As the NBA preseason gets underway, we preview the upcoming campaign with the “Highs and Lows” system — predicting the respective ceiling and basement for each team.
Added: Leandro Barbosa, Ed Davis, Linas Kleiza, Julian Wright, David Andersen, Solomon Alabi
Lost: Chris Bosh, Hedo Turkoglu, Antoine Wright, Marco Belinelli
Ceiling: One step forward…
It’s time to rebuild in Toronto. In hindsight, trading Chris Bosh instead of letting him walk in free agency when he clearly didn’t want to re-sign with the Raptors would have been a smart move, but that ship sailed and the franchise is in full re-tooling mode … The Raptors are young, but with those fresh legs they will get out and run. DeMar DeRozan, Sonny Weems, Amir Johnson and Ed Davis will be at the core of the thoroughbred movement, but Andrea Bargnani is the new franchise centerpiece. Bargnani (17.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg) had a couple of big games while filling in for Bosh as The Man last year, and while he continues to fight with Danilo Gallinari for the undisputed “Next Dirk Nowitzki” title belt, he’ll have to do a good Dirk impression to lead the Raptors anywhere beyond the Lottery this year … Barbosa brings postseason experience and fits into the running scheme. He’ll be the lead scorer on the second unit. He’s coming off a down year in Phoenix (9.5 ppg), but got the trade he wanted and is rejuvenated mentally to be with the Raptors … The frontcourt is full of X-factors. Amir Johnson was inked to a 5-year, $34 million deal in the offseason despite being unproven in the League. Linas Kleiza is returning to the NBA following a stint in Europe where he allegedly got a lot better; he was shooting people’s faces off at the FIBA World Championship. Julian Wright has been a bundle of unrealized potential in his NBA career. Lottery pick Ed Davis didn’t stay at North Carolina long enough to show if he was worth the hype he had coming out of high school, and fellow rookie Solomon Alabi was once considered a Top-5 draft prospect before slipping to No. 50 this year. If two of those four can make a positive impact, the Raptors will exceed expectations.
Basement: Two steps back.
Intentionally or not, the Raptors have cleared the path to put together a solid foundation and redefine themselves as an organization. But this season will be rough. Youth and inexperience means the Raptors will lose a lot of close games down the stretch, and get blown out in others. The losses will be expected, but the worst thing that can happen is that a losing mentality takes hold … The point guard situation is still unsettled. Jarrett Jack would appear to be the best option, but Jose Calderon is still penciled in as the starter by some analysts. Calderon is the best passer and shooter of the two, but his defense is terrible. Jack is an emotional leader on the floor and he can score, but he’s almost like a two-guard trying to play PG, and his D isn’t fantastic either … The Raptors are one of those teams who is better on NBA 2K11 than they are in real life. They have speed, height, length, athleticism and shooters. What they don’t have are a lot of guys who have learned to put those physical tools together and form a decent basketball team.
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