This team gets no respect. One the one hand that makes sense since they haven’t played a game yet, but even then, nobody gives them the benefit of the doubt. At all. There are question marks on the roster but those are just that, question marks. They’re not negative or positive, they’re just unknowns that could go either way. Belinelli, Johnson, DeRozan, Turkoglu and Triano could all turn out to be horrible misfits but they could also be exactly what this club needs. The safest thing for an analyst to do is pick the worst case scenario for a team that they haven’t seen yet (ahem, ESPN) and then if success does come about, claim that nobody could’ve known since the team was brand new.
The major question being asked of this team is defense and in order for the fans to feel good about it, they’ll have to take a mini leap of faith. Colangelo (who’s done an A job this summer and a C job overall) had this to say about it:
We don’t have great man-on-ball defenders but we do have players that know and understand, and a coaching staff that’s going to teach certain principles that’ll make us a good defensive team.
In other words, have some faith in the coaching staff and the players’ athletic ability. Yes, Triano did not exactly impress last year but let’s be fair to him, he did not have the 5 months every other coach has before a season starts to plan the system out. No training camp either, which as played out as an excuse as it seems, actually matters. He’s an unproven commodity as a head coach but the one thing that makes me feel better is that he’s got the players’ attention and, unlike Mitchell, is not stubborn in his approach to the game. If shit breaks, he’ll try to fix it, not just have a look on.
The other thing to realize is that unlike last year’s team, nobody’s hyping this unit up to be anything more than an unknown. Triano acknowledges that the success or failure of this unit will be determined by whether the coaching staff can get these strangers to play together:
How fast we come together as a team is going to be the key thing. There’s a lot of speculation that we’re a lot better, but if we don’t play as a team that’s going to be an lot of individual talent that’ll be wasted.
We’ve gone over the depth chart a million times but let’s recap:
- PG, Calderon, Jack: If Calderon is healthy, these two will provide a great 1-2 punch.
- SG, DeRozan, Belinelli: The most suspect position of the lot because of inexperience, but at the same time there’s potential for something spectacular. Compared to Parker and Kapono, the athleticism has increased by 500%.
- SF, Turkoglu, Wright: Both are good defenders, one’s a a great scorer. Defensively we’re more than OK here even though some of you feel that Marion’s loss is too much to bear. Key question: Will Turkoglu help with the rebounding in the starting lineup?
- PF, Bosh, Johnson, Evans – Most people fail to realize that experience and youth in the backup spots here is a good thing and not something to be frightened of. Bosh is in a contract year and will play like it, he doesn’t want to do anything that suggests he’s anything less than a max-player and that bodes well for us.
- C, Bargnani, Rasho – Rebounding is an issue. No doubt about it but let’s not panic until we see what Rasho has left in the tank and whether Bargnani will continue his strong play from last season or not.
Let’s pretend Bosh and Turkoglu don’t blow out their knees and are healthy for the majority of the season which is not a very unlikely assumption. Over 6 years, Bosh has played in 89% of games and Hedo over his career has played in 91%, going the full 82 and 77 in his last two years. Yes, if injury hits we’ll be stretched thin but at the same time, historically speaking, injury has not been a major issue for either of the two key pieces in this year’s puzzle.
Last year at this time we had Will Solomon, Roko Ukic, Hassan Adams and Jamario Moon set to play key roles, the challenge was overcoming the shortage of talent. This year the challenge is trying to gel new faces and mesh them into one working system. Last year we were forced to play a short rotation because there simply weren’t enough NBA players on the roster but things have changed to the point where we can be confident in being two-deep at every position except shooting guard where we have a rookie who could have a very bright future.
There are questions facing every team and the Raptors are no different. Training camp starts today and soon we’ll see whether there’s even a need to panic. Until then, let’s just chill.