2009/10 Review:

The Toronto Raptors knew that last season was a pivotal season for the franchise because Chris Bosh was entering his final year of the contract and the Raptors would have to show some competitiveness in order to convince CB4 to stay in Toronto, at the end we all know what happened to Toronto and Bosh’s destiny.

They were involved with the Chicago Bulls in a tight race for the last spot of the playoffs, but they came short in the decisive game against the Bulls in April eventually losing by 88-104 to end their chances.

On the offensive end, the Raptors were an explosive team with multiple threats all over the floor and ended the season by being the 7th most efficient team on the offensive end.

However their defense was atrocious all season and the Raptors simply weren’t that offensive talented to keep up with their really bad defense. In November and December, the Raptors’ defense was at their worst by allowing 125, 129, 131, 130, 116, 116, 113 and 146 points in some games and obviously they were the worst defensive team in the league in terms of defensive efficiency.

Nevertheless, they were a tough team to beat at home, in which they ended up with a 25-16 and some nice wins against the best teams in the league.

The biggest offseason addition was supposed to be Small Forward Hedo Turkoglu, but he never felt comfortable with the system and struggled in every relevant statistic. Andrea Bargnani developed nicely into the Raptors are expecting from him and DeMar DeRozan established as their starting Shooting Guard. However, the lack of toughness and passion of this team was evident through the season and in this league, you can’t win only with the talent and that was the biggest problem for the Raptors last season.

2009/10 Advanced Stats:

Pace 14th 96.2
Offense 7th 107.8
Defense 30th 109.9
Rebounds 22th -0.89

2010/11 Outlook:

Projected Depth Chart:

PG: Jose Calderon, Jarrett Jack, Marcus Banks
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Leandro Barbosa
SF: Linas Kleiza, Sonny Weems
PF: Reggie Evans, Amir Johnson, Ed Davis, Julian Wright, Joey Dorsey
C: Andrea Bargnani, David Andersen

The franchise player of this team is now playing in Miami and the Raptors received a Traded Player Exception with their sign-and-trade deal with Chris Bosh worth of $14.5-million, in which the club has one year from the date of acquisition to make use of it.

Eventually the Raptors will be able to grab a top player somewhere in the league by taking advantage of their salary cap relief. The Utah Jazz did that in this offseason when they pick up Al Jefferson from Minnesota and the Raptors are waiting for the best opportunity available in the market.

Without Bosh, the Raptors are seen as one of if not the worst team in the league. They made several additions trying to improve the roster, but when you are replacing your best player – a perennial All Star player for Amir Johnson, then your team will be in trouble and that’s what the Raptors will have to deal with for this season. General Manager Bryan Colangelo was able to get rid of Turkoglu’s huge contract when he traded him to Phoenix for Leandro Barbosa and he rescued Linas Kleiza from Europe, besides that the Raptors didn’t make any substantial movements which aren’t good news at all.

For the first time in his NBA career, Andrea Bargnani will get the label of being the most skilled offensive player in the team. He is coming from a career year, in which he averaged 17.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game, while shooting 47% from the field. However, there are some concerns regarding his play in the NBA. One of them is his rebounds numbers for the position that he plays are ridiculously low. The truth must be told, last season he improved in rebounds, offensive boards and blocks, but we are still talking about 6.1 rebounds per game! He needs to improve dramatically in rebounding, boxing-out and rotate on defense or else the Raptors will be a perennial bad defensive team.

Also without Chris Bosh, Bargnani will handle constant double teams from the opponents, as he is the most offensive dangerous player of the team and that will be something new for him, although with Bosh sidelined for much of the month of April, he averaged 19.9 points per game. This is a pivotal year for his development and affirmation that led the franchise to draft him as the number 1 draft pick 5 years ago.

At the Point Guard position, the Raptors will have to choose between Jose Calderon and Jarrett Jack, although Calderon has been involved in some trade rumors.

Calderon had a tough season last year dealing with nagging injuries that affected his play, even when he was healthy enough to be on the court. He is more a PG playmaker, but his assists numbers suffered a huge drop from 8.3 and 8.9 in the previous 2 years to 5.9apg last season. Also his defense is far from being good and midway the season, head coach Jay Triano gave the starting job to Jarrett Jack, who responded pretty well. To make things even worse for Calderon, he got injured (hamstring injury) this summer just before the FIBA World Championships, so he won’t receive playing time in this preseason.

On the other side, Jarrett Jack is more of a scorer Point Guard than a playmaker. As a starter, Jack answered pretty well by posting 12.8ppg, while shooting almost 53% from the field, however he doesn’t the same court vision as Calderon, but he has still been productive through his career and he is a valuable piece in the organization.

Last season, rookie DeMar DeRozan was the starting Shooting Guard of the team, but his role was merely residual on the court. He logged only 21.6 minutes per game and he was basically the fifth option on the floor at all times and besides some highlight reel dunk, his presence on the offensive end was simply forgotten. For this season without Chris Bosh, DeRozan will get his share of touches in the ball as a primary wing scorer and we can expect him to have a “breakout” season.

To complete the backcourt, the Raptors acquired Leandro Barbosa from the Suns and Barbosa has seen his minutes burn out in Phoenix in 3 consecutive seasons. In 2006-07 he logged 32.7 minutes per game and averaged 18.1 points and 4.0 assists per game however for some reason he has disappeared progressively since then. In a high tempo offensive system, Barbosa is a perfect fit due to his quickness and capacity to score in fast transitions.

Linus Kleiza returns to NBA after spent last year playing for Olympiakos in Greece. Kleiza is a versatile Small Forward with some offensive skills – he showed that during the last FIBA World Championships, however his defense is questionable at best. Did you notice that this is the third potential Raptors’ starter that I’m questioning his defensive abilities? GM Colangelo probably also thinks the same because in the offseason the Raptors almost pulled a trade for Boris Diaw and they also were interested in the sign of Matt Barnes: 2 Small Forward players. Sonny Weems is the opposite of Kleiza, as he is an energetic player that features his game with hustle in both ends of the floor.

To “replace” Chris Bosh, the Raptors offered a 30(plus) million dollar contract to Amir Johnson, so they are pretty high on him. Johnson is entering his 6th year in the NBA, despite being only 23 years old, but he never received more than 17.7 minutes per game during his career. Last season he started in 5 games and averaged 17.8ppg and 6rpg, but this is a pretty small sample for us to have the real perception of his value. He will get the first real chance to play major minutes, so let’s see how will respond to this task.

The Raptors drafted power forward Ed Davis from UNC, but unfortunately he sustained a “meniscal” injury to his right knee during a pickup game in September, which could delay his natural development into the team. Besides him, Toronto has more players to share minutes in David Andersen, Reggie Evans and Joey Dorsey.

This will be a tough year for the organization, as they look to move past the “Chris Bosh era”. Defense will be once again a problematic issue for them because they don’t a real defensive stopper in the roster and their players are built to play in a high tempo offensive scheme. The bright side of this story is that nobody is counting with them, so they won’t have any pressure at all to win.