NBA / Oct 12, 2009 / 4:00 pm

Toronto Raptors ’09-10 NBA season preview

Say hi to the new guy

Say hi to the new guy

Last year we debuted the “Highs and Lows” system — previewing the NBA season by predicting the respective ceiling and basement for each team. Same theme, different season…

Added: Hedo Turkoglu, DeMar DeRozan, Jarrett Jack, Amir Johnson, Antoine Wright, Reggie Evans, Marco Belinelli, Rasho Nesterovic, Sonny Weems

Lost: Shawn Marion, Anthony Parker, Jason Kapono, Joey Graham, Roko Ukic, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Kris Humphries, Jake Voskuhl, Nathan Jawai, Hassan Adams

Ceiling: 5th seed in the East
In terms of cultivating an immediate turnaround and taking out trash for potential treasure, no team in the NBA had a better offseason than the Raptors. They got rid of almost an entire roster’s worth of players from last year’s crash-and-burn — headlined by starters Marion and Parker — then brought in a cast of young building blocks, tough veterans, and one All-Star candidate whose acquisition could have huge long-term benefits for the franchise. It starts with Turkoglu; if he can help get the Raptors back to the playoffs, that does a lot in convincing Chris Bosh to re-sign next summer. Turkoglu should step right in as the primary perimeter scoring option and crunch-time playmaker, while Bosh still holds it down closer to the basket. Having added muscle in the offseason and putting some more distance between himself and the personal problems that were an obvious distraction last season, Bosh goes into this campaign in great shape (although he’s been slowed in training camp by a hamstring injury) and with a lot to prove. Andrea Bargnani has been a popular pick to have a breakout season where he could average close to 20 points per game, and Jose Calderon should be over the injuries that bugged him last year. There’s depth behind Calderon now with free-agent pickup Jarrett Jack; rookie DeRozan provides a kind of explosiveness on the wing that this team has lacked since Vince Carter left; and Reggie Evans’ grit plus Amir Johnson’s athleticism bolster a frontline that has been routinely outmuscled and outrun in years past.

Basement: Competitive Lottery team
Then again, expectations were high for the Raptors last year before their colossal flop. Bosh still hasn’t proven himself as an elite go-to guy, and Calderon’s stock is down from a year ago when he was considered an up-and-coming star point guard. Turkoglu could be the answer, or he could just be a product of the Orlando system who doesn’t perform with a bigger load on his shoulders in Toronto. DeRozan and Johnson will make highlight reels, but also have noticeable holes in their respective games. The wing positions still aren’t ideal: There isn’t a true small forward on the roster behind Turkoglu, and if DeRozan doesn’t make an impact immediately, two-guard is stocked with career role players like Antoine Wright, Belinelli and Quincy Douby. Center isn’t looking so strong, either, with glacier-paced Rasho Nesterovic and bust-in-training Pat O’Bryant backing up Bargnani. Coach Jay Triano didn’t do much last year to prove he should’ve gone past the “interim” label. And with pressure to perform not just for the sake of making the playoffs but for the sake of keeping Bosh long-term, the Raptors historically haven’t done a whole lot to prove they won’t fold come showtime.

*** *** ***

10/9 — Houston Rockets
10/8 — Detroit Pistons
10/7 — Memphis Grizzlies
10/6 — New York Knicks
10/5 — New Orleans Hornets
10/2 — Atlanta Hawks
9/30 — Sacramento Kings
9/29 — New Jersey Nets
9/28 — Denver Nuggets

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  • control

    I think they could get 4th, MAYBE MAYBE 3rd if one of Cleavland, Boston or Orlando has a rough start. They really have a good team with a lot of depth and a lot of athleticism.

    Shit, if they had someone who could close out games for them last year, they would have won at least 12 more games. Hedo is a proven clutch performer, so he should address that need. With Reggie Evans slapping asses and pulling on other guy’s junk, Toronto isn’t going to be thought of as soft as they really are.

  • GoEasy

    @control

    wishful thinking.

  • BiG ShoT BoB

    @control

    really wishful thinking.

