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Highs and Lows: Toronto Raptors

By 09.26.08
Chris BoshChris Bosh (photo. Chris Gordaneer)

NBA training camps are starting soon. In preparation, we’re going team-by-team, from 1 to 30, exploring what each team’s ceiling is for the upcoming season and where their basement is. In other words, what are the realistic best-case and worst-case scenarios for each squad?

Additions: C Jermaine O’Neal, PG Roko Ukic, PG Will Solomon, SG Hassan Adams, C Nathan Jawai.

Losses: PG T.J. Ford, SF Carlos Delfino, C Rasho Nesterovic, SF Jorge Garbajosa, PF Maceo Baston, C Primoz Brezec.

Ceiling: Conference semifinals
After two years of first-round knockouts, the Raptors made a pair of major offseason moves in hopes of making an upward move in an improving Eastern Conference. The first was re-signing free agent Jose Calderon, who led the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio in ’07-08 and had a borderline All-Star year (11.2 ppg, 8.3 apg). The second move, directly impacted by the Calderon deal, was trading T.J. Ford as part of a package to Indiana for Jermaine O’Neal. If he’s healthy (a familiar tale), J.O. is one of the top big men in the East and a rebounding/shot-blocking presence on a team whose most glaring problems are a lack of toughness and lack of interior play beyond superstar Chris Bosh. O’Neal would also allow 22-year-old Andrea Bargnani — who was totally out of place trying to play center last year — to move somewhere in which coach Sam Mitchell can take advantage of his strengths. But even if O’Neal doesn’t live up to the expectations, the Raptors still have two of the most coveted personnel pieces for any team: a legit go-to superstar (who’s a big man to boot) and a great point guard. Those two alone should be enough to at least keep them relevant.

Basement: 8th seed in the East
Although Toronto placed second in the Atlantic Division last season, they did while finishing an even .500, and an ugly late-season freefall put a whole 25 games between them and the first-place Celtics. A lot of Toronto’s hopes are riding on J.O.’s infamously cranky knees. If he turns up lame, Toronto is back to looking for stop-gaps in the middle and again throwing too much on Bosh’s shoulders. Kris Humphries had his moments last year, but he’s basically a smaller, poor man’s Brook Lopez and not someone you want playing a major role on a contending team. After Bosh, J.O. and Humphries, the only big man on the roster is Australian import Nathan Jawai, who was a beast in the NBL and looked good in Toronto’s summer league games, but is still young and inexperienced. There also isn’t much depth behind Calderon; neither of his backups, Roko Ukic or Euroleague transfer Will Solomon, have a minute of NBA experience. (Correction: Solomon saw action in 62 games with Vancouver six years ago — AB.) Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon and Jason Kapono are all decent role players who know their place, but neither is the standout wing player the Raptors have needed ever since Mr. You-Know-Who was in town.

’08-09 NBA preview archives
9/25 — New Orleans Hornets
9/24 — Atlanta Hawks
9/23 — Sacramento Kings
9/22 — Miami Heat
9/19 — Portland Trail Blazers
9/18 — New Jersey Nets
9/17 — Minnesota Timberwolves
9/16 — Cleveland Cavaliers
9/15 — Phoenix Suns
9/12 — Milwaukee Bucks
9/11 — L.A. Clippers
9/10 — Orlando Magic


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