 last season, and they won the stacked Western Conference.
These Raptors do have one glaring difference when compared with a team like the Lakers: Kobe Bean Bryant.
If the Raptors aren’t going to acquire or develop a high scoring swingman, they are going to meet the same fate as other teams that “look good on paper.”
Teams like the Nuggets and, Kidd/Carter, Nets had several All-Stars on the roster and should have won lots of games.
The balance of attack and deep rosters that contenders like Boston, San Antonio, and Detroit bring to the table were eerily absent for those two squads, just as they are for the Raptors.
Toronto, in an attempt to build this current team, has let go of strong supporting players and potential stars in the likes of T.J. Ford, Charlie Villanueva, and Roy Hibbert.
Rather than adding another low post scorer, it seems the more logical approach would have been to seek out a high-scoring shooter or deepen the reserves with role-players and attempt to shore up the Raptor’s abysmal defense.
Without a stronger bench and an explosive guard, this squad will continue to make the playoffs.
They will likely be contending for the Atlantic title with Boston, but will continue to get pummeled in the playoffs when they match-up against the deeper teams that dominate that conference.
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