In terms of the off-season it is almost over. In some ways with all that has happened it has flown by. In others it just seems like Chris Bosh has not been a Raptor for ages. Maybe it is the constant media blitz in which we have seen the former Raptor on everything from the Espys to Entourage. Despite a lot of change this summer it is a safe bet this will not be known as one of Bryan Colangelo's best. Having Bosh walk was just the start of a long summer for Colangelo. He went on the attack and questioned his former stars effort in his final days. Bosh would not let that go unanswered though and from an unbias point of view it sure seemed like Bosh won that battle. There was also a trade that never happened in which Jordan pulled the rug out from Colangelo. Matt Barnes was a Raptor of a second until it became obvious that they couldn't afford him and he ends up a Laker making far less. He did at least get rid of Hedo Turkoglu for Barbosa. At this time last year many were praising Colangelo for signing Hedo. I am happy to say I wasn't one of them. That being said is it stunning how bad and how fast things went with Hedo? Hell yeah. He also signed another euro product in Linas Keliza.
In a new season you always are suppose to feel optimistic. Hard to feel optimistic given the summer it has been for the Raptors. Even harder when you look south and see the monster in Miami that awaits the entire Eastern Conference. I guess for season it is about optimism in certain individuals for lack of having much for the team. Demar DeRozan is at the front of that list for me. A young Chris Bosh was given the responsibility of being the franchise player when Vince Carter was shown the door. No one his handing Demar the keys to the franchise. However they are on the table for whoever wants to take them. If the Raptors are to have any hope of surprising anyone it begins with Demar DeRozan. If Demar does not have a break out sophomore season the season for the Raptors will be even longer and more painful.
Andrea Bargnani should be thrilled that the Young Guns with DeRozan have in a sense as group taken over that spotlight that was left open with Bosh leaving. Bargnani has not exactly been a shining star in that spotlight. This is a make or break year for Bargnani. He is going to have all the chance in the world to be successful. If he isn't that will be it. Not that his career will be over but any delusions that is able to be a franchise player will be. Given how he has performed in the past when Bosh has been injured I am not all that optimistic personally.
The point guard situation remains the same despite attempts to solve it in the off-season. Jarret Jack comes in as the man at the top of the depth chart. Calderon comes in injured from playing for Spain yet again. Not to mention most people are not exactly thrilled to see him back. If he thinks that he was booed last season, something he didn't like to much, that will be nothing compared to this year if he fails to cut it. Jack showed more leadership in one season here than Calderon has in his entire career as a Raptor. Jack helped be somewhat of a mentor for Weems and DeRozan.
That is a question to be answered who exactly leads this team? For about 5 years the answer was pretty simple it was Chris Bosh. It will be a question that needs an answer and quickly. Jay Triano has a real job ahead of him if he is going to be able to keep the Raptors heads above water. The bar has been set very low in terms of expectations for this team. Triano will not have a team full of superstars like he currently has as an assistant on Team USA. He will have a lot of work to do to keep the Raptors offense productive and figure out a way to make this team not a defensive nightmare. In a sense the low expectations give Triano even more rope to save his job. It still seems hard to imagine he can do better than the 40 wins he had last year with Bosh.
The one unknown factor for the Raptors is what if anything can they do with the trade exceptions they acquired over the summer. Will they even use them this season or wait till next off-season to play that chip? That likely gets determined by how this team performs early on. If this team is so far from the playoffs it makes no sense to use it than the Raptors likely will not use it. However if the crowds at the ACC grow smaller the temptation will be there to use it.
Other things to keep an eye on is the players with expiring contracts. We already saw Reggie Evans almost be traded along with Calderon. Marcus Banks also has one of those expiring deals as well. However, Colangelo himself seems to want build some cap space for the Raptors heading into a new CBA that promises to be even tighter and make cap space even more valuable.
In the end the season is more about laying the foundation for the Raptors future. The results of this season are not as important as the results of the next 5-7 seasons. Which seems ironic when you have a coach and g.m coming to the end of contracts. What success for the Toronto Raptors will be measured by is more in the individual pieces and what they can do. While everyone would like to believe the Raptors could some how catch lightning in a bottle and make the playoffs. It really is about getting a foundation that can make the playoffs consistently. Something that Raptors have never been able to accomplish.
While everyone talks a good game about Raptors needing to rebuild and start over. It is another thing to endure a season in which it will not be measured as much by wins and losses. It is hard to get pumped up and excited when making the playoffs are a distant memory in January. It is hard to watch your team loss and look for improvement in a Demar, Ed or Sonny. This season is a season that will establish who the hardcore fans are and who are just fair weather fans. It will be tough for those folks to endure watch Chris Bosh win while they suffer waiting for brighter days. But ready or not training camp is only a few weeks away.