Raptors ’10-11 Preview
30 teams in 30 days.
by Chris O’Leary/@olearychris
Welcome, Toronto Raptors fans, to the exact spot you’ve been hoping to avoid for the last three years.
The fact that you’re here tells you everything you need to know. Chris Bosh is gone to South Beach with LeBron’s talents, chasing what will likely (eventually) translate to a string of championships. Few, if any of the Raptors’ weaknesses from the previous three years have been cleaned up. While the world saw CB4′s departure coming at least a year in advance, the Raptors organization rocked blinders throughout, hoping against hope that they’d be able to re-sign him and keep him in Toronto. Now, in a Bosh-less era, the same flawed team is without its best player and will try to move forward.
We all know how this season’s going to play out. The Playoffs aren’t an option. Respectability will be a nightly challenge for this team. At least in the case of other teams in similar situations, there’s young talent to enjoy on the court. There’s something to look at and hope for with the future. Am I painting too bleak of a picture here?
Maybe DeMar DeRozan is going to stun us this year. (I know he looks great in the summer mix tape, but he looked great in Summer League last year too.) Maybe Amir Johnson will find a way to earn the $30 million he’s being paid over the next five years. Maybe Sonny Weems is more than an average-at-best player in the right place at the right time. Maybe one of the team’s incoming rookies — yet another pick at the tail end of the lottery and a late second-rounder — can contribute right away. Maybe Andrea Bargnani will lead the team this year to the point where he can comfortably talk about leadership during media time. Maybe.
It seems like whereas other teams have groupies, the Raptors have maybes. And every year, the maybes give the Raptors the groupie treatment.
This team has been in a downward spiral since 2007-08 and rather than take the bull by the horns, or the Raptor by the talons, I guess, the organization has just plowed forward with what they’ve had, butting their heads against a wall to the point that it drove its best player elsewhere.
The point that I’m getting at here glares brighter than Jose Calderon’s defensive inadequacies. If this team is ever going to improve, Bryan Colangelo has got to go.
BC is the architect of the flimsy design that makes up the current Raps’ roster. If the organization has been wearing blinders, Colangelo was the one passing them out at the door for far too long. Losing Chris Bosh to free agency is one thing; an inability to see that he wasn’t a franchise player should have put Colangelo’s job at risk well before this. Thinking the Hedo Turkoglu signing was a good idea should have been another strike against him, and no, managing to dump Hedo off to Phoenix for Leandro Barbosa in the off-season doesn’t undo the mistake.
The cherry on the mediocre cake with Colangelo has come in the wake of losing Bosh. This team was a failure the last two seasons with one of the top-10 players in the League on it. With no replacement for Bosh, Colangelo refuses to wave the rebuilding flag. He’s content to push for squeaking into the Playoffs and losing out in the first round to a powerhouse team like Miami, Orlando or Boston. And even that’s very unlikely to happen this year.
The highlight of this season will likely be Bargnani. He averaged 17 points per game last year and as the primary scoring option he’s poised to crack the 20ppg mark. While it’s long been said that the jury couldn’t really rule on Bargnani until Year 5, it’s clear (to me, at least) that he won’t be the leader that the team will need him to be. You can blossom into a complete player in five years, but leadership — both on the court and in the locker-room — is something that you either have early on in your career or you don’t have it at all.
The leadership role for this team over the last decade would be laughable if you weren’t a Raptors fan. Vince Carter chose not to be its leader. Bosh said the right things but couldn’t do them. With Bargnani, it’s likely that he doesn’t even know what they are.
That in itself tells you what you need to know about 2010-11 in Toronto. This is a team that’s screaming for change and all it’s getting is a rearranged order to the starting lineup introductions.
This year isn’t going to be pretty. My advice to anyone who chooses to watch Raptors games this year is to find a mental happy place and visit it frequently. That, or watch a lot of Oklahoma City games.
Prediction: 25-30 wins.
Projected starting five
C – Andrea Bargnani
F – Amir Johnson
F – Sonny Weems
G – DeMar DeRozan
G- Jose Calderon
Notes — Just to make me look foolish (if I haven’t done it myself already) Jay Triano started Calderon, DeRozan, Kleiza, Evans and Bargnani in their first preseason game last night. Ed Davis’ return from injury could alter the starting five, possibly bumping Weems out and shifting Bargnani to the four. The point guard spot is likely to jostle again between Calderon and Jarrett Jack. Barbosa could skew the starting lineup as well, depending on if the team’s lacking at the point guard, or if DeRozan isn’t producing like he hopes to at SG.
Previous Season Previews can be found in the archive.