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2008-09 NBA Draft Kit: Toronto Raptors Preview

October 5, 2008 | By RotoRob | comment on this post

The 2008-09 RotoRob NBA Draft Kit continues with a preview of the Toronto Raptors.

Despite the fact that they showed improvements offensively and defensively, the Raptors backslid after their big 2006-07 season, dropping to .500 last year. However, Toronto swung for the fences this offseason, adding injury prone big man Jermaine O’Neal to help address its long standing rebounding weaknesses. If the Raps can get 65 to 70 healthy games out of J.O., they will boast a simply dominant frontcourt with perennial All-Star Chris Bosh and the still underachieving, but potential breakout play of Andrea Bargnani. It’s a roll of the dice that O’Neal is past his health woes, and if Toronto wins this gamble, they will shoot up the Eastern Conference standings.

The biggest loss is T.J. Ford, sent to Indy as part of the package to obtain O’Neal. Jose Calderon has proved he’s more than ready to run the Raptor offense on his own, but the loss of Ford breaks up the best point guard tandem in the NBA and leaves Toronto without a proven backup PG. With Carlos Delfino and Juan Dixon also gone, the Raps’ backcourt looks precariously shallow.

Projected Starting Lineup

PG: Jose Calderon
SG: Anthony Parker
SF: Jamario Moon
PF: Chris Bosh
C: Jermaine O’Neal

Key bench players: Andrea Bargnani, Jason Kapono, Hassan Adams, Roko Ukic

Position Battles

Kapono will battle Parker for the starting two-guard spot. Kapono is looking to bounce back after a rough first year in Toronto. The key for him is to look for his outside shot, as he’s one of the best in the biz from downtown, but simply didn’t use that weapon enough last year. Parker brings a more well-balanced game to the table, so I like his chances of keeping the gig.

Adams and Joey Graham will compete for minutes off the bench at the wing position. I always liked Adams as an energy player, but can’t see him logging more than 15 to 20 MPG. Graham, a tremendous athlete, just continues to regress, but if he ever gets his confidence back and can play with a modicum of consistency, he offers more upside. However, a hammy issue in training camp is hurting his chances of gaining traction.

Ukic and Will Solomon are fighting to be Calderon’s backup in a battle of the extreme unknowns.

Stud: This is Jose Calderon’s year to take his game to the next level with Ford gone. The Spanish Fly has already proved he can handle the gig, taking over for injury-prone Ford a good chunk of last year, but now that the specter of having to fight for the job has been removed, I expect Calderon to soar. If he can improve his ability to draw fouls, the scoring will really explode.

Dud: I hate to pile on, but the only obvious choice here is J.O., just because of the lengthy injury history. Still, after such a down season last year, I can’t believe O’Neal isn’t going to show improvements. There’s just no other obvious dud possibility on the Raps.

Sleeper: Andrea Bargnani, the number one overall pick in the 2006 draft, really crashed and burned in his sophomore season, completely floundering in his attempt to build on a fine rookie campaign. Other than improved numbers at the line, and slightly better assist numbers, there weren’t a lot of positives to take from last year. But Il Mago won’t be 23 until later this month, and he spent the offseason bulking up in the hopes of improving his chances of taking on opposing big men, so don’t you dare write him off yet.

Rookies to watch: Ukic, as mentioned, will compete for playing time as the back-up PG. The team’s second round pick in 2005 is not expected to make a seamless transition to the NBA. Last year’s second round pick, Nathan Jawai, is third on the depth chart at centre, but he’s experiencing heart problems that have set him back.

Fantasy Stories to Watch

Keep an eye on the minutes of Parker and Kapono – this is shaping up like a real dogfight for PT. Don’t sleep on Bargnani – this kid has the ability to bounce back big time. He could still be the next Dirk Nowitzki, but this is the most important season of his career.

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