Looking back offers some idea of what could be ahead

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:07 AM ET

Bryan Colangelo is preparing for a busy summer.

The Raptors president and general manager has a lottery pick, an intriguing free agent in Mike James and a coach -- Sam Mitchell -- entering the final year of his contract.

Since coming on board in late February, Colangelo has seen his team struggle mightily without Chris Bosh, who suffered a season-ending thumb injury last month. How the team's recent downturn will affect his views remains to be seen.

Overall, Colangelo has a good situation -- he has about $10 million US to spend after the trade of Jalen Rose and has some decent pieces in place. The thinking is that, with a few improvements, the Raptors could be a playoff team in the weak Eastern Conference next year.

Here is a look at how this year's edition of the Raptors -- the fourth consecutive Toronto team to miss the playoffs -- performed in 2005-06:

- Rafael Araujo, centre, 6-foot-11, two years in NBA.

This year: Nothing again. The big Brazilian's stats actually went down from his inconsequential rookie season. Rob Babcock's first of many mistakes.

Next year: The Raptors have to pay Hoffa for one more season. It very well could be the end of his NBA career.

Verdict: Still a lost cause.

- Andre Barrett, guard,

5-foot-10, two years in NBA.

This year: The little guy has been as advertised -- a 10-day point guard. Has next to no shot, though he somehow managed to make one three-pointer. Can distribute the ball well, but also takes some ill-advised shots.

Next year: Invited to training camp, but contract is not guaranteed.

Verdict: Should be looking for work before 2006-07 season begins.

- Matt Bonner, forward, 6-foot-10, two years in NBA.

This year: Up and down. The Red Rocket was born to shoot a basketball, but his shot wasn't falling as consistently as it did in his rookie season. Came around recently and earned praise from the coach, but field-goal percentage was still down.

Next year: Final year of two-year contract. One thing is certain: Bonner will work hard to improve.

Verdict: Never will wow anyone with athleticism, but could be a serviceable rotation player.

- Chris Bosh, forward, 6-foot-10, three years in NBA.

This year: Named to the all-star team for more than a few reasons. Was one of the top big men in the league before a thumb injury ended his season last month. Improved every aspect of his game over the summer.

Next year: Will be back, hopefully with a six-year contract extension. If he wants max money, he'll get it right here.

Verdict: Will be a franchise player and, chances are, he's going to take the money and set down roots in Toronto.

- Jose Calderon, guard,

6-foot-3, one year in NBA.

This year: Looked like quite a find at the beginning of the season, but foot problems slowed him down and he has been a virtual non-factor recently.

Next year: Signed for two more years. If he is healthy, he could be a good backup point guard.

Verdict: Needs to improve his shot and regain his health to be effective.

- Joey Graham, forward, 6-foot-7, one year in NBA.

This year: Said he wanted to be rookie of the year at start of the season. Didn't quite happen. Athletic as they come, but his basketball IQ is lacking at times. Had long stretches on the bench.

Next year: Final year of guaranteed contract for first-round draft pick under new CBA.

Verdict: If he becomes a solid rotation guy, that would be a good thing. Remember, he was a 16th pick. Usually, 16th picks aren't superstars.

- Mike James, guard,

6-foot-2, five years in NBA.

This year: Talked a lot and shot a lot, but put up career-high numbers in almost every category. While lots of bad things have been said about him, he was far better than predecessor Rafer Alston and won the Raptors more than a few games.

Next year: Will opt out of his contract and become a free agent. Said he wants a two-year contract with a player option for a third rather than a long-term deal.

Verdict: Easy to say the Raptors should sever ties with the non-traditional point guard. But they better have a replacement ready if they go that route. Bosh said he wanted James back.

- Darrick Martin, guard, 5-foot-11, 11 years in NBA.

This year: Minimum-level veteran joined the team in November and did well in a limited role. A good guy and a mentor to many of the younger players, Martin even provided some fourth-quarter heroics.

Next year: Free agent.

Verdict: Raptors could do worse than keeping Martin around and using him as a third point guard.

- Morris Peterson, forward/ guard, 6-foot-7, six years in NBA.

This year: He once came to camp out of shape and once couldn't play at all on the road, but this season Mo Pete finally put it all together. The Michigan State product became a leader, was the team's best defensive player and played huge minutes.

Next year: Final year of his contract at a bargain $4.55 million.

Verdict: No reason to believe he should not play just as hard in a contract year. Could be attractive to other teams in trade talks. Raptors have a real asset on their hands.

- Pape Sow, forward/centre, 6-foot-10, two years in NBA.

This year: Spent a couple of months in Arkansas in the D-League, then returned in January in a controversial decision that angered Mitchell at the time. Tries hard, but is very raw and remains a huge project.

Next year: Final year of contract may not be fully guaranteed. Will be a spare part if he returns.

Verdict: Far from a force. There is a reason he was a second-round pick.

- Charlie Villanueva,

forward, 6-foot-11, one year in NBA.

This year: After the Raptors took heavy criticism for taking him seventh overall, Villanueva answered his critics and had a solid rookie season. Needs to work on being more consistent.

Next year: Returns for second and final guaranteed year, but he's a long-term piece of this puzzle.

Verdict: Said earlier this year he sees himself and Bosh as the future Twin Towers. If Villanueva keeps his nose to the grindstone, it could happen.

- Alvin Williams, guard, 6-foot-5, eight years in NBA.

This year: Played just one game after off-season microfracture knee surgery. Wanted to get in at the end of the year, but team felt it was best to keep Williams sidelined.

Next year: Has $6.8-million player option for final season of his contract and has said he will not opt out.

Verdict: Reportedly, there are provisions in Williams' contract that could affect his status. Great team guy and good contributor when he was healthy, but returning to the NBA remains a long shot.

- Eric Williams, forward, 6-foot-8, 11 years in NBA.

This year: Raptors tried to trade Williams at the trade deadline, but couldn't get much in return. The veteran, who was supposed to be a key part of the Vince Carter trade, has grown old quickly.

Next year: Has a $4.3-million player option and is sure to accept it. Nobody is offering him that much money.

Verdict: Raptors might consider buying him out, trading him in the off-season or holding on to him as trade bait.

- Loren Woods, centre, 7-foot-2, five years in NBA.

This year: The team's starting centre on opening day the past two season, Woods has done nothing of serious significance. A good friend of Bosh's, Woods will be missed by big No. 4.

Next year: Free agent.

Verdict: See you later.

- Sam Mitchell, coach, two years.

This year: His team started 1-15, it finished poorly, but the Raptors certainly played hard for Mitchell. Bosh thrived, Peterson improved and Villanueva opened eyes, all good signs for the coach. Conversely, the team lost 11 games by three or fewer points.

Next year: Final year of his contract.

Verdict: Conventional wisdom suggests the Raptors will bring Mitchell back, but not extend his contract. He deserves a chance to start a season with a team that doesn't have major problems (Vince Carter, Rafer Alston, bad draft picks) looming large.


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