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A Closer Look At The Toronto Raptors

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The Pacers take on the Toronto Raptors tonight at the Fieldhouse. Raptors' blogger, Kinnon Yee from HoopsAddict.com had me answer three questions on the Pacers for his site. Check out my answers here.

In return, Kinnon answered three questions I posed about the Raps. Here are his answers.

IC: Jose Calderon always seems to bubble up and scorch the Pacers. With TJ Ford's health issues this year, Calderon seems to be providing consistent production at PG. Is Calderon a lock to come back to the Raptors next year? With Ford's current salary, can the Raps lock up that much cap room in the PG posistion? How should they handle the situation?

KY: Before this year began, I talked about how the Raptors didn't and shouldn't really consider offers for Calderon for a variety of reasons. The first was that if he had a sub par year, we could resign him for less money. The second was that if he emerged into the kind of point guard many of us believe he will be, then, the Raptors still hold on to his rights. Before we go further, in the interest of full disclosure, I do own a Jose Calderon Raptors Jersey :)

That being said, the Raptors can, and probably will attempt to secure Calderon for a solid sum of money. I would say about 7-9 million a year would be within his range, and while the Raptors would love to keep money available, I believe they almost have to sign Calderon back even at an inflated price. The first reason is that there is a lack of point guards in this league. The next is that TJ Ford's uncertain future makes him a volatile commodity that the Raptors may not want to risk their entire future on. The final reason is that Calderon is one of the few true point guards that improves the play of everyone that's on the floor with him, meaning if you take him away, the production of EVERYONE on the team goes down, which is not a prospect that Bryan Colangelo wants to entertain.

IC: With all of the nice, young talent on the roster, Chris Bosh stands out as THE man. His game reminds me of a combo of Jermaine O'Neal and Kevin Garnett. Considering the struggles of both players in taking young teams to an elite level, do you think Bosh can be the cornerstone of the franchise that lifts the Raptors to a championship level? What further development does Bosh need?

KY: I've said earlier that in spite what everyone believes, Chris Bosh's greatest weakness is his ball handling skills, and that goes doubly when driving to the paint with traffic. It's that one area where Bosh's game is prevented from going to the next level because he's concerned about turnovers due to the frequent ball strips he encounters in the paint. As a result, he doesn't get to the foul line some games, and more importantly, is prone towards taking an outside jump shot rather than drive to the basket in a consistent manner. I can't explain it either, as the Raptors' other big men seldom lose the ball as frequently as Bosh does, and that includes Andrea Bargnani.

That being said, I believe that while Bosh is a great leader, and addresses huge needs on any team, I'm still not convinced he's a "game changing" player, of the likes of KG or even Amare Stoudemire. While Bosh is prone to those monster games with 40 point outbursts, his overall consistency and decision making in high pressure situations has been far from lacking. For example, during the playoffs last year, he was basically shut down for five and a half games because he didn't and couldn't exert his will in the games. Players of a certain level usually become unstoppable in those high stakes situations and Chris has yet toshow that ability in his career.

IC: The Celtics ambushed the Atlantic Division out of the gate this year which has allowed the Raptors to cruise through the season under the radar but in solid playoff position. Are you satisfied with the Raptors season to date? What is holding them back from joining Detroit and Boston among the elite of the East?

KY: As a fan, I cannot be satisfied with the progress of the team this year. If anything, there's a feeling growing within the community that this team is not as dominant or "magical" as it was last year. A lot of that can be attributed to two players, one of which being Jorge Garbajosa who is out for the year, and the other being Andrea Bargnani who has struggled mightily with his game. However, the stated goal of the team and the president is that the Raptors are supposed to be positioned to become the best of the Eastern Conference. Are they there right now? The answer is a resounding no.

Granted, there is little cause for concern that the Raptors will fall backwards and regress, but the cause for concern is that the Raptors have so many role players and short small contracts that the talent is spread very thinly in several key areas. The most concerning factor is that after two years of office, Bryan Colangelo has yet to find a dominating wing presence to compliment Chris Bosh. It's that lack of a wing presence that has been exposed several times by sub .500 teams, and is a major chink in the Raptors armour moving on to next year and beyond.