So the Raptors roster has filled out pretty nicely over the offseason. The team has made several nice additions while losing very few key pieces. However, after an extremely disappointing 2008-09 season, and a few obvious weaknesses still remaining, it is still difficult to tell just how well the Raptors will do in 2009-10.
Ranking the offseason moves of all NBA teams, ESPN’s Chad Ford said of the Raptors, who rank 8th:
Although I don’t think these moves suddenly make the Raptors a serious contender, I do think they’re a playoff team. Given last year’s disaster, that’s pretty significant.
But the term ‘playoff team’ means very little in a top-heavy Eastern Conference. With the power balance shifting from the West to the East this past season (an article for another time, but rest assured it happened), playoff-bound could mean a first round exit for the Raptors. In the East, behind powerhouses like the Celtics, Cavaliers, and Magic, the goal for most teams now appears to be 4th place. Not only does 4th place mean home court advantage in the first round, but it also means missing a first round matchup with either of the three aforementioned Beasts of the East.
So the question for Raps’ fans maybe shouldn’t be about Delfino, DeRozan, or 2010 Chris Bosh. Maybe we, as a collective, should be working to figure out if the 4th seed is a realistic goal for this team.
Considering the changes that accrue for a roster as offseason roster and philosophy changes are made, here is a look at the current roster based on previous performance, with the hope being to shed some light on how the Raptors stack up against the Heat, Wizards, 76ers, Bulls, Hawks, and Pistons (with apologies to those other teams).
Marcus Banks: “Laughin’ Straight to the” Banks’ $4.46M contributions can be summed up in one word: Ugh. I’d be surprised if he gets off the Inactive List this season. Last year he had a 7.83 PER, and he’s never had a PER close to 15.00 (league average). Hey, at least we’re on the hook for another year at that price tag!
Andrea Bargnani: “Il Mago” was paid this offseason. Paid. To the tune of $10M per season. Like I said, paid. Bargnani will make $6.53M this year before that extension kicks in. Last year his PER became razor close to the league average 15.00 (14.66) but things really started to look up in the second half of 2008-09, to the tune of 19.4-5.4-1.7-0.6-1.7 (P-R-A-S-B) with a 49.3% shooting percentage, 45.7% from downtown. Those numbers are mouth-watering and well worth the new price tag if he can pick up his defense and rebounding to any degree at all.
Chris Bosh: Not a lot to say about CB4, but the implicit goal of 2009-10 is to do well enough that Bosh stays for 2010-11 and beyond. He may not be a superstar, but he’s definitely a top-level player. His contract sees him earn $15.78M this year, so he’ll need to repeat his 22.7-10.0 (P-R) and 22.19 PER, but his leadership role and demeanor will be the real attributes tested this season.
Jose Calderon: Jose’s efficiency is something all point guards should strive for – he’s lead the league in assist-to-turnover ratio two years in a row, and he’s developed into one of the league’s deadliest shooters with a 61.3% true shooting percentage. His 18.88 PER is more than fine for his $8.22M contract, and the addition of Jarrett Jack should help ease his workload and keep him on the floor for 82 games.
DeMar DeRozan: He who shall remain nickname-less (for now) has been covered by yours truly. As I wrote last week (in my RR debut), DeRozan doesn’t need to be a superstar this year, but he will need to contribute immediately.
Quincy Douby: Q-Dubs probably won’t see a lot of run for the Raps this year, barring injuries, but for $0.86M he has potential as an end-of-the-roster fill-in. He’s not very efficient for a scorer (48.6 TSP and 10.26 PER), but he’s a deadly free throw shooter and good enough to score in streaks as a 12th man.
Reggie Evans: Evans is a rebounding machine. He can’t score, he can’t pass, and he doesn’t do enough to keep himself on the floor for long stretches, but he is constantly among the league leaders in Rebounding Rate. He put up 12.7 Rebounds per 40 and grabbed 19% of total rebounds when he was on the floor last year (14th in the league), making him a more-than-serviceable 4th big man for $4.96M.
