2009-10 Toronto Raptors Season Preview
In 2007, the Toronto Raptors (33- 49) won 47 games and finished first in the Atlantic Division. That was after finishing out of the money for a slew of years. In 2008, they were 41- 41, ending up second in the division. Last year, they went downhill, ending up fourth in the Atlantic. By the midpoint of last season, the Raptors were out of it as GM Bryan Colangelo saw just about every move he’d made in the off-season fall apart. Along with injuries and some underachievers, the Raptors played more like kitty cats than their vicious dinosaur nickname suggests. They were soft on defense and teams simply took advantage of that. As an example, Toronto was last in offensive rebound rate. They were not slamming and banging under the basket. In the off-season, Colangelo tried to inject improvements by devising a bunch of complicated trades, solid free agent signings and contract extensions.
Free agent forward Hedo Turkoglu (16.8 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.9 APG) joins forward Chris Bosh (22.7 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 2.5 APG) and forward/center Andrea Bargnani (15.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.2 APG) in the frontcourt. If each of the three plays to their potential, this could be a formidable trio. Additionally, center Rasho Nesterovic (6.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.6 APG) was signed, giving the Raptors a stalwart player off the bench.
Jose Calderon mans the point (12.8 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 8.9 APG). Calderon is a fine ball handler, set-up man and leader. He should stay away from the three-point shot but otherwise he’s one of the top point men around. Newly acquired backup point guard Jarrett Jack (13.1 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 4.1 APG) is good enough to start on many NBA teams. He’ll be an invaluable player off the bench. The off guard spot may go to Marco Belinelli (8.9 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 2.1 APG). Belinelli, who was acquired from Golden State in the off-season, is a decent gunner who can hit from the perimeter. Rookie DeMar Rozen, a swing, may also see some time at shooting guard if he can improve enough.
There are a lot of fine shooters on this club. Look for coach Jay Triano to run the pick and roll or pass until the club finds the open man. This team will run the court and then look for the best shot. The problem for the Raptors is still under the basket. Interior play continues to be a weakness.
This team has been just about completely rebuilt. What remains from last season is the Bosh- Calderon- Bargnani foundation. The Raptors may be one of the most improved teams in the league. You’ve got to say “may be” due to the fact that the deals need to pass the test of a grueling NBA season. This team could be back in the playoffs after ending the season second in the Atlantic with a winning record. Of course, they could be out by finishing third with a losing mark. Hard to call, but let’s go with a playoff run for this year’s Raptors.