Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Once again back is the incredible ... Ball Don't Lie's NBA previews, outlining offseason moves, projecting win totals, spinning tracks and much, much more. It's a fun, hot mess. Today, the Toronto Raptors.

2008-09 Record: 33-49, fourth place in Atlantic Division
Head Coach/Nationality/Facial Hair: Jay Triano/Canadian/None
Key Additions: Hedo Turkoglu(notes), Jarrett Jack(notes), Antoine Wright(notes), Marco Belinelli(notes), Reggie Evans(notes), Amir Johnson(notes), Rasho Nesterovic(notes)
Key Losses: Shawn Marion(notes), Kris Humphries(notes), Jason Kapono(notes), Anthony Parker(notes), Roko Ukic(notes), Joey Graham(notes)

There's no real rhyme or reason beyond the Raptors' improvement this year, as the team hasn't really done much to send itself spiraling toward 50 wins.

Personnel-wise, I should say. Chris Bosh(notes), Jose Calderon(notes) and Andrea Bargnani(notes) should all be better. They were younger last year, they're older this year. Analysis!

And Hidayet Turkoglu is on board, shoring up that small forward position. DeMar DeRozan(notes) is the rookie. Whatever. He can jump, but he could block any shot or rebound in college. Not feeling it.

What I am looking forward to is a full, healthy year from Calderon. He managed 68 games last year, which is a fair amount, but he was at full strength for a third of those appearances, at best. And apologies for relying on a cliché, but he's what drives this team. He's the man with the live dribble that draws attention.

And because I can't help but trust that he's been introduced to potassium supplements and that his wheels will be in place this season, I think the Raps will improve. JC's 28, too. In his prime.

Hedo will help, no doubt, but there will be a feeling-out period. He's not going to have the ball as much (imagine the semi-shock, making the transition from a point forward to typical small forward), and his long-range shooting isn't good enough for him just to be a spot-up guy.

Losing Anthony Parker hurts, replacing that guy's minutes with Marco Belinelli and DeRozan will destroy this team on some, certain, crap, most nights. But Jarrett Jack is an actual backup point man, something the team just didn't have last year. Reggie Evans can board. Not sure if he'll play all that much, but he can clean the glass and the Raps were missing that last season.

Rasho Nesterovic? Cackle all you want, but the more Toronto plays this guy, the better it'll be. Not the best rebounder, but a fantastic defender who will keep defenses honest with his ability to catch and finish.

In a way, Andrea Bargnani attunes to the same ideal, minus the defense. He can't rebound, he can't defend, but he can score. I won't comment on his ridiculous contract (actually, I think I just did), but he is a 7-footer with skills who can put the ball in the hoop.

When you factor in the myriad roles an NBA player has to work through to help his team, I don't know if Bargs actually comes out ahead — he can hit the odd 3-pointer, but what does that count for if he's giving it up on every possession defensively and failing to rebound? But he's stuck in Toronto for a while. Might as well try to make it work.

Not to get too dramatic, but this is more or less it for the Raptors. They have to kill it this year. Depth is there — Amir Johnson and Sonny Weems(notes) and Antoine Wright will help — but Toronto has to really, truly surprise if it wants to keep Bosh in the fold. There are just too many sound teams with free-agent money next summer to toss out 34 wins with a capped-out team (and Hedo's contract hanging around) and hope for the best.

So everything has to fall into place, and the team has to be more than the sum of its parts. And even though we took in 65 games (25-40) from Jay Triano last year, I'm not entirely convinced he's the guy for that job. As a fan, I hope he is, but a lot of things will have to go right for the Raps.

And, for whatever reason — call it the Hedo Effect — I'm guessing things turn around. Keep dribbling, Jose.

Prediction: 40-42

Kelly Dwyer

Will Chris Bosh stay in Toronto?

