1. Chris Bosh is putting up career type numbers. After all it is his contract year unless we all get shocked by a contract extension before the season. The key numbers to watch will be rebounds and assists. If those numbers are on the rise things should be going well. Points wise if he can average 20-25 points as he has done in the past that should be good enough. Also if we see a rise in blocks and steals along with an overall better defender that will mean more than adding a point or 2 to his scoring average.
2. A new and improved Jose Calderon. What does that mean? It means a better effort on defense. No one is every going to convince me Jose will ever be a great defender but if he could just be average or a bit better i'd be happy. On the offensive side it will be the challenge of Jay Triano to convince his point guard to take more risks and push the basketball. Triano did a great job in helping develop Steve Nash. If he could make Calderon a little more Nash like on offense the results would be dramatic.
3. No more Mr. Nice Guys. Reggie Evans must lead the charge to make it clear that this is not the same warm and fuzzy Raptors. A more aggressive attitude is required. This team is going to be challenged in terms of rebounding. They also need a major improvement on defensive side of the ball. A group of this basketball team have to take on that role of defense first and offense second. For those guys on the fringe of the rotation want minutes just play D, Grab some boards and make a hard foul and time will be yours.
4. Development continues for Andrea Bargnani. He showed signs of the start of a post game and the ability to be a decent defender. A more inside and out type of offensive approach along with a bit more desire to defend and rebound. If you see Andrea blocking a shot and grabbing a board and scoring the odd basket in the paint those are all good signs. We all know Andrea can shoot it but he needs to show that he can do more. He starting doing that last year and must continue down that path.
5.Better than .500 after November. The start of the Raps schedule is extremely challenging. If this basketball team exits November with anything north of .500 record wise this will be a huge sign that Raptors will indeed be in play for home court advantage. It is a month full of playoff teams from both the East and West will make it a challenging month to say the least.
6. Hedo Turkoglu's gas tank. After a run to The Finals and Euro Basket will the Raptors key off-season acquisition have a healthy and productive year. Managing minutes and expectations will be key. Hopefully Hedo can have enough PIZZA POWER...to last all the way through the season. He is going to be key you have to figure in the Raptors offense.
7. If part of number 2 happens it will help this man most of all. Demar DeRozan is dunking the ball in transition and does not look out of place on defense it will mean big things for his rookie season. I know he has been working on his shot but the more dunks he can have as opposed to shots the better. Not just for him but all of the Raptors. If Demar is getting dunks it will mean the Calderon and Jack are being effective at pushing the ball and the defense is playing better. So to rip off a Bill Walton line...Throw it Down YOUNG MAN..Wait he says big man but whatever...Dunk IT and MAKE SOME POSTERS.
8. Jay Triano has a impact and establishes a rotation quickly. I mentioned how tough the schedule will be early on and that is the challenge for Jay Triano. He will not have the luxury of many games to experiment during the season. He also has to ride this squad to push the ball and to be accountable on defense. Jay has proven to be effective in using his plays after time outs to some success. Those are just a few things of the many that will be challenges for Jay in his first full season as head coach of the team.
9. Jarrett Jack and the bench will not have to do much to be better than last year. However the added depth this squad has must contribute and play a role. If they can you can afford to give Calderon, Turkoglu and Bosh time to rest. If you can reduce the minutes those 3 have to play night in and night out it will be a benefit in several ways. The first and most important is less wear and tear on all 3. Also it will give them a chance to max out there effort when they are on the floor. If they are all playing 30-35 minutes a night and able to go 100% that will be huge. If you have to have Bosh playing close to 40 along with Hedo that is not going to be a good situation in the long run. In terms of Jack he offers a defensive option if Jose is not getting it done on that end of the floor.
10. Less Help and more responsibility. Jack Armstrong always likes to say that "Help" is the weakest word in the defensive vocabulary. If you don't hear people yelling that word it will be a good sign. The overall defense and how they work as individuals is going to be key. This basketball team should have no trouble scoring points. What will be the deciding factor is can they get stops down the stretch of games. If they can that may be the best sign of all for the Raptors as a whole.
So that is some things to look for over the pre-season schedule and start of the season. DNB RADIO is kind of in limbo at the moment as my work schedule is conflicting with it and I may have to look for a new time and day to do the show. Perhaps Monday might be an option but will see. The Yahoo League is full for Fantasy and if you want in for our ESPN League just send me an e-mail you would like an invite sent to. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a shout on Twitter @dinonationblog.