Friday, October 19, 2012

Season Preview: Toronto Raptors

Going into their 18th season in franchise history, the Toronto Raptors are looking to finally put this team on the map and keep them there. With only five playoff appearances in history, the Raptors have never put together a team that can get past the second round. With a young talented core, Toronto fans are excited that this team can become a playoff team and continue to stay together.

With departures that include Damon Stoudemire, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, and Chris Bosh, the Raptors haven't been able to keep their stars throughout their run. It seems to be what the Raptors are mainly known for. The best solution to this problem is winning consistantly and that's something the Raptors haven't ever done.

Conspiracies often point at Raptors GM, Brian Colangelo, and say that he's been more focused on trying to import Europeans than bringing in the best talent available. Brian's first move as GM was drafting Andrea Bargnani while his most recent top five pick was used on young raw Lithuanian, Jonas Valanciunas. Many Canadians hope this isn't the case though, as it's proven that the United States has the best programs which creates an unbelievable amount of talent. Just looking at Team USA in London 2012 was an example of how strong USA basketball is.
Assuming that a player isn't as talented because they were breeded differently isn't completely crazy but it's an uninformed evaluation. If the Raptors staff think they watched enough tape and did their homework on a certain player, fans now can only hope to trust the selection.

With less than two weeks away from the season opener, the Raptors hope to take advantage of a weak Eastern Conference this season.

Andrea Bargnani
With six seasons under his belt, Andrea Bargnani has hit his stride and is ready to live up to his number one overall selection. After the departure of Chris Bosh, Andrea was asked to step up and handle more of the scoring load in which he did fairly well.

Last season, heavy playing time lead to Bargs going down with a left calf injury in which the Raptors missed him for 35 games. Once Bargnani was sidelined, it was very noticeable how much he meant to this team's offence. The Raptors ended the season as the third worst offensive team with 90.7 points per game.

A big upside to the Raptors last season was their much improved defense. Going from allowing 105.4 points the previous season to 94.0 points per game is something that Bargnani can't take much credit for since he was injured. The majority of the credit actually goes to Dwane Casey, the Raptors head coach, who was going into his first season as the coach with a defensive philosophy.

Something the Raptors need to find with Andrea is balance. They need Bargnani to play hard on both ends of the floor while communicating. His offense is a gift for any team but for him to be a key player and play heavy minutes, he has to be positive to this Raptors team defensively.

Demar Derozan
Most were dissappointed with Derozan's performance last season (3rd season). After improving in his second season, the stat sheet wasn't helping DD as his FG% dropped to 42% as well as his points per game to 16.7.  Even if the stat sheet doesn't agree, he improved his jump-shot, defense  and aggressiveness. The points drop wasn't expected since Andrea Bargnani missed a ton of games which made Demar the number one option offensively.

Going into this season, Demar will be looking to cash in and get an extension from the Raptors. Being on the same line-up as Bargnani and now Lowry and Fields, Derozan is going to need to play within the system and still get his numbers in if he wants Raptors general manager, Brian Colangelo, to hand him that pen.

Kyle Lowry
The main story going into the season with Lowry is his competition at the point guard spot with Jose Calderon. Lowry will need to work hard to gain the coaching staff's trust if he wants to grab the starting job over the eight-year veteran out of Spain. With  Kyle's tough defensive mentality and mindset, the Raptors going forward may look at Lowry as their defensive anchor.

Jonas Valanciunas
There's no more time to hype up the young Lithuanian as he's here and ready to show what he has. What fans hope Big V brings is above average help defense to balance out Bargnani's lack of defense, efficient scoring, and some of that character he showed at the Lithuanian All-Star game. At only 20 years old, Valanciunas will have plenty of time to grow. Even though he's raw, Raptors fans still have hope that he hits the ground running since he was missed last season when he stayed in Lithuania to develop.


So after not making the post-season for four years straight, the Raptors hope to finally make a change as the roster has more depth this year than they've had in previous seasons. Most project Canada's team to fight for a playoff spot while ranging around 35-40 wins.

Agree or Disagree? Yell at me on twitter,  @mitch_mcclure


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