STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
The Raptors watched as Chris Bosh made a contentious exit and took his talents with LeBron James to South Beach this summer. Bryan Colangelo returns as the general manager, and Jay Triano remains the teamís head coach after improving the Raptorsí record by seven wins in the 2009-10 season. Andrea Bargnani will be asked to assume Boshís role as the face of the franchise, and Raptors fans hope that heíll show stronger leadership skills than Bosh did during his tenure. Hidayet Turkoglu struggled to find a comfort zone after signing a five-year, $53 million deal with the Raptors, and his relationship with the city soured so quickly that the team opted to trade him to the Suns this summer in exchange for Leandro Barbosa. David Andersen was obtained in a trade from Houston for a 2015 protected second-round pick. Marco Belinelli was traded to the Hornets in exchange for the disgruntled Julian Wright. Amir Johnson was convinced to remain a member of the Raptors, signing a five-year, $34 million contract with the team. Linas Kleiza decided to return to the NBA after playing last season in Europe. The Raptors signed him to a four-year, $18.8 million offer sheet in July that the Nuggets declined to match. He should step into the departed Turkogluís starting small forward spot this season. With the 13th overall pick in the 2010 draft, the Raptors selected Ed Davis from North Carolina, and they traded a 2013 conditional second-round pick and cash to Dallas for the draft rights to Solomon Alabi. The Raptorsí lack of an established rotation and the departure of their franchise player in free agency has many prognosticators believing that theyíll be in search of an identity all season and will finish with one of the worst records in the league.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
Bargnani and DeRozan appear to be the only two locks for the starting lineup at this time. They should both play 35-plus minutes per game this season. Kleiza should earn between 30-35 minutes per game at the small forward and power forward positions. Reggie Evans is healthy, and the team has given strong consideration to making him their starting power forward. Heís never played more than 24 minutes per game in his eight seasons in the NBA, so Johnson, who was expected to step into the power forward spot vacated by Bosh, will still see the majority of the power forward minutes off the bench. Look for him to play about 28 minutes per game this season. Itís hard to know how the Raptors will divvy up their minutes at point guard. They have been looking for trade partners to unload Jose Calderon or Jarrett Jack. Until one of them lands on another team, a time-share will limit both their minutes and fantasy value. In an effort to keep both players happy, weíll likely see Jack slide over to shooting guard at times so they can share the court and earn some extra minutes. Look for Calderon and Jackís minutes to hover around 26 per game for as long as theyíre still on the team together this season. Barbosa should play between 20-25 minutes off the bench at the guard spots. Andersen should see about 10-13 minutes per game backing up Bargnani at center. Sonny Weems will help back up the shooting guard and small forward spots and should play about 20 minutes per night. The remaining minutes should get divided between Davis, Dorsey, Banks, Wright and Alabi depending on the course of the each game.
Andrea Bargnani: The Bargnonster will be the Raptorsí go-to scorer this season. What remains to be seen is whether Bargnani can shoulder the load that will be expected of him. When Chris Bosh missed the final five games of last season, Bargnani averaged 21.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.2 blocks and 2.0 three-pointers on 48.9 percent shooting from the field in 37.4 minutes per game in his absence. However, donít be surprised if Bargnani starts slow while he adjusts to the additional defensive focus teams will be placing on him this season.
David Andersen: Andersen will serve a limited role with the Raptors this season as Bargnaniís primary backup at center. Heís a 30-year-old sophomore big man who can step out and hit the three-point shot, but he wonít be of much use in standard leagues unless Bargnani misses time with a significant injury.
Solomon Alabi: Alabi is a raw big man who has shown flashes of being capable of developing a post game, but heíll earn his paycheck by asserting himself on the defensive side of the ball. He isnít likely to play much this season.
Linas Kleiza: Kleiza played his first four seasons in the NBA with the Nuggets and was used in a limited role. Frustrated with his situation, Kleiza spent last season with Olympiacos and averaged 17.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.4 three-pointers in 30.4 minutes per game while leading Olympiacos to the Euroleague championship game. The Raptors will play him at small forward and power forward and ask him to play a large role in their offense.
