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Looking Back - Comparing the Raptors in 08-09 to this Coming Season

Franchise kicks off the week by taking  a look at last year's pre-season predictions...

As an annual occurence, the folks at Celticsblog host an NBA Blogger Preview before the season gets going.

Various blogs discuss their team's expected fortunes based on off-season movement, and therefore it's always interesting to look back at what was said once the season has concluded.

For us at the HQ, as a group we initially predicted 49 wins for the 2008-09 Raptors, but after watching the team go 4 and 4 in pre-season play, I realized that that number was probably much too high.  In fact, after a pre-season thrashing at the hands of the Denver Nuggets, here were my comments:

To me right now, this is a .500 team; the starters are good enough (if healthy) to gain and hold leads while the bench looks not only thin, but completely unsettled and able to let opponents back into matches.

Of course the Raptors didn't even get close to the 42 win mark in the end, finishing the season with an eventual 33 and 49 record.

In essence, last season was a worse-case scenario in many ways as every issue that was raised in our blogger preview came to fruition.

-Jermaine O'Neal and Jose Calderon had trouble staying healthy.

-The club's lack of depth became a major achilles' heel.

-Andrea Bargnani struggled to find his role until later in the season.

-The team lacked toughness and athleticism.

-The swingman spot was a revolving door of near D-Leaguers.

-The back-up point guard situation was a disaster.

-And defensively, the team was akin to a sieve.

Nearly everything that could go wrong did go wrong and Sam Mitchell ended up paying the ultimate price for having many of these situations unfold on his watch.

Looking back at our blogger preview this weekend I got wondering just how different things will be this season. 

As has been discussed throughout the summer, many of the issues that plagued this team last season look to have been addressed in some capacity, but right now it's very hard to say just how much of a "fix" they'll be.  For instance  DeRozan and Weems should help from an athleticism standpoint, but we're talking about two players with very little NBA experience combined, both of whom could struggle to find minutes in a veteran-laden line-up.  Even DeRozan, who appears to have been penciled in as a starter by Jay Triano, could struggle and eventually be replaced by the likes of Wright, Belinelli and even Jack.

And while Evans, Nesterovic and Johnson should be a boost in terms of toughness-rebounding-shot-blocking, since none expected to see major minutes, just how much of an improvement can Raptors' fans expect to see from the Dinos in these areas?  It could very well be argued that success in these categories falls heavily on Andrea Bargnani and perhaps even Hedo Turkoglu.  Should they improve defensively and on the glass, this would play a much greater role in Toronto's final record than anything Evans, Nesterovic and Johnson do.

The main thing I think fans need to be excited about however is that even if Colangelo's attempts at fixing last year's issues aren't absolute, he at least looked to touch on each and every one.  I can't stress enough not only how incredibly rare the opportunity to do that is, but also how rare it is in the NBA to be able to take advantage of that opportunity and make such wholesale changes.  Aside from the Boston Celtics' championship push two years ago when Allen, Garnett and co were brought on board, and the Portland Trailblazers youth movement from the 2006 draft, I had a tough time thinking of another club in the past decade that's undergone such a complete overhaul as this off-season's Raptors.

Again, how successful the changes will be - hard to say.

However it's extremely exciting as a fan to see upgrades at nearly every spot on the roster, and barring major injuries, this should be a much-improved club, one that will be fighting for a playoff seed.

I still expect the club to struggle in terms of defensive metrics, but this is an infinitely more deep group than last year and hopefully BC has given Triano all the pieces he needs to find a winning combination.

Will we be suggesting 49 wins as a group again when we submit our blogger preview to Celticsblog?

I personally won't, but that doesn't mean if all goes well that it's not possible for the 2009-10 Toronto Raptors to hit that mark.

And as fans, really, that's all you can ask coming out of an off-season - a reason to hope that this coming season will be a lot different than the last.