Saturday, October 15, 2005

Offseason Overview: Toronto Raptors

Just kidding, I still had one more team left. The Raptors are easy to forget about. After a rather disastrous season that saw the team trade its only franchise player for a collection of garbage and see him immediately regain his superstar aura, the Raptors had a highly criticized draft and didn’t add an impact player through free agency or trade. Well played. There’s every indication that it will be another long season in Toronto.

The Stud: Chris Bosh, PF
The continued ascension of Bosh was the bright spot in the Raptors’ season. Once Carter left town, Bosh took his game to another level and emerged as the team’s top offensive option. He took advantage of his youth by appearing in 81 games and being among the league leaders in minutes for big men. If Bosh appears in 80 games again there is little reason to think that he won’t show at least minor improvements in his game. But note I said minor improvement. Let’s look at some numbers:

Player A:
Season 1: 28.7 mpg, 10.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.1 spg, 1.6 bpg, 49%, 71%
Season 2: 38.9 mpg, 17.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.4 apg, 2.1 bpg, 50%, 75%

Player B:
Season 1: 33.5 mpg, 11.5 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.8 spg, 1.4 bpg, 46%, 70%
Season 2: 37.3 mpg, 16.8 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1.9 apg, 0.9 spg, 1.4 bpg, 47%, 76%

Player A is Kevin Garnett and player B is Bosh. Lots of people want Bosh to make another big leap forward this year and someone might draft him expecting as much. But is it a sure thing? In his third season Garnett put up the following line:

Season 3: 39.3 mpg, 18.5 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 4.2 apg, 1.7 spg, 1.8 bpg, 49%, 74%

Continued steady improvement, but not a full-fledged breakout. That should be the expectation for Bosh this season. The fact that Toronto has such a lousy team and will have to rely heavily on Bosh will only help him, but it would still be wise to wait until the third round to consider him.

The Support: Jalen Rose, GF
Where there’s a crappy team, there is fantasy opportunity. Rose was in and out of Sam Mitchell’s doghouse last year, but then again who wasn’t? He turned in a fine season anyway, finishing 55th on the player rater despite finishing with just 2.6 apg, his lowest since the 1998-99 season when he was a reserve on Indiana. Where did all that added value come from? FG%, of all places. After shooting in the very low-40s for two straight seasons Rose somehow bumped up to 45.5% last year. That’s a red flag right there. His numbers in most every other category – 3.4 boards, 0.8 steals, 0.1 blocks, 1.3 3s – were pedestrian at best and plain bad at worst. Since there’s so little talent around, Rose should be on the court plenty and should be worth using. But expect some overall regression, especially as he hoists more shots. He’s a mid-round pick for a team that needs a scorer.

The Supporting Support: Mike James, PG
My FBB cohort is concerned that some folks are getting a little too bullish on James now that he’s the unquestioned starter in Toronto. He might be right, but that doesn’t mean he won’t have plenty of value. James is on his sixth team since 2003 and will surely want to show that he’s more than a spare part. He finished a mediocre 112th on the player rater last year, but that’s pretty impressive while averaging barely 25 mpg. He won’t get as many assists or steals as top point guards, but he’ll still be an overall asset in those categories while being a major contributor in 3s. In five games as a starter last year for Milwaukee he averaged 18.4/4.2/5.2 with 2.4 3s and 1.4 steals in 34.6 mpg. Extremely small sample, sure, but it shows what he’s capable of if he’s the man. This is the kind of guy that winning teams will snag as a third point guard/utility guy in the last third of the draft.

The Sleeper: Matt Bonner, PF
The Raptors were smart to re-sign the Florida grad, who showed a very well-rounded game in his rookie season. He shot 53% from the field and was a high-percentage three-point shooter, if not a high-volume one. This is a very thin team, and though the Raptors would like to avoid using Bosh as a center, their best lineup might be Bosh at the 5 with Bonner at the 4 and Loren Woods and Rafael Araujo on the bench, or in the stands, or back at home, just to be safe. Bonner won’t win any titles for you, but if given the right opportunity, he could be a low-risk roster filler.

The Slacker: Morris Peterson, GF
He’ll have value as long as he’s starting, but people seem to still be waiting for Peterson to break out. Well, he’s 28 and has played five full seasons in the league – it’s not happening. He is what he is, which is someone who can help you in 3s when he’s getting PT. He hasn’t missed a game in three straight seasons, so he’s a good guy to have around if you have some brittle players since you know MoPete can be plugged in when necessary. But he’s a career 42% shooter, and doesn’t have a knack for getting rebounds, assists or steals. He’s like a poor man’s Rose, and that’s not all that much.

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