2008 NBA Preview: #15 Toronto Raptors

Offseason Movement: The Raptors turned their depth at point guard (T.J. Ford) into a former All-Star big man (Jermaine O’Neal) in a nice trade that could really pan out if O’Neal can stay healthy. He has two years and $44 million remaining on his contract, so it’s a risky move, but if he can play 70 or 80 games, he’ll really give a big boost to the Toronto frontline.
Keep Your Eye On: Jose Calderon, PG
It was Calderon’s fine play (PER: 20.51, #5 amongst point guards) that made Ford expendable. He played 30 minutes a game last season, and will be asked to increase that to 35-38 minutes. That extra PT will give Calderon the opportunity to become a star. Last season, he averaged 11.2 points and 8.2 assists, while shooting 52% from the field and 43% from long range. In short, he’s the quintessential point guard that is flying way under the radar.
The Big Question: Are the Raptors tough enough to take that next step?
With a projected starting lineup of Calderon, Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon, Chris Bosh and O’Neal, there’s no doubt that there is plenty of talent in Toronto, but do they have the mental toughness to win a series or two in the playoffs? That’s the next step that this team has to prove it can make.
Outlook: If O’Neal, Calderon and Bosh can stay healthy, the Raptors are a pretty much a shoe-in for the playoffs. However, with Boston and Philly, the Atlantic is looking like the toughest division in the East, so if they falter or suffer a bad injury or two, it’s not inconceivable that Toronto could be fighting for a postseason berth in April.

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