Celticsblog's season previews? Already? Yep, our annual participation with some of the blogosphere's finest signifies that the NBA season is probably right around the corner...
This week kicked off Celticsblog's annual round of blogger previews.
Things started with the Celts, Knicks and Nets, and now...onto our beloved Raptors.
Here's our quick overview of the upcoming season...
Team Name: Toronto Raptors
Last Year’s Record: 40-42
Key Losses: Chris Bosh, Chris Bosh and Chris Bosh as well as Antoine Wright.
Players Who are Gone, but Certainly Won't Be Missed: Hedo Turkoglu and Patrick O'Bryant
Key Additions: Linas Kleiza, Leandro Barbosa, Julian Wright, Ed Davis, Solomon Alabi and PJ Carlesimo.
Somehow still with the Team: Marcus Banks.
1. What significant moves were made during the off-season?
The biggie of course was the loss of Chris Bosh. Many saw it coming, especially after the Raptors' unraveling post-All-Star break, but the manner in which things unfolded was hardly predictable. Unlike LeBron James, who was probably going to come out like Public Enemy number one post-free agency unless he returned to Cleveland, Bosh went from sympathetic company man looking for a team that could help him win, to publicity-seeking pariah and possibly the city's new Vince Carter. In fact it's quite possible that Bosh will now receive more boos upon his return to the T-Dot than another player the Raptors bid adieu to this off-season, Hedo Turkoglu. Quite a feat.
Outside of these two finding new homes, Toronto also said goodbye to perennial project Patrick O'Bryant, traded Marco Belinelli to New Orleans, and decided not to re-sign Rasho Nesterovic and one of the team's only decent wing defenders last year, Antoine Wright.
Linas Kleiza, Leandro Barbosa, Julian Wright, Ed Davis, Solomon Alabi and David Andersen.
2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?
That's the million dollar question.
We've spent a good deal of time this off-season examining the club's various attributes, but none have exactly jumped out as "strengths." Yes, the defence might take a minute step forward, but the team's rebounding struggles don't exactly appear to be alleviated, and unfortunately the team's one clear-cut strength last season, its offense, looks to have taken a step back minus Bosh.
Speed and athleticism at face value would appear to be the team's biggest strengths. However due to the youth and inexperience on the club, in addition to other factors, it's hard to say whether or not Toronto will be able to adequately use those tools to their advantage next season.
With a starting five that probably looks like a contender's bench, the one true strength then may be the team's depth. Players like Sonny Weems and Julian Wright probably won't start come October 27th, but there's no question that they both could find themselves amongst the starting group later in the season. Outside of possibly Andrea Bargnani, most of the starting line-up at present seems quite interchangeable, and the Raptors could ostensibly run a very solid bench group out each night.
Considering the holes in the starting line-up though, that seems a bit like a hollow victory.
3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
In all seriousness, we're talking about a very young and inexperienced team with a very limited amount of NBA-proven talent. As a result, weaknesses abound and it's hard to point to one single area that is a concern.
4. What are the goals for this team?
Bryan Colangelo would probably answer this question by saying the goal is to make the playoffs.
Yes, that's always a nice thing to say to the media, but frankly this to me looks like a rebuild situation for the franchise. Therefore I think the main goal for this club should be player development. Guys like Sonny Weems, DeMar DeRozan, Ed Davis and even Joey Dorsey etc need coaching and experience as well as adequate playing time so hopefully Jay Triano and his coaching staff provide these things next year. The truth is that no one really knows if guys like DeMar or Weems have what it takes to be stars in this league, let alone solid role players. If this team wants to rebuild, it needs to sort out the true potential building blocks from the fringe types, and this should start this season.
5. Is this the year Andrea Bargnani finally lives up to his draft status?
In our Celticsblog preview each season, aside from the usual group of questions as per the above, there's one wild-card query we always address. Sometimes it's not a clear-cut question but this year one thing jumps out - with Chris Bosh no longer on the team, is this the year Andrea Bargnani breaks out?
Bargnani is the most polarizing figure on the team. Some think he's simply Brian Cook 2.0, others believe he's never been able to show just how good he can be with Bosh standing in the way. Whatever side of the argument you're on though, there's no arguing that Andrea hasn't lived up to his "Il Mago" billing on a consistent basis, especially on the defensive side of the court.
So is this the year? There's no Bosh, no Hedo, no Sam Mitchell - aka, no more excuses. Bargnani looks to be the go-to option on offense, and this team needs his abilities more than ever. If he can't get the job done this year and take that proverbial "next step," there's a good chance he never will.
Predicted record: 30-52. Some folks are predicting New Jersey-like levels of losing, but I actually think the team will do better than some expect. Depending on your view of acquiring a top draft pick though, admittedly it might be better to sing those 2009-10 Jersey blues...