When reflecting on the Raptors campaign last season the word "disappointing" would be an understatement. Players, coaches, and Raptor fans alike had high hopes after acquiring Jermaine O'Neal from the Pacers. It was just about 20 games into the season when the Raps lost by almost 40 points to the Denver Nuggets and people began pointing fingers. The first victim was Sam Mitchell who seemed to be getting out coached every other game. O'Neal was not living up to his expectation and Toronto Fans began to get anxious. This is when the Raptors organization elected to fire Sam Mitchell, which seemed a little pre-mature, but was bound to happen. As if the Raptors and their fans hadnt already been through enough at this point when newly acquired Jermaine O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat for Marcus Banks, and Shawn Marion and the whirlwind of Bosh trade rumors began. This seemed to take its toll on the Raps who could not find a way to play consistent until late in the season. The Toronto Raptors experienced a dark, gloomy season last year but dont worry Raps fans because there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Lets start with the Raptors draft pick DeMar Derozan. As a basketball player he is very raw and needs experience and work but he is a tremendous athlete and has a good head on his shoulders. For a freshman out of college i was surprised to hear how well spoken and humble he was. When asked about next season he stated he wants to play hard and learn from Bosh and others to help the team win. When asked about playing in Toronto he did not complain about the cold like some players he simplied was thankful for the opportunity to play in the NBA and grateful of Toronto for drafting him. Derozan is just what the doctor ordered for the Raps. He is a big, athletic 2 guard who is a tremendous slasher and finisher. He needs to work on his perimeter shot but this will come with time. He will provide the Raps with energy and scoring and will give fans plenty to cheer about with his high flying dunks. Jay Triano has said he plans on starting DeMar which i feel is a great call, not only does it give DeMar confidence but he is the best shooting guard on the Raptors. Toronto is going to embrace DeMar Derozan in a similar way to a young Vince Carter.
The signing of Hedo Turkoglu will make the Raptors a playoff team next season. He will provide another ballhandler and playmaker to relieve some pressure off Calderon. The greatest benefit to the Turkoglu signing is not his scoring but his ability to run the pick and roll. Instead of running the pick and roll with Dwight Howard he will be able to run it with Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh who are both exceptional perimeter shooters. This will space the floor for Bosh and Derozan and allow them to drive easier. Toronto will cause severe matchup problems for the eastern conference bigs who are not mobile, primarily Shaq and Dwight. Centers will have problems guarding bargnani on the 3 point line. Besides the pick and roll Turkoglu scores 17 points and game and can shoot over shorter small forwards because of his 6'10 frame.
Signing Jarrett jack was a great addition for the Raptors because he gives you a legitimate backup point gaurd who is not a liabiltiy on the court like Ukic who is still developing. Jack can also play a 2 guard with Calderon when Toronto wants to go small or want shooters on the floor. I also like the trade for Reggie Evans. Yes you had to give away Kapono but he really wasnt living up to his hype and is a horrendous defender. Evans will provide important toughness and rebounding off the bench.
Bosh has stated on his twitter several times he is excited for next season and a chance to play with Turkoglu. This is a very positive sign for Toronto because with the economy at its current state and the salary cap likely to decrease again next season Bosh may elect to stay put in Toronto, especially if they have a good season.
So be optimistic Raptor fans because the team looks poised to have a bounce back season and return to the playoffs.
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