What’s up with the Toronto Raptors?

October 10, 2012; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Toronto Raptors forward Andrea Bargnani (7) shoots the ball over Detroit Pistons forward Jason Maxiell (54) at The Palace. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Always involved in daily NBA discussions, my buddy Andy decided to toss some random questions at me (interview-style) about the upcoming prognosis of the Toronto Raptors season. Here’s how it went down:

“With the season starting shortly and preseason action well underway, I wanted to throw a few questions your way.  I wasn’t sure how many would be a good number, so I went with my average score on a par 5.”

Who do you see having the biggest impact on the Raptors front court this season? This question is not narrowed to new comers.

I really want to say Jonas Valanciunas (who desperately needs a nickname beyond “Jonas”) because of his potential and his commitment to being an inside presence, but I have to say Ed Davis. It’s make or break for him this year. When we talk about true impact, Davis will either progress to the point where he makes the Raptors front court formidable and is a valuable rotation guy (especially with defense/rebounding) or he continues to do what he did the last two years, which is be insignificant. In this third season, the last of his rookie contract, this is it for Davis. He has a team option next year that the Raps may very well decide not to pick up if he doesn’t take another step forward this season. Andrea Bargnani should get back to being the team’s primary option on offense, Amir Johnson and Aaron Gray are exactly what we think they are, bench players who rely on hustle and size to outmuscle and defend opponents. While Davis’ offensive skills will always be of the inconsistent variety, with some improved free throw shooting and even more aggressive rebounding, he has the opportunity to push the Raptors front court to be one of the more solid ones in the Eastern Conference. I’m a believer in Ed Davis… for now.

Is John Lucas the next Jerryd Bayless, or is there something to be excited about here?

I can’t help it, I am excited about the point guard depth. Probably not as excited as LeBron when he dunked over Lucas’ head last season, but I’m anxious. One thing I love about Lucas is that he knows he’s a point guard, unlike Bayless, who seemingly loved the combo guard label. Bayless showed some real flashes, but his streaky shooting, poor shot selection and copious amount of turnovers drove fans crazy. Lucas, although smaller than Bayless, is a better shooter and distributor of the basketball. Put it this way, if Jose Calderon was traded tomorrow, I’d be fine with Lucas as the sole backup. I could not say that with confidence about Bayless.

What’s the most exciting part of Jonas’ game that you didn’t know prior to preseason?

Definitely his size and ability to bang down low, particularly his commitment to rolling hard off pick and rolls. I knew he was big, but until I saw him in person, I didn’t realize he was that big… and technically at 20 years old, the kid is still growing! I love that he realizes that with his size, he’s an actual post player. The Raptors already have a 7-footer who’d rather play the perimeter than rebound down low. Jonas is the anti-Bargnani. He plays the pick and roll, unlike Bargnani, who plays more of a pick and pop game. Jonas wants to bang, hustle, rebound and dunk… again, the opposite of Bargnani.

How many wins will it take for you to consider this season a success? That’s right I’m asking for a number – you ain’t no coach or GM – it’s a reasonable question.

41 wins. If they finish .500 at 41-41, that’s a successful season for two reasons. First, it’s an improvement from last year’s 23-43. Since they aren’t a team that considers their season “Championship or failure,” improvement means success. Second, I think 41-41 gets them into the playoffs in the East, barely. I have them projected for the 8th seed right now and if this squad makes it into the playoffs only to get destroyed by the Heat in the first round, that has to be considered a success.

Is Andrea Bargnani the biggest scoring threat for the raptors this season?

Yes. I think Kyle Lowry will up his scoring and be a legitimate, consistent scoring threat, but Bargnani will still be the #1 option in Toronto. His versatility alone makes him the biggest matchup problem and best option. Because of Lowry’s penetrating and playmaking ability, theoretically, Bargnani should get even better looks this year, whether it be open jump shots or inside dumps (when he’s there). He was a 20+ point per game guy last year (and arguably headed toward a potential first All-Star game) before his injury and I think he gets right back to that this season. Lowry has already voiced how excited he is to be playing pick and roll with Bargs and Jonas, so he’s already looking his way, though they haven’t played a game yet.

How many minutes per game will Magloire average?

Easy. He will average 8.7 minutes per game and play in 31 games.

Will Jose Calderon be traded before the deadline? If he is, isn’t that a good sign?

Yes he will, for a variety of reasons. With Jose on the final year of his deal and being owed $10 million this season, whether he’s traded this season or exits after next season via free agency, the Raptors are still getting rid of that huge salary. There’s really two perspectives. First, from the team’s perspective, they will be paying their backup point guard $10 million dollars! John Lucas, who was signed this offseason is certainly capable of handling the backup duties. By trading Jose at the deadline, they’ll get something in return for him, whether it be a trade exception or even another expiring deal, but one with a player who will contribute more to the team outside of the point guard position. On the other hand, from Jose’s point of view, is he going to be miserable playing the backup role after years starting? I say yes. There were rumblings all offseason about a possible trade demand by Jose, then things quickly quieted down as the season got closer. I think those rumors will strike up again and Jose will want to be dealt out of town, and likely to a contending team with point guard needs. I think he’s already on the list of “players most likely to be traded at the deadline.”

If you could have any Raptors first round draft pick back and in their prime right now, who would it be and why? Vince, Tracy, and Bosh are off limits here.  Hoffa is fair game.

Rafael Araujo, without hesitation. The guy was an absolute stud coming out of… I’m sorry, I can’t even continue with this joke any further. Hoffa was their worst pick ever. I’ll go with a real pick, give me Jonathan Bender. ;)