Alex Rucker is an analytics consultant with the Raptors who I just started following on Twitter. If you’re not following him already, you should do so because you probably won’t get a better view into the thinking behind the Raptors’ moves. Did the Raptors reach for Terrence Ross? Rucker says the Raptors ranked him as the seventh best prospect in the draft. What did the Raptors see in Landry Fields? Rucker describes him as an “excellent wing rebounder on both ends of the floor” and a “strong on-ball defender, good help defender, (he) can defend both wing positions, (a) perfect fit for our defensive system.” As for Lowry, Rucker is on record as calling him “a top 10 starting PG in the NBA“.

He may not be the guy pulling the trigger, but it seems like Rucker’s data probably had a strong influence on Colangelo’s moves this off-season. Considering that influence, I find the tweet at the top of this post to be rather telling. While anything’s possible, it’s probably time for all Raptors fans to come to terms with the likelihood that this roster as it’s currently constructed is essentially the group they’ll start the season with.

The calls for Colangelo to make a big splash with a blockbuster trade for Rudy Gay or Andre Iguodala began to seem like the desperate wishes of a group of tortured Raptors fans once the ink dried on the Fields contract. It simply didn’t make sense that the Raptors would pay Fields an average of over $6 million per season to be a bench player. With yesterday’s James Johnson trade, it now seems even more certain that Fields will be the Raptors’ starting small forward on opening night.

Here’s the part where the usual suspects will show up in the comments calling for Colangelo’s head, but I’m willing to wait and see how this season plays out before I make any bold proclamations about his supposed incompetence. It’s clear that Rucker and Colangelo see things in Ross and Fields that many of you don’t, so I humbly propose that we collectively ease up on acting like we know better than they do. I’m still not happy about how they let Bayless go, but I’d much rather be wrong about my belief in his star quality than hope that he develops into a legitimate top-10 point guard just so I get to say, “I TOLD YOU SO!”

Whatever you think about Colangelo’s moves this off-season, you’re wrong if you claim that he didn’t have a plan. Ross, Lowry and Fields are versatile players who are above-average defenders and rebounders and should help “cover up” the deficiencies of Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan in those areas. I think this team has the potential to be a top-10 defensive team and they’ll almost certainly grab more rebounds than their opponents.

Will they score enough to win more games than they lose? That’s the biggest question going into next season, and that should depend mostly on the health of Bargnani and the ability of DeRozan and Fields to improve their shooting. If these things fall into place, the 2012-13 Toronto Raptors have a very strong chance to be a fringe playoff team — and that’s progress for this franchise whether or not you choose to see it that way.