Let me preface this article by stating that these are purely potentialities, and are not predictions.
The Toronto Raptors certainly had a busy offseason and coming off of that, their possible upside is certainly high. The Raptors solved their PG crisis, have more power down low, and their guard game is smooth—but with it all came a host of new potential problems.
Let's take a glance at what could possibly pull the Raptors organization below their less-than-stellar .500 season half a year ago.
1. Jermaine O'Neal
The gigantic elephant in the room is currently nestled on his knee. And stomping on it. I know it, you know, the entire sporting world knows it.
Getting rid of Ford for O'Neal was pretty much trading equal possibilities for injury. The downswing, though, is that with Rasho Nesterovic gone, O'Neal is essentially our de facto big man. If his knees give out—which is a very real possibility—we don't have another big man to fall back on.
Chris Bosh is a pure power forward, and pushing him back into the Centre will only diminish him as the season goes on. As for Andrea Bargnani...well, the less said about El Mago playing down low, the better.
I'd put the chances of O'Neal not finishing the season as high as 50 percent, and even if he does, this isn't the All-Star Jermaine O'Neal the Raptors are getting. It's the "I could've gone places if I didn't blow out my knee, grandchildren" O'Neal.
2. A true backup point guard
Roko Ukic? I'm sorry, but I still don't have much confidence in him. I've heard about his upside—here on this site, even—but nothing, absolutely nothing, I've seen him in has shown that there's that special spark, that extra something that will elevate him into becoming a solid threat as backup to Jose. He was a ghost during the Olympics.
I may be proven completely wrong, and I certainly hope so, but I have a feeling I won't be.
There's always Will Solomon, but from what I've seen of him so far he'll be little more than a butt to fill out the bench. The Raptors would have been better off keeping Darrick Martin than signing Solomon. I mean, Martin's already staying around as an informal coach, so why not just give him a jersey, too?
Fingers are crossed that Calderon gets through this season healthy.
3. Losing Carlos Delfino
Love him or hate him, you can't deny he brought a good—if streaky—shot. He was fearless, plus, he looked like a fashion-model reject, which added much amusement. There was a reason he had among the most minutes for a bench player for the Raptors last season.
This wouldn't matter much if we had replaced him with someone of equal magnitude, but we signed nobodies. Of course, this opens up Kapono for more minutes, but he didn't exactly prove himself last season until it was too little, too late in the playoffs.
I still have my reservations about Kapono. Of course, Jamario Moon was developing into a nice shooter/slasher forward, but I'm still of the opinion he's too lanky to be all that imposing.
4. Speaking of Nobodies
Hassan Adams? Nathan Jawai? Will Solomon?
We have a league flunkout in Adams. I know, I know, Anthony Parker flunked out, too—but he went on to become a two time Euroleague MVP. Adams? He was a nobody on a no name Italian team. Though certainly a raw talent in high school, and a promising prospect in college, he's still the very definition of "untested." Only time will tell if Adams can take advantage of his new found opportunity.
Nathan Jawai isn't even the best player in the NBL, Australia's premier basketball league, so how is he going to handle playing in the NBA if (when?) O'Neal or even Bosh gets hurt? Short answer is he probably won't. Despite being the largest Raptor during the 2008 Vegas Summer League (at a whopping 285 pounds), he was all but invisible on the court. That's not exactly the dominating center the Raptors need.
Unlike the other two, Will Solomon has more experience than both Adams and Jawai put together, but he's still a middling talent at best. On the one hand you have the much needed third point guard, but on the other he's woefully undersized at only 180 lbs and already past his peak at 30 years of age. As I mentioned before, the Raptors probably would have been better served keeping Darrick Martin on the roster.
Ultimately, these guys were brought in as bench fillers, so heaven forbid more than two regulars get injured, because the season would go down the drain. Fast.
I know, the article seems to paint the Raptors in a rather negative light, but believe me when I say I DO expect them to garner a better season than last. They have enough pieces to do that. But if they do worse and (*gasp*) don't make the playoffs, it'll be for one or more of the reasons above.
And I wouldn't be surprised in the least.
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