Toronto Raptors — the Raps spent $4.5 million or so of their MLE on Jarrett Jack, leaving $1.3 million on the table for other signings.
Now, there has been much speculation about the reasons for the dramatic improvement of Andrea Bargnani’s defence last season. I do believe that the training camp that he attended in the offseason helped and I also believe that increased playing time was the likely biggest factor.
But, there’s one thing that I’ve yet to hear anyone mention: Jermaine O’Neal’s influence.
I believe that Bargnani getting to observe a good defensive center up close and also getting to practice with such a player, played a key role in his defensive development last season. Moreover, I’d be surprised if Bargnani didn’t pick O’Neal’s brain for defensive tips, like how to effectively box out.
Toronto Raptors star Hedo Turkoglu had been in foul trouble after picking up a technical in the earlier scraps, but still chipped in with 15 points for his team, including some key free throws as they salted the game away.
But the 29-year-old came away impressed with what he saw from the hosts.
"They don’t have all their guys at the moment, but the guys who have been given the opportunity want to show they’re good players, they want to compete and they did that tonight," he said.
"They played hard and were together as a team."
Granted, last season’s worst NBA contracts, or at least those whose recipients produced the least, were not signed within the last 12 months. But Jarrett Jack’s four-year, $20 million deal with Toronto is one indication that league general managers are not exactly tightening the purse strings.
The following list could be considered the NBA’s worst. If nothing else the players on it should consider themselves official members of the Hole in the Wall Gang, well without the whole social bandit–steal from the rich to give to the poor–thing.
But the thing that sticks out in my mind, and will be a big reason WHY the Raptors are successful, is a healthy Jose Calderon. Back in Janurary, Calderon strained his hamstring, and for about 3 1/5 months, wasn’t the same. He didn’t get up and down the court like he did in November and December. He was more cautious. Now, he’s had a full summer to let the hamstring heal, and I think his play will be a deciding factor as to how successful the Raptors will be. Many fans thought Calderon had a bad year last season–with another year of starting experience under his belt and a healthy leg, I think he’ll silence those critics in 2009-2010.