Amir Johnson: Johnson will be the Raptors' primary power forward, but he may start most games on the bench. The extent of Johnsonís value in fantasy will hinge on the teamís decision to use him as a starter or off the bench. In five games as a starter last season, Johnson averaged 17.8 points, six rebounds and 1.0 block in 33 minutes per game.
Reggie Evans: Evans was the surprise starter at power forward in both of the Raptorsí first two preseason games. There has been some speculation that his inclusion there is merely a ploy to showcase his health for a trade. Assuming the Raptors genuinely like the big man, Evans should play about 20 minutes per game and pull down good rebounding numbers but little else.
Ed Davis: Davis tore a meniscus in his right knee in a pickup game and was forced to undergo minor arthroscopic knee surgery that will keep him out until sometime in November. Heís a great rebounder and shot blocker who could carve out a small defensive role with the team later in the season, but heíll have to get healthy before the team can count on him for anything.
Joey Dorsey: Dorsey is a clone of Evans. Heíll rebound and punish people on defense, but heíll do little else. It would take a slew of significant injuries to the Raptorsí frontcourt for Dorsey to receive even modest regular minutes.
Julian Wright: Wright carries a lovely air of entitlement that got him traded out of New Orleans. Heís athletically gifted, but his inability to put all of his talent together has limited his usefulness as a rotation player.
DeMar DeRozan: DeRozanís ceiling is high. Heís an athletic scorer with great defensive energy. Heíll start at shooting guard for the Raptors, and they will give him every opportunity to assert himself this season. He has a good mid-range game and a knack for scoring, but until he can hit the three-point shot with consistency and use his defensive prowess to accumulate steals, DeRozanís value in fantasy will remain tentative.
Jarrett Jack: Jack will split time with Jose Calderon at the point as long as the two of them remain on the Raptors together. Calderon missed a stretch of 12 games during December and January last year that allowed Jack to run the team as the lone starting point guard. In those 12 games, Jack averaged 12.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.9 three-pointers in 33.4 minutes per game while shooting 51.9 percent from the field. If Calderon gets shipped out of town, those are the kind of stats Jack should be expected to put up.
Jose Calderon: Calderon will split time with Jarrett Jack at the point as long as the two of them remain on the Raptors together. He tantalized fantasy players with his high shooting percentages and efficient assist numbers in his first few years, but his inability to stay healthy and deficiencies on the defensive end have taken him out of favor in Toronto. Heís more likely to be traded than Jack, but if he does turn out to be the lone point in Toronto this season, Calderon has the talent to put up efficient scoring and assist numbers that are good enough to help teams in all but the shallowest of leagues.
Leandro Barbosa: Barbosa will play minutes at shooting guard and point guard off the bench this season. He only played in 44 games last season due to a wrist injury that required mid-season surgery. Improved health should help Barbosa return to his past production. Heíll help fantasy teams with his ability to score efficiently, hit threes and force steals.
Sonny Weems: Weems is an efficient scorer who can produce quality stats in the points, rebounds and percentages categories in fantasy. Unfortunately, without an injury or two to the Raptorsí wing players, Weemsí minutes will be limited this season.
Marcus Banks: Banks only saw action in 22 games last season, averaging 11 minutes per game. He isnít likely to see much more playing time this season.
DeMar DeRozan: DeRozan started 65 games at shooting guard as a rookie for the Raptors last season. Playing next to Bosh, he wasnít asked to carry a heavy load, but we could see him break out of his shell this season. In 30 games after the All-Star break last season, DeRozan scored 9.1 points per game while shooting 54 percent from the field in 22 minutes per game. We could conservatively see DeRozan grow into an 18-point/five-rebound player this season. Liberally, DeRozan may be a nightly 20-point scorer by the end of the season.
Jose Calderon: A great deal of Calderonís value in fantasy comes from his ability to convert free throws at a high percentage and limit his turnovers. His best season was in 2008-09 when he averaged 12.8 points, 2.9 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 2.1 turnovers, 1.2 three-pointers and 1.1 steals while shooting 49.7 percent from the field and 98.1 percent from the charity stripe. The only way Calderon will return to putting up those kinds of numbers is if heís put in a position to play over 30 minutes per night as the teamís sole primary point guard. Thatís asking a lot. Either Jack will need to be traded, or Calderon will have to be traded to a team thatís desperately in need of a starting point guard. Donít overpay for a player in a time-share.