The Crystal Ball
Crowd says: 41-41
RR says: 44-38
Yes we can!
The Raptors headed into the off season with little hope of improving the roster with the chips they had to play with, but a man by the name of Steve Fruitman did some math and boom! Suddenly they had their midlevel exception, veteran’s exception and Hedo Turkoglu. The MLE was converted into Jarrett Jack which addressed the Raptors biggest weakness of a year ago – backup point guard. they did away with underperforming Croatian rookie Roko Ukic and got underperforming but potentially good Amir Johnson. The veteran’s exception got us Rasho Nesterovic who should help clog the paint and improve the Raptors defensive rebounding – the team’s second biggest weakness. Jason Kapono’s rotting carcass was magically transformed into the serviceable intimidator, Reggie Evans.
Turkoglu gives the Raptors the perfect point-forward to run the pick and roll with Bosh and Bargnani, something teams will have issues dealing with. The word around the team is that the Raptors are Magic Lite. I hope they’re Magic 2.0. Oh, the team also got more Euro-rized when they traded for Marco Belinelli, a good talent that Don Nelson just didn’t like. You can tell that was a good deal by how much the Warriors hated it. I mean, c’mon, they got Devean George.
With the Raptors’ needs addressed to varying degrees and there actually being a semblance of true talent on the roster, the biggest question mark remains the coach – Jay Triano. He was 25-40 last year but let’s not forget the team finished strong with against Chicago (twice), Orlando and Philadelphia towards the end.
I know what you’re thinking: How is a rookie(ish) head coach going to integrate nine new players in a new system with two new assistant coaches (Marc Iavaroni and ex-Raptor Alvin Williams)? Triano actually has credentials at the national level for both USA and Canada, is on the same page with general manager Bryan Colangelo and commands the respect of his players. Don’t believe me? Ask Mike Krzyzewski or Jerry Colangelo. Most of all, he doesn’t just yell “Go go go!” with both arms waving like his predecessor. Most of all, he doesn’t cater solely to Bosh but factors in the whole team.
Colangelo has completely stopped everyone reminding him of Bosh’s impending free-agency but instead has us thinking of winning games and making the playoffs. He’s made it so that the coming season will be a test of whether Bosh can do anything with actual talent around him. He’s told Bosh, “Let’s see if you’re the max-player you claim to be.??”
No you won’t
We go across the Mississippi for this one and to the Bright Side of the Sun:
When Chris Bosh is the most “normal American” on your team full of Euro’s playing outside the borders of basketball’s home your motto should be, Expect Soft.
@ChrisBosh: NONE OF THIS COULD HAVE BEEN POSSIBLE WITHOUT MY TWITTER BOSH ARMY WHO GOT ME TO 50K TONIGHT !! 2MORO I SHOUT U ALL OUT ON ESPN! they DID IT!!
Not exactly the type of contest you want to see your franchise facilitating during the off season, but his competition of “The first to 50k followers on Twitter” with Charlie Villanueva drew the ire of many fans (the folks at Raptors Republic included). He is doing his best to connect with his fans, which they can appreciate, but when you are holding out signing a contract because you are unsure of the future of the franchise, and its commitment to winning, maybe you should be doing other types of things with your summer then building up a following on Twitter. Thankfully he isn’t conducting anymore contests on Twitter.
On the record
It’s easy to split the difference and say they’ll be a .500-ish team, but I don’t think that will be the outcome. I’m expecting either a brilliant success or a spectacular failure, and I’m really not sure which.
That about sums up the feelings of 75 percent of Raptors fans.
The 2008-09 Almanac
Need a killer stat? If by “killer” you mean what kills the team, well, it’s got to be Andrea Bargnani’s rebounding. He’s the worst rebounding center in the league. His 5.3 RPG rank 89th overall and 57th amongst all centers. All the other roster moves are made just so that they can afford to have him rebounding next to nothing and still play 32-plus minutes a game.
We had issues scoring in the clutch. In crunch time they looked solely towards Bosh (which was unfair to begin with) and he couldn’t bring the cows home. His 5.4 points ranked 20th in the league in fourth quarter scoring even though he had tons of touches. We’re hoping Hedo brings some stability into late game situations.
Our record against Boston last year: 0-4. These dealt serious blows to the Raptors confidence and a win in Boston on November 27th will restore the team’s confidence and faith.
Last Year’s Almanac
- Offense: 22nd
- Defense: 22nd
- Pace: 14th
- Team Factor Strengths: Free Throws Allowed (3rd), Turnovers (9th)
- Team Factor Weaknesses: Offensive Rebounding (29th), Turnovers Forced (23rd), Shooting Allowed (22nd)
Calderon into Bosh down low, who demands the double and immediately passes to the perimeter for a picture-perfect swing sequence to find Marco Belinelli for the win.
The People’s Choice
You’d have to go with Amir Johnson under normal circumstance but there’s a chance he’ll actually play minutes over Evans and Nesterovic. So they’ll have to go with Sonny Weems. He fits the bill perfectly: Nobody’s seen him play, he looks like he can play, but he doesn’t play.
If you’re watching the bottom line, you’re watching this
Easily the pending Chris Bosh free agency. Last season was supposed to be about whether Chris Bosh was going to re-sign in Toronto. Thanks to Bryan Colangelo, there has been enough talent assembled on this team that the talk is about making the playoffs and making noise when they get there. You want to be elite? You want a max contract? Lead this team and build something special in the city that drafted you, nurtured you and idolizes you.
Fellow network member, EightPointsNineSeconds has a summary of ESPN TrueHoop previews for all 30 teams.