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Raptors' puzzle down to final pieces Add to ...

BASKETBALL REPORTER

The Toronto Raptors' busy summer may be winding down after the team confirmed yesterday it had signed veteran centre Rasho Nesterovic to a one-year contract and completed a trade with the Golden State Warriors for Marco Belinelli.

The 23-year-old shooting guard was acquired for veteran small forward Devean George, whom the Dallas Mavericks had traded to the Raptors as part of the Shawn Marion deal this month.

The Raptors also sent cash to the Warriors to pay George's $1.6-million salary this season.

The signings meant that former Raptor Carlos Delfino may have missed his chance to return to the NBA with his old team.

The Raptors have about $5.1-million (U.S.) to use before they tip into the dollar-for-dollar luxury-tax threshold and were considering offering a one-year deal to Delfino for something close to that amount, but the acquisition of Belinelli has changed the equation.

"The likelihood that he's going to sign here is less," Raptors president Bryan Colangelo said of Delfino. "Not only is he going to be leaving some money on the table in Europe, but one of the things that was attractive about coming here was that he'd have ample opportunity to play and maybe start and that doesn't appear to be as open now."

Colangelo said there is the possibility of using Delfino in a sign-and-trade if he decides to leave his current team in Russia, but just as likely is that the Raptors won't make any more significant moves between now and training camp.

Toronto is in the market for some depth at the small forward spot and one name that has resurfaced is Joey Graham, who was renounced by the team last month. Graham has split with his agent, Roger Montgomery, and given the current economic climate, might be amenable to sign for the veteran's minimum. Pops Mensah-Bonsu, a fan favourite in his short time in Toronto last season, is in a similar situation.

The Raptors have been enthusiastic about Belinelli since he put his name into the draft in 2007. Toronto didn't have a first-round pick, but tried to acquire one to take him then and has been in discussions involving the 6-foot-5 guard before.

His playing time in Golden State was sporadic in a lineup that was heavy with players in his position.

"Marco fills a void at the wing position where his shooting and scoring strengths will be needed," Colangelo said. "Marco's versatility and playmaking abilities make him a very valuable piece for us."

The 18th overall pick in the 2007 draft, Belinelli averaged 8.9 points, 2.1 assists, 1.7 rebounds and 21.0 minutes in 42 games last season. He registered four 20-point games, including a career-high 27 points Dec. 12, 2008, at Atlanta. He's entering the final year of his rookie contract paying him $1.54-million.

Through 75 career games Belinelli has shot .395 from three-point range.

Before joining the Warriors, he played professionally in Italy for five seasons. In 33 games during the 2006-07 season with Fortitudo Bologna in Serie A, Belinelli averaged 16.4 points, while shooting .544 (99-for-182) from the field. In 13 Euroleague games, he averaged 12.9 points on .438 (32-for-73) from the field.

He's a friend of Raptors forward Andrea Bargnani. They both played on the Italian national team, with Belinelli averaging 13.5 points a game during the 2006 world championship, including 25 points in a losing effort against the United States in preliminary-round play.

 

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