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Team Preview #15: Toronto Raptors

by Eric Wong AKA Roto Evil

August 24th, 2008


The Raptors finished 41-41, but lost in the 1st Round of the Playoffs for the 2nd year in a row. Toronto's 90.2 pace factor ranked just 22nd in the league, but they still finished 13th in scoring thanks to excellent team shooting percentages: 46.8% FG (7th), 39.2% 3P (2nd), and 81.2% FT (2nd). They also finished 5th in assists despite committing the 2nd fewest number of turnovers (more on Calderon below).


Key Additions: Jermaine O'Neal, Roko Ukic, Will Solomon, Hassan Adams, Nathan Jawai
Key Losses: TJ Ford, Rasho Nesterovic, Carlos Delfino, Jorge Garbajosa

On draft day '08, Toronto made a bold move by trading away TJ Ford, Nesterovic, and their 1st round pick (Roy Hibbert) to Indiana for the oft-injured Jermaine O'Neal and 2nd round pick Nathan Jawai. If healthy, O'Neal will likely be the Raptors' new starting center. Jawai is a 21-year old big man (6-10, 285) called the "Aussie Shaq" by some, yet he blocked just 1 shot per game in the Australian League. The loss of Ford opens up more minutes for Jose Calderon at point guard, but they will also get help from Roko Leni Ukic ('05 draft pick from Croatia who recently agreed to a 3-year deal) and Will Solomon ('01 draft pick who has been playing in Turkey & Israel). At shooting guard, the Raptors will miss Carlos Delfino, who signed a 3-year, $30 million deal with a Russian League club. To replace his defense, they signed the athletic Hassan Adams to a 2-year deal. After an injury-plagued '07-08, the Raptors decided to buy-out the remaining year of Garbajosa's contract.


At point guard, Calderon averaged 30.3 mpg last season, but he played 34.4 minutes in 56 starts and 38.9 minutes in January when TJ Ford was hurt. So I'll project 36 mpg for Jose while Ukic & Solomon battle for the remaining minutes. At shooting guard, Anthony Parker started all 82 games and averaged 32.1 minutes last season. I'm expecting a slight increase to 33-34 thanks to Delfino's departure. I'm not sure if Hassan Adams is ready for big minutes, so I'll project a modest 10 minutes of action for him off the bench. At small forward, Jamario Moon saw 27.8 minutes of action as a rookie. I'm projecting an increase to around 30 mpg in '08-09. Backing him up will be Jason Kapono, who played 18.9 mpg last season. I'm projecting an increase to 20-22 minutes as he makes up for some of Delfino's outside shooting.

3-time All-Star Chris Bosh played just 36.2 mpg last season, his lowest average since his rookie year. Injuries played a part in that, so expect his minutes to bounce back to 38 if he can stay healthy. 6-time All-Star Jermaine O'Neal was also plagued by injuries last season, as he missed 40 games and played just 28.7 mpg, his lowest average in 8 years. IF he can stay healthy (a big if considering he's missed 122 games the past 4 years), you can pencil him in for 34-35 minutes. If former #1 pick Andrea Bargnani can shake off his miserable '07-08 season (another big if), he'll be the first big man off the bench. Still, his 23.8 mpg average from last season is sure to fall due to the arrival of O'Neal. Kris Humphries (13.3 minutes) had a decent '07-08 season, and he'll get his share of playing time as well.

DON'T SLEEP ON: Jamario Moon

What do LeBron James, Rudy Gay, Shawn Marion, Andrei Kirilenko, Danny Granger, Rasheed Wallace, Shane Battier, and Jamario Moon have in common? They were the only players to average 1+ steal, 1+ block, and .5 or more threes per game last season. That's an exclusive group, but Battier & Moon are much less heralded players, partly because both failed to average double digits in scoring last season. Indeed, Moon's 8.5 ppg average was nothing to write home about, but he also helped out fantasy teams by pulling down 6+ boards and shooting 48.5% from the field.

