Back from vacation and boy oh boy what a few weeks if you follow the Toronto Raptors.
Here's just a few moves they made: They trade Jason Kapono for Reggie Evans, draft DeMar DeRozan, re-up long term with Andrea Bargnani, sign Hedo Turkoglu, then pull off a masterful four-way trade with Turkoglu and Shawn Marion being the main pieces to provide salary cap relief/flexibility, sign Jarrett Jack to an offer sheet (which Jack told The Indianapolis Star the Pacers will not match), and the intrigue just builds. Fun stuff--ain't it!!
I'm sure this has opened the eyes of Chris Bosh and his people regarding Toronto in his long term picture.
Kudos to Bryan Colangelo and his staff for being prepared, creative, proactive and aggressive in recognizing that this roster needed to be changed and they're on their way to achieving that. I'm sure Colangelo would be the first to tell you that 'Don't confuse activity for achievement.' The achievement has to take place starting in training camp and then opening night-on. The W's and L's. But it's fun to watch right now and there are still more moves to come.
The team needs to improve at the two-spot and need some more depth in the front court, but I'm sure once the Jarret Jack contract is figured out with regard to Indiana's decision to match or let him walk you'll see more movement from that point on.
Bottom Line, Raptors now have improved the core component of their team with four players that you can look at and call legit guys that you want on the floor late in games, who can win for you in Bosh, Turkoglu, Bargnani and Jose Calderon. That's a step in the right direction.
Yes, this club will have some defensive issues at times that will need to be camouflaged by the coaching staff, but they have four skilled and smart offensive players that can make winning plays for you. The other 11 roster spots and the character toughness, skill and overall makeup will go a long way in establishing how effective the big four can be.
The continued exercise of team building keeps going forward this off-season and once complete it's then time in training camp for Jay Triano and his staff to push and develop this new-look Raptors team into being a playoff contender.
I'm confident with a few more solid acquisitions that the Raptors can be in the hunt for a playoff spot next year and in fact be a player as one of the next group/tier of Eastern conference contenders beyond Orlando, Cleveland and Boston. The line, in my opinion, still exists between the Top 3 in the East and the rest but if the Raptors can go from a disappointing 33 win 08-09 season to being on the heels of the Big 3 in a short span it's definitely a step in the right direction.
There is certainly a lot more optimism in Raptor-Land than there was six weeks ago, after a winter of gloom and doom.