  • ruballin

    @control

    Too little thinking before speaking.

  • whatarewedoing?

    @control

    3rd place in TODAY’s east? Are u freaking crazy?

  • dreams

    Raptors are a pretty good fucking team. Guaranteed 4th spot

  • anenome

    they were a “pretty good team” last year and they don’t have shit to show for it. being from toronto i want to see them succeed but they have to prove themselves first. i was into ball before the raps came along so i’m not as delusional or one sided as some of the other heads around here tend to be. i appreciate the enthusiasm toronto has for its teams but there needs to be a line of realism drawn somewhere along the way.

    this season is going to be really indicative of the raps future and they need to prove themselves as a team rather than a talented group of guys.

  • control

    It’s not a statement of Toronto’s progress, it’s more of a reflection on the 4-8th teams in the East. Who is really better than Toronto (on paper, this is all just prediction, the season will tell the truth)?

    ATL ain’t bad, not bad but not great.
    Miami…nah especially with new refs taking Wade out of his superstar role.
    Chicago? Doubtful.

    Toronto, on paper, is the best second tier level team in the East.

  • Diego

    I think last year’s piss poor season was a bit of a fluke, BUT I just don’t see much of an upgrade from last year’s roster: Hedo is alright, but nothing special; same with Jarrett Jack. I think Belinelli is the sleeper of the bunch. The rest of those guys they can go ahead and swap out next year, like the guys they swapped out from last year: basically, a bunch of no name bums.

    Granted, Bosh and Bargnani are still on the uprise.

    dreams at post 6 is dreaming more than control.

  • control

    Keep in mind when I said “MAYBE MAYBE” 3rd spot, that is like double capped MAYBE. Scientifically it’s a 5-10% chance if that, and assuming one of the big 3 mentioned (probably Boston’s old men) breaks down and gets beat up really good. It IS possible, just not likely.

    Being a Toronto fan, things always look good to start the season but they manage to throw away games too much right at the end. IF Hedo is the solution to that problem (I don’t care if he averages 8ppg, as long as they are the last 8 of the game) then Toronto can be very good.

  • Diego

    (As a Hawks fan, I view Toronto as absolutely no threat at all. Atl now has depth down low; Bosh is like KG in Minny–nice stats, but can’t lead a team anywhere (and not real intimidating); JJ is better than any Toronto player; and Toronto’s 3-point shooting–in the past, a real concern–seems to have taken a hit from last year.)

  • Jah

    @ “control”

    The way I see it is:

    1. Cleveland Cavaliers
    2. Boston Celtics
    3. Orlando Magic
    4. Washington Wizards
    5. Atlanta Hawks
    6. Toronto Raptors
    7. Miami Heat
    8. Milwaukee Bucks

    YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST!

  • Shrink This

    I think I’ll take the chicken’s way out and see how they gel as a team and play defence before making any hasty predictions…

  • control

    Jah,

    You got the Wizards at 4th…and people are saying I’m crazy?

    They got Arenas back. What else they do? Yeah Gil is good, but is he good enough to make a 20 or 25 win difference? I don’t even think the Wiz were a 4th place team back when Gil was in mint condition, the East was called “the lEast” and Jamison was still a beast. They probably aren’t right now, though a lot of people are being tricked into thinking they are.

  • Flip

    Why hasn’t anyone mentioned that Turk played an awful European Championship in which he shot a horrible percentage and turned the ball over quite a lot. If that’s a sign of things to come the Raptors better watch out…

  • str8ganksta

    @control. You must have missed this part:

    “Two-guard is stocked with career role players like Antoine Wright, Belinelli and Quincy Douby. Center isn’t looking so strong, either, with glacier-paced Rasho Nesterovic and bust-in-training Pat O’Bryant backing up Bargnani.”

    No shot at #3. Not with this b-level talent.

  • deeds

    I would say 4th is best case scenario. Realistically i would predict about 6th or 7th for them

  • Zibala

    @Flip I read that too. I also heard he was fatigued all through the euros. Bad sign that he could burn out even half way through the season.

