The Raptors are once again not in the post season, but there is still plenty for a Raptor fan to enjoy as this years playoff series’ get under way.
Players that maybe didn’t get the chance to excel, or even play, in the postseason in Toronto have opportunities to make major contributions to their teams’ playoff run this year. From big name talent like Chris Bosh to role players like Matt Bonner and Reggie Evans, there are plenty of ex-dinos out there that could play pivotal roles in the first round of the playoffs.
Make sure you watch out for these guys:
1) Chris Bosh – Although the Miami Heat will live and die by the hand of LeBron James in the fourth quarter, Bosh will once again be an important part of any hope Miami has of coming out of the East. Bosh will have to match up against some very stiff talent and his offensive efforts could be what makes or breaks it for the Heat. With all three members of the “Big 3″ firing on all cylinders there really is no stopping the Heat.
Chris Bosh will be a key reason the Miami Heat win or lose a game this year in the playoffs.
Bosh will have to score when needed and will really have to help contain the bigger bodies of Kevin Garnett, Tyson Chandler and Carlos Boozer if the Heat hope to advance back to the NBA finals. Last year he played well offensively but wasn’t as effective on the defensive end (a trait that plagued him during his Raptors days).
If Chris Bosh excels this year the Heat will likely win it all. If he buckles under the pressure, the load his teammates are left to carry may be too much to handle.
Chris Bosh may be the difference between championship and heartache for the Heat.
2) Leandro Barbosa – When the Indiana Pacers acquired Barbosa at the trade deadline for a 2nd round pick they didn’t acquire him for the regular season. They really acquired him for the playoffs. After one game in the series against Orlando it is already clear why this young team needs the veteran Barbosa to step up.
Most of the Indiana players really lack playoff experience and success. They’re a young team and they showed their youth in Game 1, dropping it in catastrophic fashion to the veteran Magic. Orlando dominated the last four minutes of the game and stole the victory from a stronger Pacers squad.
Barbosa will likely get more minutes in Game 2. He’s been to the dance before and has had some great playoff success in Phoenix. He’s a crafty veteran and knows how to handle the pressures of the playoffs. His presence on and off the court will be of great help, specifically, to George Hill and Paul George, who were not sharp in Game 1.
Barbosa has experience in the playoffs and can hopefully help the young Indiana backcourt shrug off their difficulties and get the Pacers back into the series.
When Barbosa was with the Raptors he was instant offense off the bench. Indiana, with only 77 points in game 1, could use that bench production especially when their starting back court is having difficulty.
The Pacer bench, and Barbosa in particular, are going to be key factors in this series.
3) Matt Bonner – The San Antonio Spurs came into the playoffs playing some pretty darn good basketball. They captured the number one seed in a very difficult Western Conference and looked primed for a good run at the championship. Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli, once again, lead this team into battle with their eyes on yet another championship ring.
The Spurs also have a phenomenal supporting cast as well consisting of Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw, Kawhi Leonard and Matt Bonner.
When the starters need a rest, the bench doesn’t miss a beat. Jackson does the scoring, Diaw defends the paint and Bonner is there to throw in some dagger three’s.
When Matt Bonner used to hit three-point shots for the Toronto Raptors it would send the ACC crowd into a frenzy. There almost wasn’t a more exciting play at the ACC during his tenure in Toronto. When he hits them for San Antonio there is that same excitement in the air.
There is something about a Bonner three-point shot that sends electricity through a crowd. When he hits a big shot it usually has an impact on the game as well. I have a feeling Matt Bonner is going to be hitting big shots throughout the playoffs for the San Antonio Spurs.
In Toronto, we’d call Matt Bonner an “X-factor”. In this series, he could help San Antonio steal a game or two.
4) Reggie Evans – Every year it seems that a rare playoff performer emerges to the forefront and helps a team win a game a series or even a championship. Last year names like Ian Mahinmi and Tyson Chandler became household names. This year one of those names could be Reggie Evans.
In the playoffs in hockey you need toughness and forechecking. Someone who is going to bang it out and do the dirty work that doesn’t get noticed on the score sheet. Throwing a pick, chasing down a loose ball, tapping an offensive board back to your teammates are some of the intangibles that give teams a better chance to win and become far more valuable in a playoff series.
Reggie Evans is a player that does those things. He’s tough, he’s strong and if he’s defending you, you are going to have to work. Watch out Gasol, watch out Rudy Gay, the lane is about to be clogged.
Reggie is one of those X-factor type players that could end up making a huge difference for LA, even if it doesn’t show up on the score sheet.
5) Shawn Marion – He wasn’t a Raptor for very long, but it was clear during his time in Toronto that Shawn was a very offensively gifted player. He is lightning quick and can get to the rim easily. He has quick feet and can keep up with defenders. He has also shown throughout his time in Dallas that he is a valuable defensive presence as well.
Marion is another playoff veteran, having had successful runs in Phoenix and he finally won a championship in Dallas last year. Marion was a key reason Dallas was able to win and provided stellar defense during their championship run last year. He took care of LeBron James in last years final and is becoming more known for his defense around the league.
This year he has been handed the task of guarding Kevin Durant. Not an easy task, but if anyone is up to it, it’ll be Marion.
A playoff veteran, Marion has been handed the most difficult defensive assignment of anyone in the playoffs. It’s not going to be easy, but something tells me Marion’s defensive abilities could make or break his team this year.
So, Many former Raptor players are going to potentially play large roles in how this years championship is ultimately decided. Lots to watch during the playoffs, even if the Raptors aren’t a part of them.