Back to the Future
October 3, 2010 7 Comments
In Steven Spielberg’s “Back to the Future,” Marty Mcfly is able to use the power from a bolt of lightning to get back to his present life, which he then finds out is significantly better than the one he had the previous day. With the loss of Chris Bosh, the Toronto Raptors are once again looking back to the future, but it is going to take more than a bolt of lightning make this team competitive when you wake up tomorrow morning.
For any teams that are without a superstar there is always the hope that the future offers. Well…unless you’re the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Anyways, it is evident when looking at the Toronto Raptors roster, that you are not seeing a championship contending team. The departure of Chris Bosh to the Miami Heat has left the Raptors without their franchise player and “superstar” if you want to call him that. Bosh has been the face of the Raptors franchise for the better part of the last 7 years, averaging over 20 points and 9 rebounds a game in that time. It goes without saying that it will be more than a bit difficult to replace that kind of output, and at least for now it doesn’t look like the Raptors will be able to.
Andrea Bargnani, by default, has gained the status of alpha male on this Raptors squad, which immediately gives any NBA fan reason to be skeptical of this team. Bargnani had a breakout season last year, where he averaged a career high in a number of categories including points (17.2), rebounds (6.2), blocks (1.4) and minutes (35.0).
However, the double teams that last year went towards Chris Bosh, are most likely shifted in Bargnani’s direction, and no longer will he be benefiting from the open looks that CB4 provided. Moreover, as the go to scorer Bargnani is going to be forced into more isolation scoring situations and frankly his face up/pull up game is not currently up to level it needs to be. The Raptors better hope that Bargnani has once again made some significant leaps in his game this off-season in order for them to stay competitive.
The Toronto Raptors are not only facing problems in the star department. There have been many issues that Bryan Colangelo has done a poor job of addressing throughout his tenure as General Manger.
Calderon has failed to live up to the high expectations of his lucrative contract that he signed in 2008. His gradually declining play caused by injuries and god knows what else saw the number one job to go to Jarrett Jack last year. The trouble is, despite Jack’s surprisingly impressive play last season, it is apparent that he is not part of the upper echelon point guards in the NBA. Jack was brought in by Colangelo to play backup to Jose Calderon, but all it looks like is two solid backups posing as starting point guards for the Raptors. Also, I cannot fail to mention that yet again, Jose injured his left hamstring at the World Championships this offseason, although he is supposed to be 100% now.
With the disappointment and subsequent exit of Hedo Turkoglu, the Raptors have essentially replaced him with a poor man’s Hedo in Linas Kleiza. Kleiza may not possess the supposed facilitating skills that Turkoglu has, but he does own some of same skill sets that Turkoglu has. Kleiza has a big body at 6”8, is very mobile, can put the ball on the deck, and also step out and knock down jumpers. Even though I feel that Colangelo is heading in the wrong direction by signing role players to big contracts, Kleiza could be a nice addition to the Raptors.
Speaking of role players, Amir Johnson signed an absolutely ridiculous contract this past summer. Apparently, the new NBA standard for a 5 year contract worth $34 million is a lot of hustle with an unproven 6 points and 5 rebounds a game. Don’t get me wrong, I think Amir Johnson did a great job for the Raptors last season, but he didn’t do enough to deserve $7 million a season. Also, why is Colangelo so heavily rewarding player of Amir’s calibre, when instead they should be focusing on rebuilding the team through the draft. Are you telling me that you can’t find 6 points, 5 rebounds and some hustle for cheaper than that? How about talking to 2009, 37th overall pick Dejuan Blair? At 23 Amir Johnson has potential, but that potential is limited.
Bryan Colagelo has also brought in former Suns player Leandro Barbosa who the Raptors got in exchange for Hedo Turkoglu. Barbosa, the former 6th man of the year, has seen a steady decline in his play ever since he won the award after the 2006-07 season. At 28 years of age, Barbosa still has a couple of years left on his contract, and I see only positives from this transaction. The Raptors are lucky to have gotten anything for Turkoglu, and being able to receive a former sixth man of the year in the supposed prime of his career can only be good for the Raptors at this stage of the game.
As this post’s title states, it is back to looking towards the future for the Raptors and there are a couple of bright spots for Raptors fans.
After a decent rookie campaign in which he averaged 8.6 points and 2.9 rebounds per game, sophomore Demar Derozan is sure to have a much greater role this coming season. If his developing jump shot has improved like it should then we may be looking at the development of a future NBA all-star. Fellow shooting guard Sonny Weems also showed that he can be a solid NBA role player. Hard defence, unselfishness, and a good mid-range game make Weems a good piece for this Raptors franchise.
For NBA teams like the Raptors I always feel that it should all start at the draft. Choosing power forward Ed Davis at 14th overall in this past draft, a game mirroring somewhat to that of Chris Bosh’s, is a small step in the right direction. Although the Raptors are a thin up front, drafting a player with the potential to emulate Chris Bosh is too tough to pass up. The jury will still be out on the raw Ed Davis for the next couple of years, but for this franchise time is not a concern.
The Raptors are going to need their young guns to step up to improve on last season’s much maligned defence. Toronto may be small/weak at the 4 and 5, but hopefully Jay Triano will be able to implement a defensive system that can hold teams to under 106 points a game this season. Everyone is going to have to do their part if this team is going to be at all successful on defence as well as on the boards, which was also a major problem last season.
With virtually no expectations heading into the coming season, the best thing that fans can hope for is improvement from this squad.
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