New faces making contributions

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:42 AM ET

Comparing pre-season basketball and the real thing is like comparing cotton candy to steak and potatoes.

So the fact the Raptors are unbeaten in three games goes no where in the quest to project where this team is headed when the NBA season starts next month.

But while the results are meaningless, the games provide a treasure trove of information that will determine just who will begin the season as part of the team's rotation.

Veterans like Chris Bosh and Morris Peterson are automatic, 35-minute or more, starters. T.J.. Ford is going to get the lion's share of minutes running the point and Jose Calderon will get most of what's left.

After that it's anyone's guess and the coaching staff has nothing but these "meaningless" preseason games upon which to make their decisions.

With so many newcomers looking for minutes, individual performances in these games are going to make a big difference in who plays and who sits.

Here are some fi rst impressions on the newcomers.

Rasho Nesterovic: Hard to see the big man figuring much in the Raptors uptempo game plan but he can still deliver some needed defence, primarily against teams with a half-court offence. Tough to see him getting a lot of minutes.

Anthony Parker: He brings veteran poise and skill and likely is going to begin the season as the starting two guard. At 6-foot-6, he will see time at small forward.

Andrea Bargnani: "I haven't seen such a sweet shooting stroke from a young player," Peterson said. The No. 1 draft choice still has a lot of adjustments to make but there's no question he'll play a lot because, no matter what, he can shoot. He made two big threes at the start of the third quarter to help bring the Raps back yesterday. He still is taking a lot of fouls early.

"He's going to have to figure that out," coach Sam Mitchell said. "It's just part of being a rookie. He has just got to learn the players, learn the league, learn what he can and can't do."

Ford: The man who was traded for Charlie Villanueva had his best game yesterday, giving the fans a few glimpses of the kind of fast paced offensive flow that will prevail this year. Before the year is over, he may break a teammate's nose with a pass because the ball is delivered red-hot and on the money.

Jorge Garbajosa: He may be a newcomer but he's NBA ready. If he has a shortcoming, it's his ability to jump but he sure can nail the outside shot. "He kind of reminds me of Vlade Divac but with a sweeter stroke. He can come in and do a lot. Just plays hard and doesn't say much," Peterson said.

Kris Humphries: It's hard to talk about Humphries without talking about P.J. Tucker. They both have big motors and a hard edge. "Kris just plays until he runs out of gas," Mitchell said, admiringly. "He just goes hard. He throws his body around but he also is skilled. He can handle the ball, shoot a little bit. He can do a lot of things. He's really going to help us."

Tucker: "I don't know what position he plays," Mitchell said. "We just call him Baby Mule. He just plays. We've been working him at (small forward) but he played (power forward) tonight. But we feel like he can guard some two's and most threes and fours. This kid just battles. He's so physical and so active."

Fred Jones: When John Salmons reneged on the Raptors $23-million US contract offer last summer, it might be the best bit of luck they've had. After that deal collapsed, Jones was offered a three-year deal for $11 million and he appears to be well-suited to Toronto's fastbreak plans. A proven scorer at Indiana, he brings also a strong defensive presence off the bench.


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