NBA Franchise Power Rankings: #22 – Toronto Raptors
#30 - Charlotte Bobcats (+ introduction) #29 - Phoenix Suns #28 - Denver Nuggets #27 - Detroit Pistons #26 - Milwaukee Bucks #25 - Philadelphia 76ers #24 - Houston Rockets #23 - Portland Trailblazers
#22- Toronto Raptors
Best assets – C Jonas Valanciunas (rookie, projects as legitimate starter to borderline all-star), 2012 1st, 2013 1st, C Andrea Bargnani (legitimate starter), SG DeMar DeRozan (young, projects as legitimate starter to borderline all-star), PF Ed Davis (young, projects as legitimate starter), PG Jerryd Bayless (young, projects as bench player to borderline starter), PF Amir Johnson (borderline starter), SF James Johnson (bench player), SG Sonny Weems (bench player)
Negative assets – SF Lina Kleiza (3 years, 13.8 million), PG Jose Calderon (2 years, 20.2 million)
Other chips: SG Leandro Barbosa (borderline starter, expiring)
Total Trade Value Ranking: #21 (Feb. 2011 ranking: #25)
Financial Grade: A-
Managerial Grade: C
Overall synopsis: The Raptors are making their way through the post Chris Bosh abyss. The problem with Bosh’s absence is of course, not simply that they lost him, but that they got almost literally nothing for him. Since a perenniel all-star is the most valuable thing you can have, that left a crater in their overall trade value and sent them years back.
Yet, the team has still accumulated a solid group of young players. Behind legitimate starter Andrea Bargnani and the advanced statistics friendly Amir Johnson, they have a number of players to starter to all-star potential in DeMar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas, Ed Davis. Derozan is a natural scorer and tireless worker – don’t be surprised if he breaks 20 points a game this year and gets Most Improved Player talk. Davis and Valanciunas have plus defense and rebounding big man potential which is always valuable, and should be respectable on the offensive end. If one of those 3 reaches that potential, it will help their future immensely. As for Bargnani, his reputation has been much trashed on the defensive end, but I’ll wait to see if new coach Dwane Casey can bring out a more defensive player before calling him a lost cause. Jay Triano was a notoriously offense first and loosey goosey coach, leading to 30th DRTG rankings for the team the last 2 seasons. In the past players like Zach Randolph and Chris Webber have proven talent can find value in new situations. It’s wise for the Raptors to wait on their most talented player to see if his defensive effort can make a turnaround. They have nothing to lose as the team will be poor with him, but would be even worse without him.
Bryan Colangelo has also done a decent job lately getting smaller prospects like former lottery picks Jerryd Bayless and James Johnson. Bayless has the speed but not the PG court vision, Johnson has the size and handles but not the jumpshot. Both are likely worth the try for next season.
The most important thing for the Raptors right now is their 2012 and 2013 draft picks. Bargnani, Derozan, Valanciunas, Davis, Johnson all look like positive value, starting caliber players, but they need a star to go in front of them. They’re like a movie that’s cast a number of supporting actors and lined up the B cast well, but need the poster selling A list star to define the movie. This season will be about losing, development of Derozan and Davis, tracking their overseas stashed prospect Valanciunas, and waiting for the draft to see if they can get a star.
Finances/Management: If Daryl Morey is the equivalent of the MLB manager who stockpiles prospects and saves money, during the Bosh era Bryan Colangelo was the manager who went the other way and pushed in chips for older players and overpaid free agents such as Jermaine O’Neal and Hedo Turkohlu. Since Bosh he’s been more prudent, but one wonders if he just sees that as a necessary evil and will go back to his short term improvement, long term pain ways. At this moment, the Raptors financial books looks very good, with just Calderon and Kleiza’s minor bad contracts weighing them down – the team has capspace right now and has 13 million in expiring contract between Barbosa and Evans, giving them more next summer. One wonders whether they can attract value free agents without overpaying them however.
Next season: The Raptors are in for a bleak season unless the jump from Triano to Casey provides strong immediate results and Derozan, Davis have good seasons. The team at the least, seems committed, which is what a lot of bottomfeeders can’t say. I expect poor results nevertheless. You can’t outrun poor talent. Projected ORTG: 25th, projected DRTG: 15th. Projected record: 27-55
Projection: Upwards with the development of young players and locking in a high draft pick next season. The Raptors moving up this list from this point will be as much about the teams in front of them flatlining or falling, however.