Barbosa key to team concept

If healthy, expect Leandro Barbosa to take a central role on a young Raptors squad. (AFP/Getty...

If healthy, expect Leandro Barbosa to take a central role on a young Raptors squad. (AFP/Getty Images/Christian Petersen)

GEORGE POPALIS, Sports Network

, Last Updated: 2:20 PM ET

TORONTO -- The Toronto Raptors are moving in a new direction, the focus no longer on the talents of Chris Bosh, but on a collective approach to playing the game.

Bosh recently joined LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Miami, leaving a giant hole in the Raptors' front court, a 24-point and 10-rebound-per-game hole that general manager Bryan Colangelo has been working feverishly to fill.

With Bosh out of the picture, the dynamics of the team will shift immensely and Colangelo has made it known that speed, athleticism and depth will become the hallmarks of the organization going forward.

With the long-anticipated trade that sent Hedo Turkoglu to the Phoenix Suns for Leandro Barbosa completed last week, the transformation process has begun. The 27-year-old Barbosa fits to a tee the type of player the Raptors will need to employ if they plan to successfully implement their new approach on the hardwood.

"His speed, quickness and scoring ability will mesh well with our desired playing style and talented young athletes," said Colangelo in a news release following the trade.

"With the departure of Chris Bosh now real, this trade fits well with our plan of adding talent to the roster while establishing future salary cap flexibility."

Known as "The Brazilian Blur" because of his neck-breaking speed, the six-foot- three, 202-pound combo guard made a career out of backing up two-time MVP Steve Nash in Phoenix, while adding even more valuable minutes by his side at shooting guard.

During the 2006-07 season, his best as a pro, Barbosa averaged an impressive 18.1 points, 4.0 assists while sporting a .434 shooting percentage from three-point territory, numbers that landed him the NBA's sixth man of the year honours.

The 2009-10 campaign was a tough one for Barbosa. Hampered by a wrist injury that would eventually require surgery in January, he averaged only 9.5 points and 1.5 assists in 44 games last season in an off year for the Sao Paulo native.

If healthy, expect him to take a central role on a young Raptors squad where he will fit in nicely beside up-tempo wingmen DeMar DeRozan and Sonny Weems.

Colangelo's plan to re-tool the roster took another leap forward with the re- signing of multipurpose man Amir Johnson to a five-year $34-million-dollar deal. Johnson could end up being a bargain down the road, as there are few Raptors that can run and rebound with his tenacity.

Linas Kleiza, 24, of the Denver Nuggets is another player that may suit up with the Raptors next season, as the Nuggets are not expected to match an offer sheet put forward by Colangelo. Boasting a dynamic skill set, the six-foot-eight, 245-pounder could vie for a starting job next year at either small forward or power forward.

Add six-foot-11 rookie power forward Ed Davis and the Raptors are in the midst of building a roster full of tough and athletic bodies, capable of success at multiple positions.

Ultimately, it will be up to head coach Jay Triano to capitalize on this new depth and roster flexibility while employing a balanced scoring attack.

Barbosa's speed, vision and scoring ability will be an integral to that end, as the Raptors aim to succeed by running teams out of the gym next season. With Bosh no longer the team's offensive security blanket, the door is wide open for a facilitator to take charge, and Barbosa may be just the player to jump into that role.


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