Raptors on the Move

In just under one short week since Chris Bosh bolted out of Toronto, Bryan Colangelo has revamped the Raptors roster.

Colangelo’s first move was to re-sign Amir Johnson to a 5 year deal worth 34 million dollars. At just under 7 million a year, Raptor’s fans might expect more than Johnson’s 2009/2010 season averages of 6.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. He was essentially a member of the Raptors at the start of the season as a roster filler, but developed into a consistent bench player for Jay Triano. Johnson showed moments of great potential last year, especially when he was given more minutes once Bosh went down late in the year. At just 23 years of age, Johnson still has his best years of basketball ahead of him. He is a long, energetic, athletic big man who appears to be improving greatly. He shot an astounding 62 percent from the field last year and even showed off a decent mid range jump shot at times. In order for Johnson to live up to a 34 million dollar contract, he must figure out a way to stay out of foul trouble. He averaged over 3 fouls a game last year in 17 minutes of play. A rate of committing a foul almost every 5 minutes makes it very difficult for Jay Triano to keep Johnson on the floor. Johnson is aggressive, evident by his 2 offensive rebounds a game, but must find a way not to pick up cheap fouls while still remaining aggressive.

Grade for the Raptors: C+

The 6’8 small forward Linas Kleiza was Colangelo’s next move. Kleiza signed a 4 year 18.8 million dollar offer sheet. Since Kleiza is a restricted free agent, the Denver Nuggets have 7 days to match the offer. There are only a couple days left for the Nuggets to match the offer sheet and Kleiza has made it clear that he does not want to return to Denver next season. Kleiza played overseas last year in Greece because he failed to reach an agreement with an NBA team prior to the start of the season. Kleiza had a productive season in Europe averaging 18 points per game and was the top scorer in Euroleague Play. Prior to going overseas he averaged close to 10 points per game playing primarily as Carmelo Anthony’s backup. If the Nuggets do not match the Raptors offer to Kleiza, Raptors fans can expect a tough, versatile player who can score in a variety of ways. I believe Kleiza could become a very productive player for the Raptors at a very reasonable price. While Bosh and Turkoglu showed the desire to play elsewhere, it is nice for Raptors fans to see a player like Kleiza aspire to play in Toronto. This desire should be welcomed by all Raptors fans and shows a level of commitment and dedication that has not been seen in Toronto recently.

Grade for the Raptors: B

Several sourced today are reporting that the Raptors have completed two major trades.

In the first trade, Toronto would send Hedo Turkoglu to Phoenix for Leandro Barbosa and Dwayne Jones.

This trade is very beneficial for Toronto. At this point I would have accepted almost anyone for the disgruntled Hedo Turkoglu and to receive a player of Barbosa’s quality is very impressive. Turkoglu did not want to play in Toronto and after his poor play last year, management in Toronto was eager to trade him. Turkoglu has close to 44 million dollars left on his contract over the next four years. The Raptors in return receive Leandro Barbosa who fell out of favour with the Suns a bit last year, but still remained a very effective player. He is a very quick, athletic guard who can attack the basket very effectively. On a team like the Raptors who are in need of scoring options, I could easily envision Barbosa scoring close to 20 points a game.

Grade for the Raptors: A

The Raptors then shipped Reggie Evans and Jose Calderon to the Bobcats for Boris Diaw and Tyson Chandler.

The experiment of having Jarrett Jack and Jose Calderon on the Raptors roster did not appear to work well last year. Calderon was the second choice point guard for much of the season. Although he was a good assist man and a good team first point guard, he was constantly a defensive liability and did not shoot the ball as successfully as he had in previous seasons. Reggie Evans was a high energy man off the bench who liked to do the dirty work, but his offensive skill set was very, very limited. Often when he was on the court offensively, it seemed as though the Raptors were playing a 4 vs. 5. The Raptors in return receive Tyson Chandler who has one year remaining on his contract for over 13 million dollars and Boris Diaw who has two years and 18 million dollars left on his contract. Not only does this move give the Raptors financial freedom in a couple of seasons, but both players will be very effective. Chandler gives the Raptors a defensive presence in the middle that they have lacked for many years. Diaw is a creative, efficient player who can play any position on the court. He has a high basketball IQ and makes everyone around him a better player.

Grade for the Raptors: A-

All these moves improve the Raptors. It gives Colangelo a more competitive team on the court while allowing for more financial freedom in the next couple of years. I would not be surprised however, if there were several more moves to come from Colangelo in the next couple of weeks.

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