By Erik Siegrist
RotoWire Staff Writer
To get them closer to that goal, Colangelo shipped lightning-fast but injury-prone and redundant point guard TJ Ford to the Pacers in exchange for Jermaine O'Neal. O'Neal hasn't yet regained the All-Star form he had prior to his knee problems, but he still should provide the best under-the-basket help Chris Bosh has ever enjoyed in his NBA career. The trade also takes the pressure off Andrea Bargnani, who figures to be far more comfortable in a bench scoring role than as Bosh's front court sidekick.
The team still lacks a scorer who can create his own shot (while both Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon have proven to be useful players, neither one is anything but a complementary cog on offense) and would be in deep trouble if Jose Calderon got hurt, with only rookie Roko Ukic backing him up, but the team does at least seem ready to return to the playoffs for a third straight season.
Moon may be better suited as a mood-changing energy player off the bench, but until the Raptors find another option he'll start at the three, and with a full NBA season under his belt to help smooth his rough edges he should be able to handle 30 minutes per game. With Parker seeing 33 or so a night as well, that leaves about 20 a night for three point champ Jason Kapono behind both, with Graham and defensive specialist Hassan Adams rounding out the rotation.
Calderon played 30 minutes a game last season, but without competition from Ford he should be in line for a jump up to 35 minutes, or even higher depending on how much confidence coach Sam Mitchell has in Ukic. Calderon himself also played in the Olympics and suffered a strained abdomen right at the end of the tournament though, which could put the Raptors in the position of having to baby their one truly indispensable player. If Ukic proves to be not quite ready to handle his backup duties don't be surprised if the Raptors make a push to acquire a veteran point guard during camp.
Nathan Jawai: The 'Aussie Shaq' is no such thing, but Jawai appears to be athletic enough to be an interesting project at center. He won't have any value this season, however.
Andrea Bargnani: Bargnani stagnated in his second season, but will find himself in a new role this year (at least while Bosh and O'Neal are both healthy) coming off the bench to supply offense. Focusing on one aspect of his game should help his fantasy value, and at the very least he should hit for triple-digit three-pointers again, but at some point he needs to bulk up and learn to fight for a rebound if he ever wants to justify being a first overall pick. This season will be critical for Bargnani to prove he can be a starter someday in the NBA, and not just a role player.
Jamario Moon: The freakishly athletic Moon emerged from minor league obscurity to make two All-Star weekend appearances, in the Young Stars game and the Slam Dunk contest. He's more than just a flashy sideshow though. Last season he made some form of contribution in every main fantasy category except assists and he was one of only 10 players to average at least one steal and one block. (The rest of the list is almost a Who's Who of multi-talented fantasy studs, and includes players like LeBron James, Kevin Garnett and Josh Smith.) Moon's no superstar of their caliber, but as he hones his skills further he should at least be able to break into double digits in points and establish himself as one of the most important members of the Raptors' supporting cast.
Jason Kapono: Kapono struggled in his first season in Toronto, as often as not being an afterthought in the offense. He was still deadly from the outside, hitting 48.3% of his three point attempts, but his inability to create his own shot limited his chances, and the Raptors lack a player like Dwyane Wade who can break down a defense and then dish to the open man. The team will work harder to find a way to get him looks, as they need long range threats to help soften up the middle of the defense for Bosh and O'Neal, but don't count on Kapono duplicating his '06-'07 numbers again.
Joey Graham: Jamario Moon is essentially the player the Raptors were hoping to get when they drafted Graham a few seasons ago, which leaves no role for Graham himself. Expect this to be his last year in Toronto.
Kris Humphries: Humphries had a marginally better statistical season in '07-'08, but is still nothing more than a banger off the bench.
Anthony Parker: Parker's numbers were virtually identical to what he put up the season before, and it seems the solid-but-unspectacular Euroleague veteran has found his level in the NBA. He's now 33, but having played a less-demanding schedule for most of his pro career will probably allow him to maintain his current production for a couple more seasons.
Roko Ukic: Ukic developed enough last season in Europe that the Raptors felt comfortable bringing him over to back up Calderon. He's in many ways a taller version of Calderon himself, bringing over a reputation for steadiness rather than flash. Once he's adjusted to the NBA he should chip in a few more rebounds than you'd expect from a point guard, but otherwise probably won't be a big fantasy contributor, and may not see enough minutes to match even Calderon's rookie production of 5.5 points and 4.5 assists.
Hassam Adams: Adams, a destitute man's Bruce Bowen, will provide some minutes and defense off the bench for the Raptors.