New look, hope for Raptors

MIKE GANTER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:40 AM ET

If all this pre-season optimism is starting to sound a little familiar, one needs to think back only a year ago when the arrival of Jermaine O'Neal to pair with Chris Bosh had the words Twin Towers on the tips of tongues throughout Toronto.

A total of nine new faces guarantees this season will not get stale.

This year general manager Bryan Colangelo's off-season has produced not just a complementary star to Bosh -- that would be Hedo Turkoglu -- but a bevy of lesser stars to surround the big two not to mention the kind of depth that should allow this team to overcome the predictable injuries. There's also the possible star in waiting in first-round pick DeMar DeRozan.

Will it work? Well, we thought last year had the makings of at least a second-round playoff team and we all know how that turned out.

Here's a look at the roster on a player-by-player basis as the team opens its training camp in Ottawa today:

THE RETURNEES

CHRIS BOSH, forward -- Bosh would have to be blind -- and he's not -- not to see the efforts that were made this past off-season to build a contender in Toronto. Bosh has been clear that it's going to be what the team does this year that determines whether he stays or goes at the end of the season when he can become a free agent.

PATRICK O'BRYANT, Centre -- Seven-footers get more chances than most in the NBA and O'Bryant with all the tools and athleticism is getting another one. For whatever reason, the ex-first rounder has not been able to put it all together. He'll be able to draw on the experience of returning vet Rasho Nesterovic.

ANDREA BARGNANI, forward/centre -- A bounce-back year last season after taking a step back in his sophomore year. Bargnani excelled under the tutelage of coach Jay Triano and with the added confidence of a solid year under his belt, should continue to excel.

JOSE CALDERON, guard -- It will be a rested and healthy Jose Calderon that returns to the Raptors this year after opting out of his national team duties in Spain. Calderon only gets better with the addition of Turkoglu, who will make the Raptors pick-and-roll game better.

RASHO NESTEROVIC, centre -- The big Slovenian never wanted to leave, so coming back should be easy after only a season away. A thorough professsional who isn't afraid to get down and dirty when need be. He also is a huge asset in the locker-room where his 11 NBA seasons carry a lot of weight.

QUINCY DOUBY, guard -- Douby will be the third point guard option behind Calderon and Jack. Used sparingly last season, he should provide a nice change of pace from Calderon and Jarrett Jack when or if his number is called.

MARCUS BANKS, guard -- At this point, Banks is insurance. Efforts were made to send him elsewhere this summer but failed. The odds on favourite to spend the most time in a suit this season.

THE NEWCOMERS

HEDO TURKOGLU, forward -- The prize acquisition of off-season free agency, Turkoglu arrives to bring another scoring threat and some veteran leadership to a team needing both. Whether he's scoring or distributing, Turkoglu will make the Raptors better. Some concern that he arrives fatigued after a long playoff run last year and a busy summer with Turkey's national team.

JARRETT JACK, guard -- Solid floor general who thrives in a defensive role that is lacking on this team. Addresses need for an experienced hand behind Calderon. Can also fill in for DeRozan at shooting guard if the rookie isn't quite ready.

REGGIE EVANS, forward --Free-agent signee addresses lack of toughness on the team. Like Jack and Nesterovic, Evans is one of those guys who just gets after it whether someone is in his way or not.

MARCO BELINELLI, guard -- Likely gets the minutes DeRozan doesn't at shooting guard unless Jack takes those. A streaky shooter whose defence improved under Golden State's Don Nelson.

AMIR JOHNSON, forward -- Johnson comes to the Raptors along with Sonny Weems for the rights to Carlos Delfino and young point guard Roko Ukic. He provides some depth and toughness at the power forward position.

SONNY WEEMS, guard/forward -- Listed at 6-foot-6, Weems isn't quite the physical specimen Joey Graham was, although there is a resemblance, but he is another athletically gifted newcomer that could, in time, break into the rotation.

ANTONIE WRIGHT, guard/forward -- Wright is typical of the type of player every team needs, but guys who get very little recognition. He'll come off the bench when Turkolglu needs a blow. Wright can be the shutdown defender the Raptors let get away in Anthony Parker, albeit at a different position.

THE ROOKIE

DEMAR DEROZAN, guard/forward -- Gifted athletically and mature beyond his years, DeRozan fell to the Raptors in the draft and the team couldn't be happier. Plan is to have DeRozan start at shooting guard but not necessarily log starter minutes. Huge potential.

MIKE.GANTER@SUNMEDIA.CA


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