COACH: Sam Mitchell | 2005-06: 27-55
Toronto Raptors

Bargnani is just part of Colangelo's roster makeover.
Ron Turenne/NBAE/Getty Images
If you're looking for a serious sleeper in the Eastern Conference, head North.

For starters, the Toronto Raptors were probably better than their 27-55 season of a year ago. After their 1-15 start, Toronto played nearly .500 (25-28) ball over the next four months until a thumb injury to Chris Bosh doomed them to a 1-12 finish. The Raptors were also 1-9 in overtime, which padded their total with a few undeserved losses.

We're probably putting too much stock into last season regardless, since only four players from last year's opening day roster (Bosh, Morris Peterson, Joey Graham, Jose Calderon) remain with the Raptors.

Everything, even the uniforms, will have a new look as new General Manager Bryan Colangelo spent the summer putting his stamp on the franchise. In June, Colangelo swung three deals, obtaining probable starters Rasho Nesterovic and T.J. Ford.

Ford, acquired from Milwaukee for forward Charlie Villanueva, might finally end the Raptors annual quest to finally locate a true point guard. One of the NBA's quickest ballhandlers, Ford will direct an offense that will push the ball up the floor.

"I can't wait," Bosh said in a chat on Raptors.com. "I'm a 230-pound power forward in the NBA. Of course I want to run!"

On Draft Night, Colangelo tabbed 20-year-old Italian Andrea Bargnani with the first overall pick. The 7-footer is the center of the future, and possesses the speed to play up-tempo. The acquisition of Nesterovic allows the Raps to be patient if need be. Second-rounder P.J. Tucker of Texas could also contribute.

Colangelo may have saved his best work for free agency, where he nabbed Fred Jones (9.6 ppg, .337 3FG percentage last year) from Indiana and went overseas for 6-6 guard Anthony Parker and 6-9 forward Jorge Garbajosa, a longtime teammate of Calderon on the Spanish National Team.

Developing chemistry looks to be the biggest early season challenge for the Raptors, who lost lockerroom leader Alvin Williams. Most of the Raptors arrived in Toronto weeks before training camp began to get an early start on that process and should be well acquainted by the season opener.

There's no doubt a new direction was needed after four straight losing seasons, and Colangelo has brought in talented players from teams that have achieved success. Though the leap from 27 wins to the postseason would be historic, it's certainly not inconceivable.
-- Bill Evans

2006-07 Raptors Mini Packs
Each seven-game mini pack features three collectable giveaway nights as well as matchups against some of the NBA's premiere teams.
On the Hot Seat?

Mitchell
Sam Mitchell deserves accolades for his role in the development of young players like Bosh, Villanueva and Calderon. Undoubtedly, his ability to coax improvement in these players and others throughout the 2005-06 season has earned him an opportunity to return to the bench in 2006-07.

In his third season, though, he'll face increased expectations from a meticulous media corps and a fan base that has watched its team finish below .500 for four straight seasons.

Mitchell is in a precarious position, reporting to a new boss who has spent the whole off-season putting his mark on the franchise. If Toronto's young players don't show improvement, or if Colangelo doesn't like what he sees, Mitchellís stay could be short-lived.
-- Bill Evans

.491
THE STAT
Toronto opponents shot .491 from the field, ranking the Raptors last in the NBA in field goal defense.
X&O STRENGTH

Mitchell
Chris Bosh is an All-Star, but he's not necessarily a low-post threat. He likes to face up ... With T.J. Ford and Bosh and guys that can run, they have to run the basketball. So, Ford will be the key to their success.

X&O WEAKNESS
They have to improve defensively by leaps and bounds.

HEAD COACH PHILOSOPHY
I think Sam Mitchell will keep them disciplined ... They've got to go with their young players.
-- Kevin Loughery (courtesy of the National Basketball Coaches Association)

TJ Ford presents problems if you allow him to get into the open court and go.
The idea there will be to go to the Phoenix/international style of play, trying to push the ball, run guys off screens, run your point guard off of pick-and-rolls where he can break the defense down and find guys for open shots.
They may have the second-best talent in the division, but they're young and they haven't played together.
Bosh is probably best facing the basket. He's got a good first step for a big guy and he can knock down the mid-range jumper. You need to make him catch the ball out beyond 20 feet instead of at the 17, 18-foot range. You can send a second defender at him as well.
Defensively, they have a lot of work to do. They have some decent individual defenders, but as a team, they were at the bottom of the league last year.
-- Eastern Conference Scout
Anthony Parker: Called the best player outside of the NBA prior to joining the Raptors, Parker is solid in many areas.
Rasho Nesterovic: The Raptors plan to run and run hard, which means Rasho's already low value becomes a nonexistent.
This off-season was Extreme Makeover: Raptors Edition in Toronto. With Chris Bosh anchoring the team and likely making even more strides in 2006-07, the fate of the Raptors reality and fantasy value lies in the hands of the new guys, of whom there are plenty. It's hard to know what to expect with a revamped roster and a new, up-tempo style of play being employed. So risks will be had, but so too might be rewards. Donít be afraid to take chances on guys like Anthony Parker, Fred Jones, Joey Graham and Jorge Garbajosa, as all players could flourish in this system if given a chance.
-- Chris Cates
Raptors Fantasy Preview
Video: Go inside Raptors training camp
Bosh Peterson
Mitchell Gherardini
PLAYER/2005-06 STATS
PPG
RPG
APG
PG
12.2
4.3
6.6
SG
16.8
4.6
2.3
SF
9.6
2.5
2.3
PF
22.5
9.2
2.6
C
4.5
3.9
0.4
F
--
--
--
G
5.5
2.2
4.5
F
--
--
--
F
6.7
3.1
0.8
G
--
--
--
F
Italy
G
Spain
F
Spain
C
Slovenia
F
Slovenia
F
Senegal
F
Draft
G
Trade
F
Free Agent
F
Trade
G
Free agent
C
Trade
F
2005 Draft
G-F
Draft
C
Trade
G
Waived
F
Trade
G
Free agent
F
Trade
G
Waived
F
Trade
C
Free agent
PPG
22.5
RPG
9.2
APG
5.8
SPG
1.27
BPG
1.13
Points Scored
101.1
(4th)
Points Allowed
104.0
(29th)
Field-Goal Percentage
.454
(17th)
Opponents' FG%
.491
(30th)
Rebounding Diff.
-2.67
(27th)
2001-02: 42-40, Third, Central Division
1996-97: 30-52, Eighth, Central Division
Best Season: 2000-01, 47-35
Season Opener:
Nov. 1 @ NJN (7:30 p.m. ET)
Home Opener:
Nov. 3 vs. MIL (7 p.m. ET)
Longest Road Trip:
5 games in 9 days: Nov. 12-20
@ SAC, @ GSW, @ LAL, @ DEN, @ UTA
Longest home stand(s):
5 games in 10 days: Jan. 17-26
SAC, UTA, CHA, NOK, BOS
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