Every season since the Raptors won their Division Title they have come into a season with high expectations. This season is the first time they will enter a season with little to no expectations. The schedule maker has not exactly been kind to them as well. If you can still talk Raptors and playoffs with a straight face in 2011 that would be saying something. All that being said it is all in theory or on paper. The Raptors on paper looked to have a great chance for some when they acquired J.O. On paper they had a Spurs like set of twin towers with Bosh and O'Neil. But in reality they had nothing that reassembled Duncan and Robinson. Last season the Raptors on paper had a clutch performer that could close out games and get wins in Hedo Turkoglu. In reality you had a player getting a big fat contract that was more hungry for Toronto night life than he was basketball. The Hedo you saw at the recent World Championships looked nothing like the Hedo that wore a Raptor Jersey.
So this young group of Raptors have little expectations to live up too. It is more people have a lot of hope that Young Guns and others can step up and surprise. If that is going to happen here is some things that must happen for that to occur.
1. Demar DeRozan must have a break out sophomore season. If he is not playing for the Sophomores in the Rookie Challenge at All Star Weekend something has gone wrong. He had a respectable first season as the 4th or 5th option in the starting line-up for most of the season. This season he has moved up the food chain and should have the chance to score more. He also needs to improve on the other end of the floor and defend better than he did last season.
2. Jarrett Jack must be the clear starting point guard for this team. If he leaves any doubt and Jose Calderon remains part of the fold you could have an ugly point guard controversy the whole season long. Jack must come out and prove he is the best point guard and the easiest way to do that is to play well on the defensive end of the floor. Jose Calderon can be better on offense than Jack but if Jack can defend well that makes him the guy.
3. Amir Johnson must find a way to solve his foul issues. He is aware of the problem obviously as proof he made this funny video.
Seems Johnson got into the funny video game like Bosh. However like Bosh he needs to stay on the floor and produce. He obviously is not going to produce the same offensive numbers but he can bring the same things on defense if not more. That being said he has to be able to stay on the floor to do that. At the end of last year you saw a glimpse of what he can do when he does and it was scary good.
4. Sonny must be money. At this time last year if you are honest you were asking who the heck is Sonny Weems? He came to the Raptors with Amir Johnson and for many was thought to be some throw in. He was far more than that. Improving his range but not abusing it is the biggest thing for Sonny. The odd 3-ball added to the mix can make him even more effective. if he can prove he can make that shot people will not be able to play off him and that means he can take people to the hole and make them pay. Also as with everyone Mr.Weems must be part of the defensive effort. The same jaw dropping athleticism we see on offensive end needs to be seen on defensive end as well.
5. Colangelo needs to be 3 for 3. What are the 3? Barbosa, Klezia and his draft picks. If all contribute and do more then most expect it is a win for Bryan Colangelo. Signs look good based on World Championships. Klezia and Barbosa looked good representing their countries at the Worlds. Unlike Hedo let's hope they do the same for the team paying their checks. If Ed Davis and Solomon Alabi can be part of the rotation that will be great. For that to happen they will need to earn it. Both are going to be counted on for defense and rebounding. That will be how they can help this team the most. Any offense ether provide is a bonus.
6. Andrea Bargnani will be defined by this season. He must prove he can defend and rebound in this league. Andrea also will face the challenge of the occasional double team on offense with no Bosh around. This is something in the past with Bosh injured he has not dealt well with. Colangelo has stuck with Bargnani and not given up on him. If the Raptors are going to be successful Colangelo needs to be rewarded for that faith with a solid season from his 1st overall pick. It will be more about his blocks and boards and less about his points that defines success.
Aside from those six things the Raptors need to be healthy and get off to a good start which will not be easy. The X-Factor in all of this is Colangelo does not seem to be done with this roster. He does have that huge chip of the trade exception from the Bosh sign and trade. How this team performs could impact on how that is used. If it becomes clear this team is going no where it may make the desire to use that exception during this season less desirable. There is also the future of both Colangelo and Triano in question as we enter this season. If the Raptors can exceed expectations it likely paves the way for both to remain. If they don't what that will mean is for the MLSE board to determine.
A reminder that tomorrow night at 7pm we will be having our first official DNB Chat over there on the right>>>.
Show up here on the site then and we will talk Raptors, NBA or whatever you like with in reason. This will be a weekly occurrence from now on. The time might be subject to change but at least till the season starts we will keep it at 7pm. Hope to see a bunch of you come out and be a part of the chat. I have always considered it a privilege for me to get to know as many of you that read the blog as humanly possible.