Welcome To The Mushy Middle…

If Ed Davis and DeMar DeRozan step up, can the Raptors surprise this season?

It’s been exciting to see Raptors fans start to groggily revive online with the start (and really, conclusion) of training camp this week, but with that has come some wild reaction to some of the signings. Based on some completely unscientific polling, fans seem to be in one of three distinct camps to start this season.

1) The Who Camp: For fans who have re-tweeted every one of the team’s signings from the @Raptors account with “Who?”. Many of you have asked why Toronto signed Jamaal Magloire and Anthony Carter when Marc Gasol was eligible to sign an offer sheet and Chris Paul was clearly there for the taking via trade. You don’t understand why we re-signed Jake Voskuhl (note to the Who Camp: Aaron Gray is NOT Jake Voskuhl).

Never mind the fact that Bryan Colangelo reiterated pre-training camp the plan was to make short-term signings, maintain cap flexibility for next summer and lean heavily on this team’s younger players this season. You want back on that treadmill now.

I do not believe in this camp.

2) The Tank Party: I admire your zeal. To you, these signings encourage your belief that this team of professional basketball players will band together for a common cause of deliberately losing as many games as possible. The goal of all their losing is to open a mystical portal in New York sometime in late-June from which a saviour in a ghastly suit wearing a Raptors fitted will emerge and lead the franchise to heights not seen since the 2000-01 Eastern Conference semis.

You feel the more pain and mental anguish you endure as a fan this season can only help make this happen. You will moan most vociferously if the Raptors win more than two games in a row.

Not surprisingly, this doesn’t fly for me either.

3) The Mushy Middle: My kind of place. I have absolutely no clue how many games this team is going to win — but I know I genuinely like this direction for the Raptors.

To borrow from phdsteve over at Raptors Republic, I do agree that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts when it comes to these signings. The Raptors may not be a title contender with this lineup, but Bryan Colangelo has accomplished a pretty unique feat this offseason: he hasn’t deviated from his plan whatsoever and yet he’s brought in the necessary elements to help forge a new team identity.

A little math.

Likely out are Reggie Evans, Julian Wright and Alexis Ajinca. Definitely overseas are Sonny Weems and Joey Dorsey. We know that Jay Triano has moved into a front office role with assistants Alex English and PJ Carlesimo moving on.

In are Magloire, Carter, Rasual Butler, Gray and Gary Forbes — veterans that can defend and a pair of hungry twenty-something reserves that all address weaknesses. All presumably fit new head coach Dwane Casey’s system, which is itself a major overhaul.

How exactly is this team appreciably worse than last season?

Yes, the January portion of this compressed schedule could prove fatal. There’s also no telling how long it’s going to take for this to come together under Casey and his staff, not to mention giving the kids the keys is fraught with major risk.

But would it stun you if this team won around 25 games? Would you be kicking yourself if the Raptors were charging towards spitting distance of the eighth seed in mid-March? These aren’t predictions so much as two of many possibilities in an anomaly of a season. It wouldn’t take much to convince me things could easily go the other way.

Before this training camp started Dwane Casey used an interesting phrase that’s stuck with me ever since:  “I know what I know and I know what I don’t know.”

I’m fully willing to admit I know that I don’t know how this edition of the Raptors is going to perform this season.

So I ask you Raptor Nation, what camp do you fall into?

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