Devean George: At 31 years old and with declining minutes the past two years, George was really just a salary-match in the Turkoglu sign-and-trade. George scores very little but can add veteran leadership and adequate wing defense if asked to, but it seems more likely he’ll play the Darrick Martin role or be trade bait at $1.60M expiring.
Jarrett Jack: The J-A-Double R-E-Double T (aka Angel) was a bit overpriced at a $4.5M starting salary, but I’m positive he’ll be worth it. He is a great friend of Chris Bosh, a great community member, and a great backup at the one- and two-guard. His PER has never reached the league-average 15.00 but he is a decent shooter, a great free-throw shooter, and a strong two-position defender. His contributions will, strangely, be a byproduct of DeRozan’s, as Jack will spell Calderon at the point and Wright/DeRozan at the two. Regardless of the minutes or the position, Jack is a monster depth addition to a team that sorely needed it.
Patrick O’Bryant: You would think, having been a lottery pick, that Irish Kobe would show some signs of development three years into his career. He really hasn’t, and size appears to be his only discernible ‘skill.’ Patty O is on the books for $1.62M, which can’t even be considered a bargain given that his salary would be better used bought out to clear room under the luxury tax line (or for, say, Notorious PMB aka Prince Daddy Whale Slayer aka Pops Mensah-Bonsu). Like Banks, it would be a surprise to see O’Bryant on the floor much this year.
Hedo (Hidayet) Turkoglu: Turk was the marquee acquisition for the Raptors this offseason, part of a four-team sign-and-trade, and will be the team’s second highest paid player behind Chris Bosh at roughly $10M per season. Turkoglu is a great offensive weapon, though not necessarily an efficient one with a PER of 14.82. For the Raps, though, his key attributes are floor spacing (38.5% career three point shooter), his flare for the crunch time (top-50 in Production per 48 Clutch Time Minutes), and his offensive versatility (a sterling Versatility Index of 7.6 last year). His fit with the team is not being questioned; it’s a question of earning his sizable contract over the long haul and helping move the Raptors from also-ran to contender.
Roko Ukic: Roko Leni Loco appears to be an odd man out this year. Like Banks and O’Bryant, it appears he’ll be a member of the Inactive All-Stars, the D-League, or another franchise. Ukic struggled mightily last year, thrust into a back-up role after Wo-So (In Case Y’Aint Know So) ate it and was shipped out, and didn’t look a great deal better in Summer League. Colangelo has agreed to look for a new home for him, otherwise, Roko is a $1.35M trade chip (he has a player option at $1.45M he may decline to return to Europe).
Antoine Wright: Wright was acquired in the Turkoglu deal. While he was perceived to be a throw-in, he’s a huge grab for the defensively challenged Raptors, as he can guard three positions and isn’t an offensive liability. At $2.11M expiring, Wright will be a huge part of the team as DeRozan insurance, a defensive stopper, and/or trade bait.
Rasho Nesterovic: Arsenalist did a great job summing up Rasho’s role on this team. His personality and leadership cannot be understated, and that goes double for his unintentional comedy. As the team’s 3rd or 4th big man, The Slovenian Superman is a great value at $1.9M, a necessary defensive and rebounding presence, and a lovable goofy white guy on the team that may soon be named Bosh and the Lovable Goofy White Guys.
The 15th Man: Contract or not, I’m just going to assume this is Carlos Delfino. Livin’ Good ‘Loso probably isn’t worth the $4M or $5M he’s asking for, but with the Raptors technically unable to spend that money elsewhere it makes sense to give it to him in a short-term contract. Delfino is versatile on offense and defense, continues the theme of floor-spacers who can create their own shot, and has hopefully been humbled by an unhappy year in Russia to the point of being coachable for Jay Triano.
The overall theme here is that the Raptors project as a much better team than last year. While they haven’t managed to cover up any of their defensive problems from last season….well, y’kno, sometimes guys like a girl with a fat ass. More cushion for the pushin’, after all. If that lost you – point is, it’s okay to be optimistic about a team with obvious flaws, especially when the unspoken goal is the 4th seed in the East.
The difference between 4th and 8th in the conference won’t be an extra player or a D-League find. More than likely, the onus falls to Jay Triano to get the most out of a 10-man rotation that is long on depth but short on a clear playing time hierarchy.