Duh! Only the fate of the franchise hinges on Chris Bosh and what he will do next summer. There will be teams with cash to lure him, although maybe not as many as once thought given new salary-cap levels. But if Bryan Colangelo and Co. can succeed in convincing Bosh to stick around, it will be a rewarding season regardless of the outcome on the court. If not, well, there's always Hedo.

— Peter May, Yahoo! Sports 2009-10 NBA Preview magazine

Hoops Addict: "While reading through some articles this past week something that jumped out at me was a story about the 2004-5 SuperSonics who many had neglected after going 37-45 the previous season. What fans and writers failed to take into account is that Ray Allen(notes) and a ton of the players were on the verge of becoming free agents so they had a lot to play for that season. Throw into the mix that the team had a deep and balanced roster and it helped the Sonics enjoy a successful season (52-30). Could the Raptors enjoy this same level of success this season? Sure, I think 50-plus wins is possible. Not likely, but possible. I think the team will finish with somewhere between 45 and 50 wins and have the chance to make some noise in the playoffs." [more]

Raptors HQ: "On paper it looks like this team will have no problems putting the ball in the hoop. The roster is rife with shooters and offensive weapons. It will now be up to full-time head coach Jay Triano to determine how a limited number of shots will be divided up amongst so many scorers. Perhaps the team's biggest strength, however, is depth. The Raptors' roster is now two deep at every position. Should the injury bug strike this year's club they will be well prepared to deal with such a turn of events. Unlike last season when unproven players like Will Solomon(notes) and Roko Ukic were required to play heavy minutes the Raps are now playing with a full deck." [more]

RaptorBlog.com: "Have you noticed that Jose is the one player that Raptors fans haven't really talked about this offseason? Bosh's Big Decision, Turkoglu's clutchness, Bargnani's blossoming, DeRozan's potential, Belinelli's unleashing, Reggie's rebounding — all of these topics have been more front-of-mind then the return of a healthy Jose. I suggest to you that it's Calderon's dependability that causes us to overlook him in the grand Raptors scheme. We know what to expect from him: 12-14 points, eight-nine assists, shooting percentages in the 50 and 40 range and that weird clap that appears to be his primary defensive trick." [more]

System of a Down, "Chop Suey!"

This song works for the Raptors on two distinct levels.

On the broader, personnel-based level, you can point to the hodgepodge of genres and time signatures to reflect the diverse roster Colangelo and Co. have put together. They employ two Italians, a high-schooler, a Turk, a Spaniard, a Slovenian and their best player is an American who spent just one year in college before that was a requirement. Quite the potpourri of paths to the NBA.

On the other, more personal level, once you've seen the world's most famous Raptor fan scream about his father, you'll know no other song could possibly represent the Raps. It's terrifying and exhilarating all at once.

— Trey Kerby, The Blowtorch

Toronto is a team that figures to put up and give up a lot of offense, a win-win for fantasy owners. Chris Bosh remains the featured item here, and his consistent and efficient 20/10 make him a target at the end of Round 1. But he's also another reason to hope you draft in the top half of the first — if history is any indication, his current left hamstring injury figures to be the first of a litany of nagging afflictions during the season. Jose Calderon is squarely in the mix of elite point guards being drafted in the second round. His combination of high percentages and a sterling assist-to-turnover ratio play well in any format and he's healthy after a hamstring injury affected his 2008-09 season.

Hedo Turkoglu was the team's big offseason addition. But his contributions are often overrated for fantasy purposes and, after logging 101 NBA games last season and then spending four months of his offseason with the Turkish national team, you have to wonder how much he'll have left in the tank for the Raptors. Andrea Bargnani is a fantasy favorite — and a solid fifth-round pick — thanks to a unique combination of threes and blocks, but you shouldn't expect a full-fledged breakout until Chris Bosh leaves for more competitive pastures.

— Matt Buser, Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Basketball / BuserSports.com

Sign up now for Fantasy Basketball '09.

Doug_McKenzie: Raptors for the championship, eh. Seriously, I'm a genius. Steamroller! #NBA
about 3 hours ago from Twitterific


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