I'm optimistic about Moon's 2nd NBA season because his stats actually improved after the All-Star break, despite playing fewer minutes and opponents being more familiar with him. For example, before the break, he averaged .4 made threes and .8 turnovers while shooting 46.2% FG, 29.7% 3P, and 70.0% FT. After the break, he averaged .7 made threes and just .4 turnovers, while shooting 52.3% FG, 36.2% 3P, and 80.0% FT. If you ask me, those Post All-Star improvements indicate that Moon played with much more confidence after proving that he belongs in the NBA (as opposed to the CBA, USBL, LNBP, or any other league that he previously played in). When you factor in Delfino's departure and a possible increase in playing time for '08-09, that makes Moon an intriguing mid-round pick if you already have some big-time scorers.

BE CAREFUL OF: Jose Calderon

It's not often that a player goes from being picked outside of the Top 100 one year (average draft position of 104.7 according to ESPN) to being a Top 20 pick the next, but that's exactly what might happen with Jose Calderon. The Spanish point guard was one of the top value picks of '07-08, but I'm warning you to be careful because it's hard to exceed value when expectations are set too high. And for knowledgeable fantasy hoops fans, expectations seem to be floating somewhere between the stratosphere and thermosphere right now.

For example, just look at Dr. A's recent column, where he states that Calderon "probably should be" the 4th point guard taken in your draft because "the sky's the limit" for him this season. I think the only player I've said "the sky's the limit" for is LeBron James, so I think we need to examine this Calderon fellow. First, let's take a look at 3 sets of stats for Jose from last season.

82 game averages:
30.3 min, 11.2 pts, 8.3 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.0 threes, 1.5 turnovers, 51.9% FG, 42.9% 3P, 90.8% FT

56 games as starter:
34.4 min, 13.0 pts, 9.1 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.2 threes, 1.9 turnovers, 53.1% FG, 45.3% 3P, 91.1% FT

13 games in January:
38.9 min, 14.9 pts, 10.4 assists, 1.8 steals, 1.8 threes, 2.2 turnovers, 55.1% FG, 51.1% 3P, 96.9% FT

The first set of numbers is solid, the second set is outstanding, and the third set is mind-blowing. And that latter set is key, because TJ Ford was injured on December 11th and returned on February 4th. So if you see a fantasy hoops head drooling come October, he's most likely looking at those January split stats. But I ask you: has Calderon's ceiling been set by that third set of numbers or is the sky really the limit?

Let's start with that impressive 96.9% free throw shooting. The last time a player shot that well from the line over an entire season (minimum 100 attempts) was... NEVER. The NBA record is owned by Calvin Murphy, when he shot 95.8% in '80-81 (2nd place goes to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf's 95.6% FT in '93-94).

Now let's examine that superb 55.1% field goal shooting. The last time a guard shot that well from the field over an entire season (minimum 500 attempts) while making 1 three per game was... NEVER. John Stockton came closest to doing that, when he shot 54.2% FG in '94-95 while making 1.2 threes per game.

Of course, what makes Calderon so valuable in 9-cat leagues is his brilliant assist-to-turnover ratio, which was 5.38 for the '07-08 season (4.82 for January). The last time someone dished out 9+ assists per game while posting an assist-to-turnover ratio of 5.0 or better was... Muggsy Bogues in '89-90, when he averaged a sweet 10.7 assists to just 1.8 turnovers (5.94 ratio). But besides Muggsy's exceptional season, no one else has even come close to posting a 5+ ass/to ratio while averaging 9+ assists per game.

So again I ask you: has Calderon's ceiling already been set, or is he going to summon the forces of Calvin Murphy, John Stockton, and Muggsy Bogues and put together one of the most impressive statistical seasons ever by a point guard?

I'm not saying that he won't be one of the top fantasy PG's for '08-09, but I AM saying to be careful with your projections and expectations. It wouldn't surprise me if Calderon is a 1st round pick in some 9-cat leagues and a 2nd rounder in some 8-cat leagues, but for him to have that kind of value he is going to have to put up some mesospheric numbers.

Click here to vote on what Calderon's fantasy ranking will be at the end of the season


(Where you should draft these guys in an 8-cat Roto league with 12 teams and 14 man rosters)

Bosh: Late 1st - 2nd
Calderon: Late 2nd - 3rd
O'Neal: 5th - 6th
Moon: 7th - 8th
Parker: 8th - 10th
Bargnani: Don't draft (but watch if you need threes)
Kapono: Don't draft (but watch if you need threes)

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