Toronto Raptors Could Wallow in the East, but Andrea Bargnani Will Flourish

Matt Esposito@@mattaespositoCorrespondent IOctober 7, 2010

With the departure of All-Star forward Chris Bosh, the Toronto Raptors are entering a brand new era of basketball. They are returning a handful of key players from last year’s squad. Many of these names will undoubtedly see a natural increase in their numbers. Jarrett Jack, Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, and more, can all expect to see their numbers bolstered.

Andrea Bargnani is the one name unmentioned above, and he will likely slide into the role of “head honcho” up in Canada. At least, now, this is his biggest opportunity and it can be turned into a monstrous breakout year.

“The Magician” should have no problem transitioning into the biggest team leader for the Raptors. He is entering his fifth year with the team, and he’s seen his averages jump up a bit for the last couple of years. For an organization that is looking for a new identity, and that will probably struggle this year, Bargnani is the perfect place to start.

Bargnani might not be comparable to the elite players in the league, but passed on his performance over the last two seasons, the potential is there, and he has the chance to explode.

As a teammate of Bosh last year, Bargnani still managed to average 17.2 points per game and 6.2 rebounds per game. Now that he is the main man in the middle, he can do more of what he does best, and that encompasses a lot of things.

He provides the weak Raptors with big physical presence down low. He stands in at seven feet tall and he can grab rebounds and block shots. If he hones in on a stronger defense game, the Raptors have definite foundation for a low-post defensive game.

He also knows how to play efficiently on the offensive end, as he shot 47 percent from the field last year. He is even more valuable for his ability to drain shots from beyond the arc, almost in the same manner as Dirk Nowitzki. Bargnani is a 37 percent career shooter from three point range, and as the centerpiece of this lineup, can produce more attempts and more makes.

The question is whether or not his mentality will allow him to be a similar kind of leader, scorer, and point creator as that of Chris Bosh was in the lineup for years. This is the biggest opportunity that Bargnani has seen in the NBA, and on a depleted roster, he can take full advantage of that.

Don’t be surprised of Bargnani works his way into perennial All-Stardom and posts 20 points and 10 rebounds per game during the 2010-2011 regular season. The Raptors might not end up going anywhere this year, but the first overall pick in the 2006 draft certainly can.