DeMar DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani Remain Critical to Toronto Raptors' Success

James Borbath@@dinonationblogContributor ISeptember 10, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 20:  Andrea Bargnani #7 of the Toronto Raptors looks on during warm ups against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on March 20, 2012 in New York City.  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 Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
Chris Chambers/Getty Images

DeMar DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani are still the keys to any success for Toronto this season. The Raptors have had a successful offseason to some degree, but this still remains the case. Additions like Kyle Lowry, Landry Fields, Terrence Ross and others will add support. Ultimately the Raptors' hopes still remain clearly connected to DeRozan and Bargnani.

Last season, mainly because of injuries, we rarely saw the two most talented Raptors on the floor together. In fact, Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan only suited up 29 times together in the NBA's lockout-shortened 66-game schedule, and that was a major part of the reason why the Raptors only managed 23 wins in the 2011-12 season.

In 2011, DeRozan had an offseason with no guidance or direction from his new coaching staff due to the NBA labor stoppage. On top of that he was thrust into the role as the Raptors' No. 1 option when Bargnani was out—a role he was clearly not ready for.

That said, DeRozan's issues seemed to be at their worst near the start of the season. Meanwhile, it seemed like this point was when Andrea Bargnani had turned a corner in his career.

The calf injury that plagued Bargnani for most of the season, though, would leave that question somewhat unanswered.

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Both players must answer the bell this season if the Raptors are to have any playoff aspirations. If they fail to do so, the pieces added can't win without them. It also will lead to a tricky situation on what to do with DeRozan, who is in a contract year.

Not to mention, you have to wonder if after seven years the Raptors would finally explore trading Bargnani.

The Raptors organization is pretty much the same. Only the people at the top have changed in terms of ownership. In the past the Ontario Teachers' Pension Fund was happy to sit back and let the money roll in. The new controlling interest, with the combination of Bell (owners of TSN and other media properties) and Rogers (owners of Rogers Sportsnet and other media properties), may not have the same approach.

The short answer is they want ratings for all their properties. It remains to be seen, but they might have a different approach in what they want to see happen.

DeRozan and Bargnani combined for 38.5 percent of the Raptors offense last year. It might be a little misleading given the fact of how little they played together, but they will be a big part of the offense again this season.

You can look to guys like Kyle Lowry—and maybe some others—to come up big in terms of scoring at times, but if you do not see the names Bargnani or DeRozan at the top of the scoresheet consistently, the Raptors are going to be in trouble.

One of the main reasons why you might see that though could be due to how the two stars play on the other end of the floor. If Bargnani or DeRozan struggle on the defensive side of the ball, that could lead to fewer minutes under Dwane Casey. You can't score from the bench after all.

In the case of DeRozan, you have Landry Fields and rookie Terrence Ross to eat up minutes if his defense is not up to par. The Raptors have a ton of big people they could turn to if Bargnani struggles to defend.

Last season the Raptors showed under Casey they can play defense even with minimal talent. They also showed that they could be challenged to score at times. The new additions should help Bargnani and DeRozan have an easier time scoring.

Lowry perhaps most of all, with his own ability to score and drive the basketball, can help the two stars by drawing attention away from them. After that it will be up to DeRozan and Bargnani to capitalize. For Bargnani, he first has to have a healthy season and play more games while DeRozan needs to show he has some new tricks in his bag this season.

All this talk from fans about the Raptors sneaking into the playoff race in the Eastern Conference can't happen without them.

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