    Imo the Raps could be anywhere from 4th to 12th seed depending on injuries, Hedo’s conditioning, team chemistry and other teams over/under performing

  • K Dizzle

    I liked what I been seein from the raps “b level” players durin this preseason.
    Turkoglu hasn’t even played a game yet so it’s givin management to check out some players that are gonna be your 7-12th guys. Don’t tell me Sonny Weems ain’t been showin skills heads didn’t know he had. Denver coulda used dude. Bellinelli was a steal. Jack provides depth or can play with JC and Antoine Wright gonna be that physical 2 that they lock onto the opponent’s perimeter threat. Derozan’s the wildcard. If he picks up the nba game even half as fast as Vince did, this team is gonna bubble. Very few teams outside of Orlando, Boston and Cleveland can see a lineup of Calderon, Derozan, Hedo, Bosh and Bargnani. All the backcourt needs to do is to stay healthy and be solid, cuz that frontcourt lineup is gonna put stupid numbers on teams. How you guard 3 damn near 7 footers with those skill sets? Raps gonna be entertainin to watch….and that’s pretty much all I care about

  • iLL Mago

    Raps have the best bench in the East so when one top player from a top-tier Eastern team goes down, the raps are moving nowhere else but up.

  • http://www.myspace.com/beenobrown BERN BROGDEN

    Bargnani’s gonna get body bagged when they play the Celtics.

    They might put up numbers.

    But ‘tween Sheed and KG and Baby and Perk and…I’m not sure he’ll be able to play after the 2nd quarter.

  • http://myspace.com/40sand9s loc

    The raptors have led me on like abad date before, so I’m being cautious

    I like the team, the rook, bellineli, jack, we got some ballers.

    I am not sold on Hedo for 5 years at 10 mil per, he seems slow, out of shape, old, and a product of a great system not as the second option.

    In the end I’m just glad we got a new team, new players, and we hung on to Calderon and Bosh, who hav ebeen my favorite raptors these past few years.

  • stephon

    Nobody seems to know how good jarrett jack is. He is underrated. His style of play is perfect for the raps run and gun. JJ will be the x factor in the games. The raps are one hell of an explosive team. Triano better be able to manage the players properly. Bargnani must improve on D.
    Hedo I believe he is the best acquisition we can have.

  • Name (required)

    people forgetting that last year they didn’t really have a second PG, so when Jose got injured there was no1 to replace him, and even when he was playing they had Anthony Parker as his backup. Adding JJ and Turk gives them 2 more guys who can play the point, which is huge. I dont see them cracking the top 3 in the east, but if Barg can play like he did in the second half of last year and everyone stays healthy then they should be a lock for 4th.

  • http://www.geraldnarciso.com Gerald Narciso

    Nice article AB! Think you are a little off on the ceiling prediction. I was thinking more along the lines of NBA Champions! haha jk.

  • George W Kush Sr

    Weems and DeRozan have been flying all over place. I like what I’m seeing from Amir Johnson too. Ofcourse it’s going to take some time to gel.

    Hawks and Raps are gonna surprise some people, for real.

  • http://sbrother.wordpress.com brothersteve

    Seems like the Raps could end up anywhere from 4th through 8th depending on a lot of things.
    (3rd probably takes KG is done for the year and PP goes down too!)

    Biggest thing being do they gel as a team fast or take a month + like the ’06-07 team.

    Hedo will be great on the Raps – he’ll be 3rd in points and boards just like he was in Orlando the past 2 seasons. Triano has made it very clear the Raps are designing their offense around Hedo like Orlando did.

    Big differences:
    Jose is both an effective playmaker and scorer unlike Nelson who just scores!
    Bargs/Bosh can shoot or roll to the rim – only Lewis offered that option, Howard can’t shoot(but more effective at the rim!)

    No reason not to expect a good season from the Raps this time.

  • Chris

    Good analysis. This is a completely new team, so EVERYBODY’s guessing as to how they’ll do. If the team comes together, Triano does a good job coaching, and Calderon, turkoglu, Bargnani, & Bosh all have solid season then 5th or 6th in the East is possible. That’s a lot of ifs though.