8. Fred Jones: Arguably the best signing of the off-season for this club. Watching highlights of this guy on RaptorsTV right now light up my eyes. In fact, I would argue that Joey G has a challenger for the title of â€œMost Athletic.â€ Obviously the award for â€œFreakishly Strongâ€ still goes to Graham. What will be very interesting to see is what role Mitchell and Colengelo envision Jones playing. I feel that Jones simply needs to make the second unit a strong one. Sure it's fun to picture him winning the sixth man award or something along those lines but it is unlikely. What would make this an extremely successful season for Jones is if he can not only be the sparkplug off the bench, but really helps the team defensively. Sure he is below average in stature but his long wingspan and athleticism should make up for that. At the end of the day I have no doubt Jones will have a successful season considering the up-tempo offence the Raps seem to be prepared to run. Let's just say that if you are not excited about Fred Jones wearing a Raps uniform, you damn well will be soon enough.
9. Darrick Martin: This is tough...is he successful if he (a) claps loud enough to distract the other teams three point shooters?;
(b) manages to pull some random great games out of his...ya know; or (c) brings leadership and comradery to the team?
I would say all three although I find (a) the most entertaining. What is interesting about Martin being re-signed is that Colangelo was for it and obviously felt he brought something to the team. Even in our grades last season we had a hard time evaluating this guy's play, but obviously there is a whole lot more to Martin then what he brings to the hardwood.
I guess if Martin continues to provide the team with what he did last season, it will be successful. Not being in the locker-room however, it does make it tough to discern exactly what that is.
10. Rasho Nesterovic: The expectations should be high for Rasho, although not necessarily on the stat sheet. Nesterovic was primarily brought in to provide CB4 with some REAL help in the paint, both on the glass and defensively. If Rasho can bear some of the weight when it comes to guarding the other teams' big men, then he is doing his job. Add in rebounds and some blocks and for me that adds up to a successful season.
My gut tells me Rasho could have a big impact on the team, but one that you will have to be careful to watch for. The fact that he is coming to camp in shape is a HUGE plus for this team and he may play more minutes than people expect as a result. The main concern? How he does in a run-and-gun style. Is up-tempo really going to allow Rasho to help this team as much as he could? Even if he is in shape, TJ Ford will likely be down and back before Rasho even turns to make the outlet pass.
11. Anthony Parker: Parker, based on watching his games in the Euroleague has all the tools to be a contributor. There are of course the questions concerning how his MVP performances abroad will equate in the NBA. For me I am not setting the bar that high when it comes to a successful season. If he was worth the money, great. By setting the bar fairly low here, I really think I could be pleasantly surprised.
Of course like almost all the other 2/3s on this year's squad, it is all dependent on PT. Some think Parker is going to be an opening day starter, others (like this author) think he could be a great bench player. Undoubtedly this is yet to be decided and that is what will make the pre-season games fun to watch.
I expect Parker to do a little bit of everything and be the teamâ€™s jack of all trades. Parker will do a bunch of things well, but nothing great. If this turns out to be the case, I still think it will be a good season for him.
12. Morris Peterson: Mo Pete. Can you ask for more than what he brought to the table last year? Mo is becoming Mr. Raptor. Of course Mr. Raptor is in his contract year, so although as a fan you want to set the bar high for Mo, if he continues to get better you have to know that the last contract offer of 3 yrs and $15M, just wonâ€™t cut it this time around.
Mo has become a leader of this team and has seen all the highs and the lows. Hopefully he can continue to change his game. Even thinking about the role he played in K.O.â€™s system a few years back makes me mad. Thinking of the more immediate past, was there a guy who had more of an impact on the Raps success last season than Mo? The nights he really brought it the Raps either won, or were very competitive. The nights he disappeared? Almost a guaranteed L.
So success? More â€œGirls Gone Wild Shots,â€ even more consistency, and at the end of the season have played so well that Colangelo has no choice but to re-sign him.
13. Uros Slokar: For Uros this season will be an experience for him. Like Bargs he is making the transition to the NBA, yet he finds himself in a very familiar position being behind Bargnani on the depth chart.
I for one think Uros is the perfect candidate for the D-League. If he ends up in the â€œminorsâ€ and plays well then you would have to view his first season as a success.
14. Pape Sow: Sounds like Pape is healing faster than expected, and if you have been a reader for a while you know we love Spider-man Sow here at the HQ. The timing of Papeâ€™s injury could not have been worse as this season really was going to be a "make or break" one in terms of making it in the NBA. The injury is a setback, so keeping that in mind if he manages to get back on the floor this season and show some glimpses then he would have to feel good considering the situation. Pape is still raw, but the difference between being raw and not developing is a fine one. Pape has to be sure that when given opportunities that he makes sure he does not fall into the latter category.
15. P.J. Tucker: There is never that much pressure (other than from the player himself) on a second round pick and Tucker is no different. Similar to Graham last season Tucker will need time to adjust to playing more on the wing then he did in college. Will that transition occur in the NBA or the D-League? With little PT available at the 2/3 you would have to think the latter. If he does earn some PT in the new uniâ€™s, the more power to him and considering the high level of competition that would be a major plus for this team. Success for Tucker this season will basically rest on whether he can grow his game and continue to hold an NBA roster spot.
Oh and just for kicks....
16. Sam Mitchell:Well not getting fired before Christmas, or by seasonâ€™s end would be a huge start. No more time for excuses. Mitchell needs to show that he has developed as a coach, uses the right players in the right situations and ensures that this team is better defensively. As much as it is on the players to make the plays, it is on the coach to help them understand what plays need to be made. I am a big Mitchell supporter and think he could one day be a very good head coach. Making it through this season would be a strong indication that he is about to make the leap.
There is also a substantial amount of pressure on Mitchell to get these guys to gel early and not fall too far back in the first 20 games or so of the season. Success for Mitchell will be measured by just that. Luckily he now has some players to prevent that from happening...and ones I might add that want to make Toronto a winning franchise at that.