Apparently nobody told Bryan Colangelo that the Canadian teams don't get to play by FIBA rules. Seriously. As much as I appreciate a team that's trying to be innovative, talk about a one-track vision. This year's Toronto Raptors are very new, probably quite improved, and definitely as metropolitan a team as the Association has ever seen.
Not that there is anything wrong with that--the goal of basketball isn't to build the most talented team, but to outscore your opponent. And the Raptors might have come up with a genius way to make the wins roll in. Emphasis on the might have, because this team isn't quite what's advertised.
Chris Bosh is the franchise player of the Raptors. He freakin' looks just like a Raptor; he literally is the face of the franchise. The problem with Bosh, however, is that it's not clear if he is a superstar or an excellent complement. Think of Pau Gasol. With Pau as the only reliable weapon on offense, the Grizzlies were basically locked into the bottom of the playoffs, even with a group of teammates that were incredibly efficient.
Or think of Boston's 'Big Three.' Each of these guys is a great player, but they aren't LeBron, Kobe, Paul, or Wade. They can't just will a team of role players to relative success. They need each other to achieve greatness, and that's fine. Detroit's championship team was the same way. In my opinion Chris Bosh is the same way, and, sadly, the rest of the Raptors aren't Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, and Ray Allen.
Jose Calderon is in many ways the actually spiritual leader of the squad. He plays the point in the European style, rarely taking risks, but also rarely generating much fast-break offense. He's dangerous on offense, but mainly because his limited usage allows a high efficiency. Most of his assists, and statistics in general for that matter, come out of running well-defined set plays.
And the Raptors have chosen to build around Calderon's style. They've added Marco Belinelli, extended Andre Bargnani, and Hedo Turkoglu. These guys' games are just as eclectic as their names. Simply put they are largely multi-talented jumpshooters. So Euro.
But the Raptors also created a bastard second unit that is so not European. Jitterbug Jarret Jack, DeMar DeRozan, Reggie Evans, Antoine Wright, and Amir Johnson are so street-ball it's borderline ridiculous to imagine them sharing the floor with Calderon and company.
Breakout: Andrea Bargnani- I just got done writing about how this team has retooled its roster to take advantage of its European players. Bargnani is one of them. He's shown signs of major progress, and this is largely a make or break year for the kid. ESPN has him ranked 24th out of power-forwards and 64th overall, which is below his ranks last season. The problem with that is this kid is improving.
Bust: The Raptors- Hedo is going to play shorter minutes then you'd expect. Jose Calderon is overvalued in most non-TO leagues because he's valuated for those few leagues that do count TOs, but they don't normally matter. Also I predict Jarret Jack takes 18 minutes or so from him. Bosh is perennially overrated, though his contributions are obviously solid. Don't even consider drafting anyone else--too much depth and skill overlap.
My Predictions: 40-42 (ESPN: 39-43)- I'm not up on this team whatsoever, but I also don't hate them. The problem with the Raptors is that they've got this weird polarization. There is the Jose Calderon team, which clearly has more talent and investment, and the Jarret Jack squad, which has numbers and depth, but no clear pecking order. I'd like to submit that Chris Bosh is suspended somewhere in between.
The problem is that there aren't enough minutes for two different teams to play for the same franchise. While changes of pace are effective, changes of style typically confuse the practitioner as much as the opponent. Also the Raptors have what I'm terming as negative depth, which is essentially too much depth, causing logjams at a specific position and significant skill overlap.
While the front office acted decisively this offseason, their direction isn't clear. That could mean an absolute coup, but I suspect it just means confusion.
Brock's Predictions: 41-41- I fully expect the Raptors, led by Chris Bosh, to find a way back to the playoffs, and actually be formidable in a very tough Eastern Conference this season. The starting five will provide some really nice match up problems, with Bosh and Andrea Bargnani being able to step out and pound down low. The addition of Hedo Turkoglu will not be that impressive in my opinion, as I believe he thrived beyond normal in Orlando's setup, but he can play 3 positions and still be very effective in their offense.
I don't like the fact that their best player off the bench may very well be rookie DeMar DeRozan, and outside of Jarrett Jack, they don't have much front court depth at all. In the end, I think they have enough to make a decent splash, but lack the ingredients to really be considered a force of any kind.
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