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Toronto Raptors
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An opposing team's scout sizes up the Raptors

This is a FIBA team, and while I have doubts about trying to get every country represented on one team, I loved the way the Raptors played together last year. There's something about the Euros' sense of teamwork. Their identity as a team was founded in the strength of Chris Bosh and their point guards, and those are the two most difficult positions to fill ...

Bosh is one of the best young players in the league, and also one of the best character guys. Unlike some stars who are more focused on their numbers, it's refreshing to see a new group of young players led by Bosh who put winning ahead of stats. Is Bosh a notch below LeBron, Dwyane and Carmelo? I'm not sure he's up there yet with them, but considering that his team won 47 games and the Atlantic Division coming up from as far down as it was, it's not out of line to call him a franchise guy ...

Of all the good things he has going for him, character may be Bosh's strongest trait, and it's the thing that makes the difference between players whose teams win or lose. The guys who get numbers and display selfishness don't win, but Bosh is the antithesis of that. You can see him cheering for his teammates from the bench instead of thinking that he should be the one in there getting that opportunity. At the same time, he scores, rebounds, blocks shots, shoots threes and attacks the offensive glass. He's also an improving defender ...

Then you pair him up front with Andrea Bargnani, and now they're really on to something. I didn't think Bargnani was one of the bigger parts of their improvement last year, but I expect him to make leaps this season. He's obviously a perimeter-oriented big with three-point range, but he's very long and he has the ability to impact the game as a shot-blocker. He's never going to be a big, strong guy, but he can be a factor defensively as Bosh already is. He and Bosh can complement each other offensively and space the floor with one inside and the other outside, which prevents the opposing bigs from playing center field around the basket. It opens the floor for driving seams to the basket. It's a great young pair, but that's what having the first pick in the draft will do for you ...

They have two excellent point guards. As terrific as T.J. Ford was last season, I think Jose Calderon might have been even better. Calderon should have been in conversations for the Most Improved Player award. Ford may face the same situation he had in Milwaukee where he wasn't the best point guard on his own team. Calderon grew into a leadership role after having some serious confidence issues as a rookie two years ago. At that time, he wasn't a good shooter and teams would back off him, dare him to shoot and he couldn't make them pay for it. He was already adept as a passer, so when his shooting improved last year, so did his entire game. ...

When Ford is in, they'll play more frantically than with Calderon; they execute better in the half-court with Calderon. Ford can beat everyone down the floor, but sometimes that's not so good: It's not uncommon to see Ford as the only one down the floor pressing the issue against two or three defenders. It's obvious by Ford's numbers that he was highly productive as a scorer and playmaker, and yet decision-making is not his strength -- but it is for Calderon ...

The Raptors put you in a heavy volume of pick-and-rolls. They ran as many pick-and-rolls as any team in the league, from all angles and spots on the floor. They spread you out and make shots, and when they're shooting well, they become very difficult to beat with a number of guys who can score from the three-point line. Everybody on the team can be used as a screener who becomes the shooter, so that they can target a weak defender no matter who he's guarding ...

While shooting is their strength, defense isn't. They rebounded better than I thought they would, but I wonder how far they can go without getting consistent stops. I also don't trust Sam Mitchell as an X's-and-O's coach, as a tactician. His energy and passion are his strengths, and it's to his benefit that he keeps things simple. But in a playoff series at the end of a tight game, I wonder if that kind of situation plays into his strengths. The bottom line is that he deserves a lot of credit for their success last year. They played hard and with harmony ...

Team president Bryan Colangelo also did a lot to change the blueprint of that franchise. He added a lot of important intangible parts. This year he replaced Morris Peterson with Jason Kapono, though I wonder if Kapono will have as good a shooting year in Toronto now that he doesn't have Shaquille O'Neal and Wade to draw attention and create open looks. He's a guy who needs help getting his shots, and if they're expecting 35 minutes a night from him, that might be asking too much ...

Adding European veteran Anthony Parker was their most underrated move last year. He helped change their entire dynamic by providing toughness, competitiveness and a winning attitude they'd lacked. Parker might have been the key to that team, their glue. He would make the big shot when needed, come up with the big turnover, guard the high-scoring wing, and he added a settling influence that they needed ...

Then Jorge Garbajosa came in and did a little bit of everything, though they have significant concerns about his leg after he suffered a terrible fracture last year. He goes against the stereotype that Euros are soft and one-dimensional shooters: Garbajosa provides toughness. He's not the best defender, but he will fight and compete ...

Carlos Delfino provides depth on the wing behind Parker. In Detroit, he was playing behind All-Stars who were getting 35 minutes a night, so how much of an opportunity did he have? In Toronto, he'll get an expanded chance to play a more consistent role, and so we'll be able to see who he really is. He's obviously showed potential as an athlete, and he has a chance to fit in with this team ...

Can everything fit together as nicely as it did last year? If not, I would think their point-guard play will keep them from dropping back too far. The only worry I have for them is that Bosh has suffered from little nagging injuries, and if he goes down for an extended time, they'll become a cellar team.

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