Plenty of talk this past weekend and all week on the Twitter feed.
I've decided to take a look, in depth, at a few NBA teams that have me rather intrigued this off-season. Don't be surprised if the year 2010, specifically the free agents available, come up a time or two (or two dozen!).
I'll tackle 3 important issues for each team, make a bold prediction, and focus on the most important factor towards this team having a successful window of opportunity in the next 2-3 seasons.
I'll try my best to avoid the "easy and sexy" selections (ala Los Angeles, Cleveland, Orlando, Boston and San Antonio) and challenge myself.
Installment #1 focuses on the Toronto Raptors.
Record: 33-49 (4th in Atlantic Division)
If LeBron and D-Wade re-ink, this smiling face might be the biggest fish in the free agent market of 2010.
Issue #1: The Future of Chris Bosh
this also serves as this post's "Most Important Factor"
Hedo Turkoglu ditching Portland and signing with Toronto at the last second was an amazing free agent acquisition; however, he can't lead a team deep into the NBA Playoffs by himself. Without Dwight Howard, Orlando wouldn't have ridden the trio of Turkoglu/Lewis/even a health Nelson past the Eastern Conference semi-finals, no less the NBA Finals. In fact, Philly fans may justifibly argue they wouldn't have gotten outside the 1st round. Point is, Turkoglu needs Bosh and Toronto needs its big man alongside Turkoglu, which I've said over and over and over (and over) this post, for its future to look its rosiest. Orlando may regret the Vinsanity move, Boston is only getting older, and Cleveland must nervously wait out the potential LeBron Sweepstakes in...wait for it...2010. As for Mr. Bosh, 23 and 10 isn't easy to find in the NBA these days, especially for a kid who just turned 25. His defense clealy isn't close to dominant (no less Superman); nevertheless, Bosh will see a stark improvement in the number of open shots - especially in the closing minutes of a game - due to Turkoglu's creativity with the ball in his hands in the closing minutes games. Bosh's ability to attack the hoop in the paint in traffic, something Dwight Howard struggled with mightily in the Playoffs, will really shine next season. It'll be tough, but re-signing the Georgia Tech-product MUST be Toronto's #1-focus from now on. Just to be fun though, if they lost Bosh, don't be surprised if they made a huge play for Amare Stoudemire. I'm just sayin'.
Potential is a scary scary word. A fun one too, though.
Issue #2: The "Development" of Demar Derozan
Swingman with top-flight athleticism and a high motor. (NBA.com)
Jaw dropping athletic specimen. At a chiseled 6'6 220 with large wingspan. Possesses the prototypical frame for an NBA wing. NBA Comparison: Vince Carter (NBADraft.net)
While only two sources, those are just a few of the upside-laden comments that made Derozan, despite one somewhat quiet season at USC, a top 10 pick.
However, DraftExpress.com might hit the nail on the head best:
A freak athlete, DeRozan has some natural offensive talent, but he’s essentially a blank canvas in terms of what kind of player he can be in the long run. Whoever picks him will obviously need to be patient, although he may more upside that arguably any wing player in this draft.
Derozan doesn't need to be great, or even that good, immediately. He won't start (likely) thiat any point this season and won't be ask to shoulder too much of an offensive load. Where he can most make his presence known is on the defensive side of the ball. Using his physical attributes, especially his impressive wingspan, will open up opportunities for increased minutes AND THEN increased looks at the basket. If he can develop an attack-the-hoop mentality, the kid could live at the free throw line. If he falls in love with his shot, for better or worse, he will be restricting the impact he can have on offense. Funny how much that has always pertained to Vince Carter, a likely comparison to Derozan. If I were Chris Bosh, I'd take a real good look at this kid and envision playing next to him for the next several years. He might be as good a 4th or 5th option the league has in a few seasons, if he's prepared to put in the work. In a few years, don't forget that I was the first to coin the nickname the "5th Element" (more below) for Derozan.
Shipping off Jason Kapono to Philly might've been a little overhyped, especially if Evans is the glue this team needs off the bench. The extra cap space didn't hurt either.
Issue #3: The Role Players
It's fairly obvious the nucleus of this team, assuming Bosh re-inks (big assumption!), has a core of four high quality players: the aforementioned (again and again) Chris Bosh, Hedo Turkoglu, Andrea Bargnani, and Jose Calderon. Derozan will likely be the "5th Element" (catchy, right?) of this roster, or maybe even more, but I don't want to automatically assume too much with him (yet). After signing Turkoglu, salaries were dumped (notably Shawn Marion and Anthony Parker), yet there was still enough left in the bank to re-ink Bargnani (aka "The Magician) to a deal in the neighborhood of 5 years at $50-million. However, something pressing starts to show. The bench. Or lack thereof. Names like Reggie Evans (a strong rebounder and glue guy), Marcus Banks, and Quincy Douby don't exactly illicit confidence when you're looking for solid reserves and role players. Remember, sharpshooter Jason Kapono is now in Philly. Although sometimes I wonder if All-Star Weekend overhyped this guy just a bit? Evans may be a little underrated by some (or just me), yet this team appears to lack a consisent scoring option off the bench, as well as a defensive stopper. Not to mention depth in the blocks. Perhaps everyone is looking for a James Posey in 2008-clone these days; unfortunately, there's not one on this roster. If Bosh can be kept, money will be tight as ever, which means rock solid drafting and savvy trades are at the utmost importance north of the border.
Note: Toronto had no 2nd-round selection this season.
Bold Prediction: Chris Bosh will NOT be in Toronto for the 2010-2011 season. Why? I believe LeBron and Wade, clearly the two biggest prizes of the 2010 Summer of Free Agency, are staying put. Ditto for veterans like Dirk, Pierce, Yao (injury be darned), and CP3 (who we likely re-ink mid-way through this season). That leaves Bosh, alongside names like Amare/Joe Johnson/Boozer/Ginobli/Nash as the biggest prizes in the free agency market. While a few people question Bosh's status as an elite #1-guy, I don't. His defense will improve and his potential (aka stock) is still growing. That means New York, who clearly is eyeing LeBron and Wade as options 1a and 1b, may be calling on Bosh to join (Nash???) in what Donnie Walsh should be calling Plan B.
Wait and see is all we can do from here.
Next up: Portland Trailblazers