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|Chris Bosh, above, has been a force for the Raptors so far in his career.(Courtesy of NBA.com)|
This season, the Atlantic Division, routinely one of the NBA’s weaker divisions the last few years, will look to be one of the more competitive ones in the league. The Nets and Celtics should contend for a division title this season, but don’t count out last year’s champs, the 47-win Toronto Raptors. Led by one of the league’s top young forwards (Chris Bosh), the Raptors will need another strong season from their star and better seasons from their role players in order to win a second-straight division title.
Raptors 2006-2007 Team Review
2006-07 Record: 47-35 (1st place, Atlantic Division Champions)
2007 Playoffs: Lost in 1st Round, 4-2 vs. New Jersey Nets
What went right: The Raptors had a dramatic win improvement from the previous season, going from 27 to 47 wins (a 20-game improvement). Star forward Chris Bosh came into his own for the Raptors, averaging 22.6 points and 10.7 rebounds in 69 games. Oft-injured point guard TJ Ford played 75 games in his first season for Toronto, scoring 14.0 points per game and dishing out 7.9 assists per contest. Rookie No. 1 pick Andrea Barngnani had a strong first campaign, finishing with 11.6 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.
What went wrong: Obviously, one would expect a division-winner to move past the first round of the playoffs. This is especially true when facing your division rival in the first round, New Jersey, who finished 6 games behind the team. It probably tasted even more bitter that the loss was at the hands of former franchise icon Vince Carter.
2006-07 Season Grade: B+
Raptors 2007 Off-season Team Review
Key Additions: SF Jason Kapono, SG Carlos Delfino, SF Luke Jackson
Key Losses: SG/SF Morris Peterson
Reaction: The Raptors had an impressive off-season, beginning with the addition of small forward Jason Kapono. Kapono replaces the departed Morris Peterson as the primary perimeter shooter. Last season with Miami, Kapono had a career year, averaging 10.9 points with a .494 shooting percentage and a .892 free throw percentage. Beyond the arc he was even better, shooting at an NBA-best 51.4% clip (Phoenix guard Steve Nash was second at 45.5%). The Raptors also added quality bench depth, inking former Pistons guard Carlos Delfino and former Cavs forward Luke Jackson.
Off-Season Grade: B
Raptors 2007-08 Season Preview vs. Celtics
Boston @ Toronto, Nov. 4
Toronto @ Boston, Dec. 7
Boston @ Toronto, Dec. 16
Toronto @ Boston, Jan. 23
How the projected starting lineups stack up:
(“x” marks which team has the edge)
|C||x||Kendrick Perkins||Rasho Nesterovic|
|PF||–||Kevin Garnett||Chris Bosh||–|
|SF||x||Paul Pierce||Joey Graham|
|SG||x||Ray Allen||Anthony Parker|
|PG||Rajon Rondo||TJ Ford||x|
The Edge: No matter how much I love KG, I have to give Bosh his due. Bosh is a true force in the paint, just as much as KG but he is significantly younger. KG may be the better player at the moment, but Bosh is on the fast track to superstardom. The rest of the Big Three and even Kendrick Perkins get the nod in the one-on-one comparisons. Right now, TJ Ford has proven he can stay healthy and has one good full season at the point under his belt. Rondo still has development to do, but can close the gap on Ford this season.
Outlook: Look for the Raptors to hang tight in the division race all season, and earn a playoff berth out of the Atlantic. Chris Bosh will continue his steady growth and Andrea Bargnani is poised for a good sophomore campaign as well.
Final Prediction: 3rd place, Atlantic Division.