2011-12 Toronto Raptors' Fake Season Preview

Who knows if we'll even have a season, but that isn't stopping the HQ from participating in Celticblog's annual season preview series...

A 2011-12 NBA season?

Right now it isn't looking so good.

But that doesn't mean we're abandoning all hope and if the season does get going, here's how we'd be previewing it for the annual Celticsblog, blogger previews:


Team Name: Toronto Raptors 

Last Year's Record: Not good...er...22 and 60. 

Key Free Agents: Reggie Evans and well, let's cut it there. 

Team Needs: 

1. What are your team's biggest needs this offseason?

Hmmm...a wing who can hit 3's and create off the bounce, a defensive presence anywhere on the court, a true center...a leader on and off the court...oh, and why not a new culture and identity while we're at it.

2. What are the team's biggest strengths & weaknesses? (so far) 

As can be seen above in both last season's record, and the "team needs," the Toronto Raptors could use a lot of help.  They won 22 games last year and it's hard to see the team, as presently composed, winning many more this season...assuming there's a season at all of course.  Sure, the club had to deal with a myriad of injuries last year, but in retrospect, it's hard to believe that even a healthy squad would have notched significantly more W's.

The club's biggest weakness?  It's tough admittedly to pick just one.  At a macro level, we're talking about the worst defensive team in the league, and not a great offensive one either.  Indeed, Toronto has never been great on D during Bryan Colangelo's tenure, but minus Chris Bosh last season, the club's offence also sputtered.  "Phoenix East" became the worst 3-point shooting team in the league, and combined with their usual defensive malaise, it isn't hard to see why the club lost 60 games.

As for strengths, there aren't many.  However the bulk of this team at every position can get out and run.  They're an inexperienced group but if new coach Dwane Casey can take advantage of the club's speed, athleticism and youthful vigor, it could help mitigate some of the club's numerous weaknesses.

3. If there is no season in 2011-12, how is your team set up for 2012?

I argued earlier this off-season that of all the teams in the NBA, a complete loss of a season hurts the Toronto Raptors more than most other clubs.

For starters, the Raptors were one of the more financially profitable clubs last year, so the lock-out isn't helping Maple Leaf Sports' save money by any means.  And on the court, a young team that's trying get experience, gel, and figure out how to execute a new coach's strategies, simply needs to get out there and play.  A year off only prolongs this club's rebuilding plan, not to mention muddies the waters regarding the future's of players like James Johnson and Andrea Bargnani, players entering their prime who've yet to perform up to draft expectations.

Therefore I'd argue that the team is no more set up for 2012-13, than it is for any upcoming season.  Yes, the Raps would be able to take advantage of the likely addition of their past draft pick Jonas Valanciunas, who is staying overseas for 2011-12, but there's not much else to be overly optimistic about.

Factor in the strong possibility that a 2011-12 season would have given Toronto another top five draft pick and the potential for a complete loss of a season likely leaves Raptors' fans with a pretty bad tastes in their collective mouths. 

4. If you could make one change the NBA's new CBA, what would it be? 

I would add in an amnesty clause. It's admittedly bit ridiculous that NBA GM's are asking for this one again after going through all of this during the last work stoppage, but selfishly, from a Raps' fan's perspective, it would pay huge dividends for Toronto to be able to cut one of their more onerous deals.  They've got a number of such contracts to choose from unfortunately, and for a rebuilding club like Toronto, trying to get back on track, such a move I believe would pay huge dividends.

5. Who does Toronto choose as its new GM?

Who cares.  Ok, a bit harsh perhaps but regardless of who the Raps choose, it seems highly unlikely that we'll see a giant paradigm shift in terms of the way decisions are made at the top.  By all accounts Bryan Colangelo will continue to have final say over personnel decisions and we've seen how successful that's been to date.

Of the four reported finalists for the position however, Ed Stefanski was reported to be the leading candidate but it now sounds like he's more interested in the vacancy in Portland.

And with Spurs' exec Dennis Lindsey dropping out of the running that potentially leaves ex Hornets' Exec Jeff Bower, and former Portland GM Kevin Pritchard as the final two options from the original four finalists.

Here at the HQ we're leaning towards Pritchard, but would be fine with Bower too.  Whoever lands the role likely won't have the impact generally assigned to such a position, but the hope would be that Pritchard would at least lend some much-needed advanced statistical insight to the club.

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