Busy offseason dictates Raptors' long-term fate


After a dismal 33-win season last year, Toronto Raptors President and GM Bryan Colangelo refused to be a bystander during the offseason, implementing an inevitable roster shakeup that saw nine key trades and acquisitions. The Raptors signed highly coveted free agent Hedo Turkoglu to a five-year contract and restricted free agent Jarrett Jack to a four-year deal to serve as a viable backup to point guard Jose Calderon. What makes this offseason so beneficial for the Raptors organization is not because they made the moves for the sake of change, but because they addressed and solved many of the teams needs and problems from last season.

With the Jason Kapono for Reggie Evans trade, and the Carlos Delfino and Roko Ukic for Amir Johnson trade, the Raptors gained both defensive toughness and tenacious rebounding skills. During his time in Philadelphia, Evans was regarded as an excellent rebounder at both ends of the court and always hustles for every ball. After spending four seasons in Detroit, Amir Johnson drastically improved his game and developed a reputation as an athletic player who shows outstanding anticipation and effort for rebounds and blocked shots. Johnson also possesses soft hands around the basket that causes turnovers on the defensive end and enables him to display an effective short range game on the offensive end.

By acquiring both Jack and Turkoglu, the Raptors solved their needs for both a legitimate backup point guard for Calderon and a clutch player that possesses the ability to make tough shots during close games. Both players provide versatility across the roster as each player can effectively play several positions on the court. Jack is noted for being a speedy and skilled player unafraid to take on a leadership role on the court while being considered a proven three-point shooter. On the other hand, Turkoglu is a tremendous playmaker and long range shooter for his size, and can arguably play all five positions on the court.
Despite all this, Colangelo believes Marco Bellenelli, acquired in a trade for Devean George on July 30, will be the difference maker for the team this upcoming season.

He could be a guy who surprises people if you look at what he was capable of doing in a lot of important situations last year in Golden State, Colangelo said.

The guy is a really, really good basketball player. From looking at his stats last year to what he is going to do for us, he could really be one of those people who is looked on as a most improved player.

Those may be daunting expectations for the young Italian, who came in to replace former Raptor guard Anthony Parker, but considering the flashes of brilliance he showed at Golden State, the forecasts are not out of the question.

If the team is able to develop a consistent chemistry from the get-go, they should be able to make big strides which could include the franchise achieving its first ever 50-win season which could result in a lengthy playoff run. But if there is a repeat of last season and the newly acquainted roster underachieves, the future holds rough times for the franchise. A poor season could discourage all-star Chris Bosh and result in losing him to free agency in the highly anticipated 2010 offseason. It could perhaps be the beginning of the end for Colangelo, who has dealt with inconsistent teams the last couple of seasons.

The Raptors begin their regular season against the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers at the Air Canada Centre  on October 28.