The Raptors enjoyed a breakout season in winning the Atlantic division title last season. The teams newly minted GM Brian Colangelo intelligently surveyed the foreign market and found true value in his overseas investments. Andrea Bargnani
, Jorge Garbajosa
, and Anthony Parker
proved to be key cogs in the wheel that drove Toronto into the playoffs. The sell-high trade of Charlie Villanueva
for T.J. Ford
looks equally brilliant so far, as was extending him at a bargain rate.
The past offseason Colangelo took a page out of his own book and added three more battle-tested players well-versed in the European game. Argentinean Carlos Delfino
was a European import from Italy who showed flashes of game during his three year stint with the Detroit Pistons. Maceo Baston
and Jason Kapono-vic round out the teams acquisitions. Each player has enjoyed title-contending success on the professional level and should help to increase the lineup options for coach Mitchell. Juan Dixon
was an interesting addition late last season as well. His ability to harass opponents and score points in bunches is valuable, but where he fits into the current rotation has yet to be seen. He and Luke Jackson
showed a little something late in the regular season and provide the team with some intriguing battles during the preseason.
Regardless, the team has certainly added depth at the wing position and may be able to parlay some of that depth into a player at a position of need later in the year. Depth Chart:
[c]courtesy of Synergy Sport Tech: Figure represents NBA offensive percentile rank[/c]Strengths:
One of the most intriguing things about Torontos roster is that is enjoys both youth and playoff experience. When considering the mix of overseas talent that the team has acquired, its not surprising how well the team functions when it comes to the fundamental elements of the game.
Calderon, Parker, and Garbajosa were all MVPs at one point in their careers before coming state-side to ply their trade. Baston was a big time star overseas before coming to the US, following former teammate Parker over to the Raptors organization from Maccabi Tel Aviv. Bargnani was very early into his career when he was snatched from Benetton Treviso, but played at a high level (winning an Italian championship) and was fast becoming an important player for his European club previous to joining up with Toronto.
The teams two star players, Chris Bosh
and T.J. Ford
, are almost the least experienced when it comes to playoff intensity and big game execution. That inexperience showed to some degree during the playoffs, but it also gave players like Parker and Calderon a chance to show how much more they had to offer. As such, the leadership and the lessons that the well-traveled vets can give to the teams two young stars should prove invaluable going forward.
Toronto is a deep team with great chemistry and a solid team identity built around a core of improving star players and a steady veteran supporting cast. Weaknesses:
The main weakness for Toronto is most likely its interior play. The team doesnt have tremendous defensive footspeed or rebounding ability, though they do have excellent stretches of team defensive play and dont make many mistakes in terms of communication and positioning.
Both Bargnani and Bosh are excellent offensive weapons, but both prefer to play a face up game and are better suited to that style than in attempting to become true back-to-the-basket threats. In one aspect of the game this can become an advantage because of the matchup problems it can cause. But with Torontos lack of any major post-up threat, the team can become perimeter oriented very quickly when facing a tough interior defensive club that effectively neutralizes their slashing ability. This showed itself to some extent during the teams first round loss to New Jersey.
The teams interior defense has similar problems. While both Bargnani and Bosh have had moments, neither has shown great ability as interior defenders. Rasho Nesterovic and Jorge Garbajosa
are not the type of complementary frontcourt players that help to elevate the teams interior play either. The addition of a defensive-oriented big man who can intimidate in the lane and clean up the glass would drastically improve the teams chances of success against opponents with dominant big men. Outlook:
Raptors fans and players are justified in feeling somewhat slighted this off-season. The team won the Atlantic division title and was improving by the week leading up to the playoffs. Their opening round loss helped to dampen some of the enthusiasm for the club outside of its own fanbase however, as did the roster changes from teams within their division.
Still, Toronto should certainly be considered a team on the rise. Their core is intact, young, and well-balanced. First round selection Bargnani looks like hell become a major player at the center position, which should give the team three legitimate all star candidates to build around when counting Ford and Bosh.
The Raptors have added high caliber role players who are also high character players as well and the team seems to really have an excellent rhythm to the way they operate on the court. Any additional moves for this team going forward will most likely be tweaking and very light on building. The team is not yet at its competitive peak, as many of its individual talents are still developing as players. The team may not be at the level of Chicago, Detroit, and perhaps Boston just yet, but its future is squarely ahead and on the rise.
Look for the team to compete heavily with Washington, New Jersey, and Cleveland for playoff seeding with the potential for bigger things if Bargnani breaks out big in his second season. A little more playoff seasoning and Toronto will soon take its place amongst the Eastern Conference elite.