NBA Preview: Rut is problem with Raptors
OCT 04, 2012 2:43a ET
What should be of greater concern is the fact the Raptors seem to still be spinning their wheels, struck in the mud as they just keep traveling back to the NBA draft lottery. They’ve become a large-market franchise with small-market problems.
What’s the plan? Where are the major reasons for hope? Who will lead this team into the next decade? Will the Raptors ever make a splash again? Or will the Vince Carter era be viewed as their one shining moment?
These are the pressing questions as the Raptors enter yet another year that is expected to end anywhere but the postseason. That’s not to say they’re a terrible outfit – because they’re not.
They actually showed some progress (albeit minor) last season, and appear poised to make a smidgen more this year. But they are infant steps, the kind that can sometimes result in falling down before latching on to something against which you can lean.
And that remains the story of the Raptors. They’re still in search of a concrete solution.
Last season: 23-43, did not make playoffs.
Coach: Dwane Casey (76-112, fourth year).
Top returnees: PF Andrea Bargnani, SF DeMar DeRozen, PG Jose Calderon.
Key additions: C Jonas Valanciunas-r, PG Kyle Lowry, SG Terrence Ross-r, SG Landry Fields.
X-Factor: Valanciunas. Honestly, there might not be a bigger wild card in the league, as Valanciunas was drafted with the Raptors’ first pick in 2011 (No. 5 overall), the idea being that they found a throwback 7-footer with actual post moves and agility. Some experts predicted he’ll eventually be the best player to come out of that draft. Others caution he has a long way to go. Either way, he’s the only true center on the roster, so he’d better at the very least be competent. Odds are, he’ll get plenty of minutes.
Strengths: Bargnani is the Dirk Nowitzki of the East, a tall and long marksman who flourishes by floating on the perimeter and knocking down shots. At 7-0, he’s practically unguardable. Others, such as DeRozen, Calderon and Kleiza are capable of having moments as well, should opponents place too much focus on Bargnani. Perhaps best of all will be Lowry, plucked away from Houston in a mid-summer trade. Lowry adds another dimension to the offense as a set-up guy who can score, as well as a reputation for an adroit defender -- something that had previously been lacking.
Weaknesses: The Raptors are a mostly soft team that has too often treated defense like a mere suggestion, an area that could potentially be shored up with the additions of Lowry and Landry. Still, the frontcourt is shaky, if not downright atrocious, defensively. On top of that, the Raptors have lacked consistency in all areas, particularly when it comes to diving for loose balls, chasing down rebounds and doing all those little tricks that win games.
Outlook: If Valanciunas and Ross -- both potential starters right away -- can give the Raptors anything more than the usual dose of rookie unpredictability, they may have something here, and just might ascend quicker than a lot of forecasters envision. If not, it will likely continue to be more frustration for the underrated Casey, and more of Bargnani against the universe, with the occasional chip-in from someone else. That’s no way to survive in the NBA.
2012-13 schedule: Link
FOX Sports: Raptors home
Follow Sam Amico on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO
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