I’ll start this post by making a bold pronouncement: The Toronto Raptors will contend this 2011-2012 NBA season.
But they won’t be contending for the NBA championship, or the division title— they’ll be in the mix to get the league’s worst record.
The Raptors brass have already said that this season is a continuation of the team’s rebuilding efforts. And in the NBA, “rebuilding” means sucking to get a high draft pick in June and getting cheap and long term contracts for salary cap flexibility. The way the roster stands, it looks like the plan in is in nicely falling into place.
Let’s look at the roster.
The projected starting lineup is Jose Calderon (PG), DeMar DeRozan (SG), James Johnson (SF), Andrea Bargnani (PF), and Amir Johnson (C).
Looking at the starters, this team is imbalanced. There’s too much focus on offense with the best players (Bargnani and DeRozan) preoccupied by a making buckets. Calderon is a year older and his effectiveness has slight dipped in the last three seasons. James Johnson is still an unproven commodity as a starter and Amir Johnson is undersized.
The key subs are Jerryd Bayless, Leandro Barbosa, Gary Forbes, Ed Davis, and Aaron Gray. The bench is again too offensive-minded. Ed Davis is the bright spot in this group.
Dwayne Casey is a new coach and preaching a new gospel of defense and accountability. The question now is if the players will buy in to his defense-first philosophy. But the team is relatively young by NBA standards (Raptor’s average age is 26.8 years) so they may be open to learning.
As I’ve mentioned, the Raptors will battle for the league’s doormat record. The other teams would be contending for that forgettable distinction the Charlotte Bobcats and Cleveland Cavaliers. The way I see it, it the Raptors will win 16-18 games in the shortened 66-ame season.
If you’re a betting person, I think you’d have a 75% chance of winning if you bet against the Raptors.
This is a team that hopes to have a high draft in 2012 and bring Jonas Valanciunas in to form the NBA’s most lethal European frontline in the next season. Bottomline: Raptors fans shouldn’t hold their breath for a playoff season in 2011-2012.