Oh the NBA season is getting closer!! It is almost time to get our Rap on.

Here is a team preview we put together of the Toronto Raptors for Celticsblogs. To see what others are saying about the Raptors please check out Raptors HQ and Hoops Addict.

Last Years Record: 41-41

Losses: Maceo Baston, Primoz Brezec, Carlos Delfino, Juan Dixon, Jorge Garbajosa, T.J. Ford, Linton Johnson, Darrick Martin and Rasho Nesterovic.

Additions: Jermaine O’Neal, Hassan Adams, Nathan Jawai, Will Solomon and Roko Ukic.

1. What significant moves were made during the offseason?

The biggest and most significant move over the summer to me was bringing in Jermaine O’Neal (duh). This seems like an “all in” kind of approach by Bryan Colangelo where he is seeing the window for this current group closing.  Bosh needs to be shown that this team is ready to compete now, so he does not look elsewhere when he is a free agent.

By bringing in JO, it not only added rebounding, shot blocking and toughness, it also fixed the drama at point guard. T.J. Ford is gone and as much as I was a T.J. guy I am willing to go with the move and say it was good (for now). That being said I am still not sold on Calderon being the man to run to team full time but we will see as the season moves forward. I already know that when Toronto plays Indiana, Ford is going to burn us. I do like the fit with Bosh and Jo though because Calderon will feed them as much as possible unlike Ford.

If JO’s knee holds up and he returns to the play that made him an All Star (or even close), the Raps have a killer front court. If the knee goes bust again, it will be another long season for the Raptors.

2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?

  • Three point shooting just like last season.
  • Strong front court, assuming JO and Bosh stay healthy.
  • A pass first point guard who will get everyone involved.
  • Excellent free throw shooting team.
  • Should still have decent depth off the bench if used properly.

3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?

  • They can’t afford injuries as much as before especially at PG. If Calderon gets hurt, they are in trouble.
  • JO will help but the team still needs to rebound better. Maybe Bargnani took a course or something over the summer.
  • Still not sold on whether SMitch is the coach for this team. Love the guy but he needs to create a playbook or some kind of set offense.
  • Andrea Bargnani. Sorry to beat up on the guy but it is well earned.

4. What are the goals for this team?

Staying healthy is easily number one. They don’t have the depth to fall back on now with the East is getting better they can slide down the standings pretty fast. On paper this is a 50 win team but if they get hurt in any way they will fall back dramatically. The team needs to find a way to help blossom Andrea Bargnani’s game, help Jamario Moon improve and find a way to keep Jason Kapono (of the playoffs) on the court more. Playoffs is a given to me, this team needs to move past the first round or the season is a bust.

5. How long does Bargnani have to show improvement?

I have said it many times and so have others, Andrea Bargnani is the key to this team improving or staying where they are. JO, Bosh and Calderon will give exactly what you think they will but it is Il Muggo that will be the X-factor. If he blossoms into what we think he should be, the Raptors front court is crazy good. If he keeps reverting, he will be stapled to the bench and his value on the open market won’t be much. Short of fooling the Knicks into trading for him, he will be tough to move and get anything back that is good.

Andrea will not have to worry as much about rebounding with JO clogging the lanes but he still needs to play tough D. To be honest all I want is for him to find that swagger on offense again where he knocks down threes like nothing. I can live with that as long as he does it every night. The rest will follow. But if he starts the year with games of 5 point, 3 boards and 4 fouls, fans will have no tolerance for it anymore.

Predicted Record: 48-34

What are your thoughts?

Here are all of the Atlantic Division previews

Boston Celtics
Jeff Clark: CelticsBlog.com
Jim Weeks: Green Bandwagon
FLCeltsFan: LOY’s Place
John Karalis: Red’s Army
Dustin Chapman: Celtics 24/7

New Jersey Nets
Dennis Velasco: About Basketball

New York Knicks
Joey: Straight Bangin’
Seth Rosenthal: Posting and Toasting

Philadelphia 76ers
Dannie & Pete: Recliner GM
Jon Burkett: Passion and Pride

Toronto Raptors
Franchise: RaptorsHQ.com
Ryan McNeill: Hoops Addict

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