Gritty forward Reggie Evans, currently the NBAâ€™s leading rebounder, is now the most popular Raptor because of his blue-collar style of play. Rookie forward Ed Davis is expected to make his debut sometime this month after recovering from right knee surgery, but no one is expecting him to make an immediate impact like Blake Griffin or John Wall. DeMar DeRozan is gifted athletically, but is inexperienced and still needs to develop a consistent jump shot.
That leaves Andrea Bargnani, the 7-foot No. 1 pick of the 2006 draft. While he was comfortable to defer to Bosh, Bargnani now has more freedom to grow his game. Boshâ€™s absence has also impacted him in more subtle ways: Bargnani said heâ€™s getting more fan requests for pictures since Bosh departed.
Bargnaniâ€™s confidence received a boost during the summer when he averaged 24.1 points and starred for Italyâ€™s national team in qualification games for the 2011 European championships. Through the Raptorsâ€™ first three games, heâ€™s averaged 23.3 points while making 55.6 percent of his 3-pointers.
Bargnani is also averaging just three rebounds. And during two separate possessions at the end of the Raptorsâ€™ 111-108 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Monday, he failed to get the ball for a needed 3-pointer. Still, he insists heâ€™s ready for the pressure that now comes from being one of the Raptorsâ€™ top players.
â€œWhy should I hide from this?â€ Bargnani said. â€œThis is everybodyâ€™s dream. Thatâ€™s why you practice every day and get better. Otherwise, why should you practice so much? Stay home. The pressure is a good pressure. If someone is putting pressure on you, that means you were doing good and they expect more from you, otherwise no one is going to expect nothing from you.â€