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The Pre-Season Grades

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7-1.

Hands up to anyone out there who thought that the Raptors would finish the pre-season with that record?

No one here at the HQ.

In fact our thoughts were closer to a 4-4 record back in September, so seven wins and only one loss should have us thrilled right?

Well...call us pessimistic.

Seven wins was a huge feat for this team but in our opinion, more so for the team's chemistry, and as Sam Mitchell and Bryan Colangelo put it, to help in changing the team's culture.

So let's take another look at the pre-season wins:

-Beating Washington
-Beating Boston twice
-Beating New Jersey
-Beating Cleveland twice
-Beating Maccabi

Of these wins, the second Cleveland win was the most impressive in our books as the Raptors had no Chris Bosh, TJ Ford or Andrea Bargnani and the Cavs played their regular season rotation for the most part.

The other wins...well...we just don't see Boston, Washington, or Maccabi for that matter, contending for the NBA Championship...or even the Eastern Conference crown, anytime soon. And neither New Jersey, nor Cleveland in their first matchup with the Raptors, played anything resembling a regular season lineup.

That's why the match against the Bulls was so important in our books, as at least half of the teams in the Western Conference will have similar talent levels and that's where Toronto heads early in the regular season.

Now do we think that the pre-season was entirely meaningless then for Toronto? No, in fact as we previously stated, these wins were quite necessary for the club. But that's not to say there aren't areas to work on...and players who need to step it up...

RAPTORSHQ PLAYER GRADES

Anthony Parker: C+ Parker at last showed off some of his Euroleague MVP offence vs. the Bulls on Friday but before that he was underwhelming, and, as one of our readers maybe put it best, he's "barely looked like he belongs in the league." Defensively he's been ok but not as dominant as we expected either. Hopefully that'll change as the season progresses.

Mo Pete: B+ Until the last few games Mo hadn't been given the minutes he needed to be that effective but in the final two games, we really started to see glimpses of last year's Mo. Hopefully a great sign of things to come.

Darrick Martin: D Martin has been a disappointment in our books. Part of the reason he was kept around was to coach...but he SHOULD still be able to run the team. Instead, ill-advised shots and half-court, walk-the-ball-up offence. If TJ Ford can't stay healthy, Colangelo may have to re-think this signing.

Chris Bosh: B Bosh looked good in his first few contests before his foot issues emerged. Now however he gets a B as based on his game in Chicago, it's going to take some time to shake off the rust...and hopefully completely heal up.

TJ Ford: D We considered giving Ford an INC but he did play this pre-season and just wasn't that impressive. There's still no word on a contract extension (which is due by the end of day tomorrow) but Ford really has something to prove as the season begins.

Jose Calderon: A Maybe the Raps pre-season MVP in our opinion. As opposed to Ford, Calderon has done almost everything you could have asked of him considering this is only the start of his second NBA season. A bit better outside shooting and he gets that A+ grade.

Kris Humphries: A- How did we acquire this guy again? Humphries is giving Raptor fans what we prayed Hoffa would do at some point and it's only the pre-season. His rebounding has been key to say the least and his offence a pleasant surprise.

Jorge Garbajosa: C Garbs looked really solid through the first few pre-season games but has since cooled off. His rebounding and defence has been steady for the most part but his offence really has been lagging behind. Considering the Raptors' current injuries, Garajosa is going to need to provide more offensive help than he is right now.

Andrea Bargnani: C Il Mago's pre-season has been about what we expected. Some flashes of dominant ability mixed with serious defensive lapses and shooting woes. The kid is not gun-shy that's for sure and as the season progresses we expect him to learn how to exploit his versatility more.

Fred Jones: A The other MVP of the pre-season for the Raps in my books. While Franchise wanted John Salmons earlier this summer, he's singing a new tune now as Jones has been a revelation. Between his offensive fire-power, rebounding and shot-blocking for his size and the sheer intensity at which he plays, this has been the Raptors' best off-season acquisition at this point in time. In fact without Jones and his ability to get to the rim, would Toronto have won seven pre-season contests? We think not.

Uros Slokar: B- We didn't see much of Slokar during the pre-season but when we did, he always left a good impression in our minds. We're not talking star qualities here...but was there much difference between him Bargnani? In fact, we give Slokar the edge but that may be more due to him being given less exposure...therefore less chance for us to see mistakes.

Joey Graham: B Graham has actually been a pleasant surprise for us here. In the first few pre-season games it looked like the same old Joey. Strong rebound in traffic for the putback one minute, offensive foul on an out-of-control drive the next. But by the final game against the Bulls, we started to see some of the Joey Graham that we saw in college. Nice spot up jumper from mid-range. Solid work down low. Strong cuts to the basket. Maybe Joey will never be an NBA starter...but if he keeps this play up he'll be a welcome sight coming off the bench for Sam Mitchell.

Rasho Nesterovic: C Rasho is what he is. A slow-footed but solid all-around seven-footer. He made some key baskets in the pre-season, (including perhaps the game-winner against Boston) some nice passes, good blocks and played solid defensively even dishing out some hard fouls. This is pretty much what we expected of Rasho but we really didn't get to see enough of him. As the season goes on and the Raptors get accustomed to a certain style of play, it'll be interesting to see where Rasho fits in the grand scheme of things.

PJ Tucker: B+ PJ is continuing to prove us wrong here at the HQ concerning our views last summer about Colangelo drafting him. PJ may never be a star in this league but he's been a perfect fit for a club in need of some more toughness and desperately seeking any sort of low-post presence...especially in the absence of Chris Bosh. Tucker may not receive the minutes he's currently enjoying come regular season...but it's great to know that we've got a guy like him that can come in off the bench and contribute...even as a tenth or eleventh option.

Sam Mitchell and staff: B So far so good. The up-tempo style is entertaining and quite effective and defensively Toronto looks better already. Is it the coaching staff? New players? Both? Right now we just get a sense that Mitchell seems more prepared this season and he's already showed some astute play-calling (see final minutes against Cleveland in the Raptors' second win over the Cavs.) The real questions will arise during the Raptors' first losing streak...let's just hope this year it doesn't last for fourteen plus games.

The HQ