The Toronto Raptors didn’t get lucky in the NBA draft lottery Tuesday evening so the team now has to set its sights on improving with the No. 9 pick in the draft.

President and GM Bryan Colangelo had plenty of luck with the ninth pick as the GM of the Phoenix Suns, picking both Shawn Marion and Amare Stoudemire. Raptors fans hope lightning can strike here as well.

The Raptors have both cap space and the No. 9 pick to try to improve the condition of a disappointing 33-49 team this past season. The team has four major needs need to be filled via the draft, free agency and trades to get back to the playoffs:     

1. With the impending free agency of Anthony Parker, Joey Graham and Shawn Marion, the Raptors have to decide if they’d like to keep any of these three and at what price. The team must create more positive play from these positions.

Look at the way the game is being played today. You must have significant high-end play from your two and three spots to be in the hunt. The Raptors are in good shape in the front court with Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani, as well as at the starting point guard spot with Jose Calderon at the helm. The major help/upgrades has to come at these positions.                      

2. Watching the Raptors this year, it was obvious this team needed to improve significantly as a gritty, tough-minded team that takes pride in playing the defence necessary to win consistently in the NBA.

Bringing in players with the mindset to make the sacrifices necessary to bring this change will be paramount to their success in changing the culture from last season’s team.

3. I think that in time Roko Ukic can be a solid NBA point guard and improve his shooting and end-of-clock decisions.

Marcus Banks has an inconsistent resumé, so I think the Raptors might need some insurance in case Calderon ever were to miss games and/or play at less than 100 per cent (see this past season).                    

4. The 82-game regular season is a long grind and teams need their second unit to steal some wins. Anyway the Raptors can improve the back end of the team will help a great deal.

– Jack Armstrong is a basketball analyst on both Raptors NBA TV and TSN. He is also a co-host of The Game Plan, airing weekday afternoons on The Fan 590.

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