We've got no chance

Toronto GM Rob Babcock sees plenty of struggles this season for the Raptors. (Toronto Sun File...

Toronto GM Rob Babcock sees plenty of struggles this season for the Raptors. (Toronto Sun File Photo/David Lucas)

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:24 AM ET

Raptors fans may be shocked to learn that Rob Babcock does not see his team improving this season.

At least in terms of its won-loss record.

In a frank and rather stunning assessment, the Raptors general manager told the Toronto Sun yesterday he does not expect his club to improve on its 33-49 record from last season, given the influx of young players on the roster.

If that turns out to be the case, it's likely the club will miss the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season and Raptors fans will no doubt be howling for Babcock's head on a platter.

But the second-year GM wasn't about to sugar-coat his thoughts on this year's squad, which will gather on Oct. 4 at Brock University in St. Catharines for training camp.

"There will be growing pains, no doubt about it," Babcock said. "Whether we win or lose more games than last year, I think if you look at us on paper, we probably will not win as many games as last year.

"We more or less have the same team back with the exception of Donyell Marshall, who was an integral part of our team last year. We're replacing him with rookies."

Marshall, who averaged 11.5 points and 6.6 rebounds off the bench last season, became a free agent and signed a four-year deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Raptors hope that first-round draft picks Charlie Villanueva and Joey Graham will pick up the slack, but Babcock understands that it will take time for the rookies to establish themselves as solid NBA players.

"We still have a long way to go, but we have the guys here now who see what the plan is, and they understand it," Babcock said. "They realize that there's no cutting corners, that it's going to be a lot of hard work, learning to play as a team, doing things the right way ... Our guys are starting to get that and things are turning around."

Babcock is optimistic that his rookies, Villanueva and Graham, together with young standouts Chris Bosh, Matt Bonner and Pape Sow, eventually will merge to become a championship-calibre team.

In the meantime, his most important job with training camp less than a month away is to find a competent point guard to back up Rafer Alston and NBA rookie Jose Calderon -- either via free agency or a trade. Babcock said that he is talking with several teams about a possible trade. He waved aside rumours of a possible trade with Minnesota involving veteran Jalen Rose.


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