2012 NBA Off Season Preview: Toronto Raptors

Toronto Raptors

2011-2012 Record: 23-43, 4th in Atlantic
Stat Leaders: Andrea Bargnani, 19.5 ppg. Ed Davis, 6.6 rpg. Jose Calderon, 8.8 apg. James Johnson, 1.4 bpg.

Depth Chart

C - Andrea Bargnani, Jonas Valanciunas, Solomon Alabi (TO)
PF - Amir Johnson, Ed Davis
SF - James Johnson, Gary Forbes
SG - DeMar DeRozan, Linas Kleiza
PG - Jose Calderon

Restricted Free Agents: G Jerryd Bayless
Unrestricted Free Agents: C Aaron Gray, C Jamaal Magliore, G Ben Uzoh

The Good: Despite the fact that the team won more games then expected, not much. The best news is that Jonas Valanciunas will probably join the team for the 2012-2013 season. He had a great year playing in Lithuania, taking home a number of awards, including  Lithuania Basketball Player Of The Year, FIBA European Young Player Of The Year and Eurocup Rising Star. He is still only 20 years old so he won't come in and set the world on fire, but he should provide offense in the paint, rebounding and shot blocking, three things the Raptors desperately need. As for the guys who played games in 2011, Jose Calderon was probably the most impressive. He has rebounded quite nicely from his very poor season two years ago, where he was nearly dealt to the Charlotte Bobcats. Sure, he is one of the worst defensive players in the league, but he is a good shooter and has one of the best assist to turnover ratios in basketball. He knows how to lead an offense. As a team, the Raptors can really shoot free throws. Calderon, Bargnani, DeRozan, Kleiza and Bayless all shoot over 80 percent from the line. The problem is those guys shy away from contact more often then not, so the attempts aren't there. Yeah, I know Raptors fans, you don't want me to talk about free throw shooting in "The Good" section, but I'm trying to be nice here! The Raptors actually played better then you would think defensively, giving up 94 points per game. That was the reason Dwayne Casey was hired.

Remember when the Raptors wore these
monstrosities? No wonder Tracy McGrady
wanted out of town.
The Bad: Toronto has some good young players in Bargnani, DeRozan and Ed Davis. The problem is those three really didn't progress this past season. Bargnani is a 20 point per game scorer, but you would like him to shoot a better percentage, especially from three. If he is not hitting jump shots he is basically worthless on the floor, because he can't play defense or rebound. I would like to see Ed Davis get more then 23 minutes per game. Maybe the head coach is just stubborn, but Davis didn't really improve his second season. In fact, his numbers regressed all across the board. It is puzzling, because he is their best rebounder and shot blocker. It's not like he was in danger of fouling out these games, either.  Perhaps the immortal Amir Johnson has naked pictures of the owner. The team did sign him to a ridiculous contract before the season. Most troubling to me is DeMar DeRozan. I expected him to take a leap during his third season and become one of the best scorers in the NBA, but he regressed. He is not a three point shooter, though he took twice as many per game as the previous season. He needs to rely on his slashing ability and strength to get up shots. He also needs to work on getting to the free throw line three or four more times per game. As a team, the Raptors

Key Free Agents: All of the unrestricted free agents should be allowed to run, not walk, out the door. The team will definitely want to resign Jerryd Bayless, who is a good third guard to have, as he can come in and provide instant offense and knock down three point shots. He isn't a good enough distributor and floor leader to be a starter, but could be one of the better sixth men in the NBA next year.

Projected Cap Space: $16,084,719. The Raptors are in good financial shape despite having three overpaid players. Bargnani, Calderon and Amir Johnson are all making more then they should, but all three are starters so it's not like their contracts are a complete drain. When Toronto brings over Valanciunas, this space will be chopped by a few million, but they still have plenty of space to extend DeRozan and bring in a free agent or two.

Amnesty Possibilities: Calderon and Johnson are overpaid by quite a bit, but I don't think either is a realistic possibility to be amnestied. Calderon is a starting point guard and this is the last year of his deal, and Johnson is one of only two guys currently on the roster who can rebound the ball. Losing him would be a pretty big loss. Not worth the extra cap space when Toronto has always failed to land big name free agents.

Free Agent Possibilities: Steve Nash would obviously be the dream for Raptors management. He would give Toronto fans a chance to root for their own, even though Nash is not from anywhere near Toronto. The team could offer him a max contract and Nash would have to think long and hard about it, especially with the bottom of the East so wide open. I don't think it makes any sense for the Raptors, though. But this is a team that gave Hedo Turkoglu 10 million a year so you never know. More likely they will try to add a shooter and a rebounder to the roster. A big man like Kris Humphries or Roy Hibbert would immediately become a starter for the team, though at at least 10 million dollars a year, probably more. They could sign a Chris Kaman for cheaper so they can ease in Valanciunas. I could see this team giving Ersan Ilyasova a big time contract. He is coming off a great year and the Raptors have been known to spend their free agent dollars on foreign players who won't mind as much making their home north of the border.

Draft Possibilities: Unless the Raptors luck out, they will be picking 8th in the draft. Obviously, they would do cartwheels if they could land Anthony Davis or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, both of whom would immediately be the team's best defender and a perfect fit. Drafting at eight is kind of a no man's land for Toronto. They could try to hit a home run by drafting someone like Perry Jones or Terrence Jones. Or they could go the safe route and take someone like Jared Sullinger. Adding Sullinger would allow the team to amnesty Amir Johnson, as Sullinger does what Johnson does and better. Toronto really needs shooters, but this draft is not that great for shooting, at least in the lottery. So Toronto might have to take what the board gives them and add to their front court, as much as Toronto fans may not like that after they took two big men the last two years. The one guard who would make sense is Jeremy Lamb, who is a good shooter and has nice size for the two guard position.

Rebuliding, Contending or Status Quo?: The Raptors are still rebuilding, this time using the draft instead of trying to sign veterans who are on the downside of their careers. Valanciunas, DeRozan and Davis are big parts of the team's future, and trading for Bayless really paid off. Toronto still isn't too sure how to build around Bargnani, as he has been forced to play center the last couple years. The team does have an interesting set of big men. If Valanciunas and Davis can make jumps this year, the team could contend for a playoff spot.

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Jonathan Carrano

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