The Toronto Raptors made trades, signed the biggest free agent of the season and selected a player chalk full of potential in the draft. Fans now hope it will make the team a contender and convince their superstar to stay in Toronto.
The Raptors moves this offseason have inspired a new-found excitement for a team that underachieved last year, winning just 33 games and missing the playoffs.
The Raptors signed highly sought-after Hedo Turkoglu to a five-year contract. He is versatile, can post up and make smart plays. The former Orlando Magic baller has been a great late game player capable of making clutch shots. Although he may not be the most proficient defender, with superstar Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani, Turkoglu gives the Raptors a front line of three players at 6'10, 6'11 and 7'0. As Ben Jerome, a long-time observer and avid Raptors fan said, "the pick and roll with those guys will create matchup nightmares for pretty much all teams."
The signing of Turkoglu also marked the first time that the Raptors lured a big-name free agent to Toronto. The city is often seen as a reclusive and cold NBA enclave outside of America. But the city played a major role in bringing Turkoglu up north. Turkoglu's wife preferred the more European-style city of Toronto and Turkoglu was attracted to the European-style basketball that the Raptors play. Toronto point guard Jose Calderon is from Spain while star forward Andrea Bargnani hails from Italy.
According to Jerome, Turkoglu's signing enhances the "perception that players actually want to come here."
The Raptors also pulled off some financial wizardry. They managed to make the Turkoglu signing a sign-and-trade and did the same for Shawn Marion, 'The Matrix', who joined the Raptors last year from the Miami Heat. The complicated four-team trade also landed the Raptors small-forward Devean George who could mentor the Raptors' highly-touted first round pick, Demar DeRozan, and shooting guard Antoine Wright.
Most importantly, however, the trade gives the Raptors financial flexibility to fill out their roster. That may mean that forward Rasho Nestorvic - who never wanted to leave Toronto when he was traded to Indiana before last season - and Carlos Delfino join the team. They would join rugged forward Reggie Evans who joined the Raptors earlier in the offseason in a trade that sent sharp-shooter Jason Kapono to the Philadelphia 76ers.
But for Raptors fans, perhaps the biggest impact that these moves will have is their effect on keeping franchise cornerstone Chris Bosh in Toronto. Bosh can become an unrestricted free agent after next season.
The main pieces of the team - Bargnani, Turkoglu, Calderon and DeRozan will be Raptors for the next five years. As Jerome noted, "these moves really help our chance of keeping bosh...it shows we're really trying to build around him with quality players, and if all goes well this year."
Superstar Dwayne Wade, who shares an agent with Bosh said that the Raptors have "made moves and showed him they want to build around him. I think that means a lot to him."
According to Raptors GM, Bryan Colangelo, while "things are falling in line quite nicely for us," the Raptors aren't nearly done tweaking the team. "Stay tuned because there will be more changes to the roster."
The changes to the roster won't only mean fresh faces on the court at the Air Canada Centre, but a renewed level of excitement for the 2009-2010 Toronto Raptors and hope that Chris Bosh sticks around.