Just as the Cavaliers have had to rebuild this summer in the wake of losing franchise player LeBron James, the Toronto Raptors have been similarly thrust into damage-control mode with the departure of Chris Bosh.
They were a fringe playoff team in the Eastern Conference last year, and they'll look to remain in the mix despite losing a 26-year-old five-time All-Star in the prime of his career. No one guy can fill shoes that big — it'll have to be a team effort. The Raptors will have to dig deep.
2009-10 Record: 40-42 (second in Atlantic Division, ninth in Eastern Conference, missed playoffs)
Celtics' record vs. Raptors: 37-20 all time, 4-0 last season
Familiar faces: Marcus Banks (drafted by Celtics, played three years in Boston), Patrick O'Bryant (played for Celtics briefly)
Key additions: Leandro Barbosa (traded from Suns), David Andersen (traded from Rockets), Julian Wright (traded from Hornets), Joey Dorsey (free agent), Linas Kleiza (free agent), Ed Davis (draft), Solomon Alabi (draft)
Key losses: Chris Bosh (signed with Heat), Hedo Turkoglu (sent to Suns in Barbosa deal), Marco Belinelli (sent to Hornets in Wright deal), Antoine Wright (signed with Kings), Pops Mensah-Bonsu (now playing in Spain)
Burning question: Will the Raptors play any defense?
When the Raptors lost Chris Bosh — and not just Bosh but Hedo Turkoglu, a wing with unique playmaking abilities — they lost their whole identity. But that's not entirely a bad thing.
While both were athletically gifted, flashy players who put up mammoth numbers offensively, they both also had a habit of neglecting their duties on the other end of the floor. And the whole team fed off of that, creating a downward spiral of apathetic defense.
Andrea Bargnani, DeMar DeRozan, Jose Calderon, Jarrett Jack — all of them got their numbers, but none of them worked hard to get stops. It's not that they weren't capable. They just didn't put in the effort.
Now that Bosh and Turkoglu are gone, it's going to take an extra effort from everyone remaining to keep the Raptors competitive. And more than anything, that means playing D like professionals. They've got to work hard on every single possession.
That's a big shift in basketball culture, and it has to start with the coach. Jay Triano has to get his guys focused on defense from day one. But the players have to want it too.
2010-11 outlook: There are going to be growing pains in Toronto. How could there not be? Adjusting to life without Bosh isn't going to happen overnight, and the Raptors will inevitably struggle to find out who they are without their departed superstar. They'll need to find new leadership and a new centerpiece of their offense. It's hard to imagine the Raptors adjusting on the fly and being a winning team in 2010-11. The Raptors will likely fall down hard before they start to make the climb back up.
Did you know? The first time Andrea Bargnani played a game in Toronto was actually three years before the Raptors drafted him in 2006. On Oct. 20, 2003, Bargnani's Euroleague team Benetton Treviso played an exhibition game against the Raptors — Bargnani had 13 points and five rebounds for the visitors, but the Raps won, 86-83.
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