Last Years Record: 41-41
Losses: Maceo Baston, Primoz Brezec, Carlos Delfino, Juan Dizon, Jorge Garbajosa, T.J. Ford, Linton Johnson, Darrick Martin and Rasho Nesterovic.
Additions: Hassan Adams, Nathan Jawai, Jermaine O’Neal, Will Solomon and Roko-Leni Ukic.
1. What significant moves were made during the offseason? Bryan Colangelo’s most prominent move this summer was moving T.J. Ford and some spare parts to Indiana for Jermaine O’Neal and Nathan Jawai. While many members of the media and fans initially scoffed at this deal, after hearing the results of O’Neal’s summer workouts in Las Vegas it looks like Colangelo’s gamble may pay off this season. Even if O’Neal is a bust on the court – something I don’t see happening – this deal could still pay huge dividends as O’Neal becomes a free agent following next season which is the same time Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and a handful of all-star caliber players become free agents. With over $20 million to throw at these players, the Raptors will be in great shape to add another franchise caliber player to play alongside Chris Bosh for the next decade.
2. What are the team’s biggest strengths? As long as Bosh and O’Neal can stay healthy the teams biggest strength this season will be it’s frontcourt. The Raptors talented duo have combined to play in nine All-Star games over the past decade and look to become the prominent front court duo in the NBA. Throw Jawai, Humphries and Bargnani into the mix coming off the bench and the Raptors have moved from being a team challenged on the glass to possibly one of the top rebounding teams in the NBA this season.
3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses? The past few seasons the Raptors have thrived on being able to go 12 players deep and not be slowed by injuries. However, this summer Bryan Colangelo sacrificed the teams depth in order to form a trio to anchor the team. While some fans initially bristled at this change, it’s become clear that having a franchise player surrounded by role players just wasn’t cutting it. Now the Raptors have three elite players in Bosh, O’Neal and Jose Calderon surrounded by role players that compliment that trio. They have Jamario Moon as their lock down defender, Anthony Parker as the wily vet, Andrea Bargnani trying to prove he wasn’t a bust and Jason Kapono to prevent opposing defenses from collapsing on O’Neal and Bosh in the post. While this strategy looks good on paper after what Boston did last summer, if the injury bug hits O’Neal, Bosh or Calderon then this team could find themselves in big trouble this season.
4. What are the goals for this team? Besides keeping O’Neal, Bosh and Calderon healthy? The team must improve on their 41 wins from last season and secure home court advantage in the playoffs. After losing 13 games by five points or less last season, I think securing 50+ wins this season is a modest goal which would also allow the team to host an opening round series in the playoffs.
5. Which player will be playing significant minutes in April after being an unknown player heading into training camp? I don’t know if Roko-Leni Ukic will average more than 30 minutes per game this season like Jamario Moon did last year, but I feel confident he’ll play a big role on this team and surprise a lot of fans. The Raptors need to monitor Calderon’s minutes in his first season as a starter so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ukic play 15-20 minutes per game off the bench spelling Calderon while also getting some minutes at shooting guard. Ukic’s shown this summer that he can play with some of the best players in the world during the Olympics, so it’s just a matter of time before he gets adjusted to the style of play in the NBA and earns significant minutes in the Raptors backcourt.
Predicted Record: 52-30
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