Although Bryan Colangelo is 44, he reminds me so much of a 5 year old, in the sense that he can't wait to play with his new "toy". Colangelo took full blame for the disappointing 2008-2009 season, and promised fans he'd make up for it. So what'd do? Colangelo brought in 9 new players, named Jay Triano head coach, as well as made some other coaching moves, for instance adding Raptor legend Alvin Williams as an assistant.
This revolution all started back June when the Raptors drafted the USC product DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan's a freakish athlete, and probably has the best chance to make the Slam Dunk Contest as a rookie. But just a few weeks later, Bryan Colangelo & the Raptors shocked the NBA by signing Hedo Turkoglu. While his contract may be too lucrative, there's no denying the talent. Turkoglu was a big reason why the Magic made the Finals last season, and he's certainly a force to be reckoned with.
Then, all the pieces started to fall in place. The Raptors signed guys like Jarrett Jack, Marco Belinelli, Rasho Nesterovic, and Antoine Wright. Following this very busy off-season by Bryan Colangelo, the Raptors now have a very solid starting 5, as well as a very deep bench, which was missing last year.
I'm expecting big things out of Jose Calderon next year. Calderon was supposed to "break out of his shell" last season, but because of injury, he, like the entire team, fell short of expectations. Calderon's fully healthy now, and I expect more offensive production, as well as a much improved defensive game, which Calderon struggled with last year.
Andrea Bargnani actually played like a #1 overall pick last year. His defensive and rebounding struggles at times, but he can score from all over the court. I expect Bargnani's game to continue to develop, but in the back of my mind I realize there's a pattern--Bargnani had a good rookie year, terrible sophomore year, then a great third year. Will this cycle continue or has Bargnani officially emerged?
The role players will also play a big role in the success of the Raptors. Marco Belinelli & DeMar DeRozan will have to make up for the lost production of Anthony Parker. Belinelli hardly played last year in Golden State, and DeRozan's a raw rookie Will this work? How developed will DeRozan's game be by the start of the season?
This is also a make or break year for Chris Bosh and the Raptors. As everyone knows, Bosh will be in the 2010 class of free agents. Bosh seems very happy to be a Raptor, but his satisfaction must translate to wins. Otherwise, Raptor fans can kiss Chris Bosh goodbye.
When it's all said and done, injuries will make or break this team. The Raptors can't afford to miss Jose for another extended period of time, or have Bosh miss another 15 games because of a bum knee. If it's going to work in 2009-2010, everyone must be healthy. Period.
As much as I applaud Bryan Colangelo's off-season, all the pressure lies on him. He changed this team, now it's up to him to show Raptor fans another lousy year isn't in store. This past summer showed how desperately he wants Chris Bosh to stay in Toronto. Has he done enough?
All this pre-season Raptors hype is just talk. It doesn't mean anything. But all in all, I'm loving the Toronto Raptors in 2009-2010.