The Toronto Raptors are #Good. They won 51 games last season and 56 games the prior year. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are bonafide stars. Yet….they seem to always get overlooked. Or is it just me? Maybe it’s because they are based in Canada. Maybe it’s because they have a #WeTheNorth slogan. Probably both. Regardless, one of their stars missed over a month of action and their identity changed mid-season, but they still were able to finish tied for second in the Eastern Conference and make it to the Eastern Conference Finals.
2016 record: 51-31
- Ogugua Anunoby via draft
- C. J. Miles via free agency
- P. J. Tucker via free agency
- Patrick Patterson via free agency
- DeMarre Carroll via trade
- Cory Joseph via trade
The Raptors only had one losing month last season and had a winning record against every division except the Pacific (3-7), which isn’t surprising. What is shocking, though, is that they were 0-2 against both the Suns and Kings. Go figure. They lost some key pieces from last year’s team, while many of the other teams loaded up or will be getting healthy. The Raptors are definitely a playoff team, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they get knocked down a peg or two. Fourth, fifth, or even sixth seed could be in order.
PG – It’s all about health for Kyle Lowry. When he’s on the floor, he balls the F out. He shot 41% from three-land last season, will scrap for boards, dish out 6-7 dimes, pilfer over one per game, and has the ability to drop 40 on any given night. He’s played less than 75 games in eight of his 13 years in the league, though, and he’s flipping to the wrong side of 30. Delon Wright and Fred Van Vleet will battle it out for backup duties. The organization must feel good with one or both, as they traded Cory Joseph in the offseason, who did a great job filling in for Lowry when he was hurt. Wright is 25 years old, 6′ 5″ and 183 pounds. He’s not a great shooter, but can make the open look. His calling card is defense, as he can rack up the steals. It sounds like he will get first crack at the backup duties. Van Vleet is smaller at 6′ 0″, but he’s a better shooter from three-land and can also rack up some steals.
SG – DeMar DeRozan is an athletic freak and really good at basketball. Kevin Durant mentioned on the Bill Simmons podcast that he watches the footwork of DeRozan when he breaks down his game because it’s so freaking good. He’s a great slasher and his step back and turn around J’s are unguardable. In the mid-range, few are more lethal. With all that said, his lack of three-point game and blocks dock him in the fantasy realm. He’s entering his prime and he’s a hard worker, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he extends his range. I just don’t feel comfortable paying for it without seeing it first. Norman Powell is the backup. He’s another super athlete that will make some threes and get some steals. While he won’t get many minutes at shooting, he could soak up some minutes at small forward.
SF – C. J. Miles was brought in to shoot. If he wasn’t, then there’s a problem because that’s pretty much all that Miles has to offer. With Lowry and DeRozan garnering all the attention of opposing defenses, Miles should get plenty of open looks. He shot 41% from three-land last season. Rookie OG Anunoby had ACL surgery in January, so he won’t be ready until November at the earliest. That’s why Powell could see plenty of minutes this year.
PF – Remember when Serge Ibaka was blocking like four shots a game? I want that Ibaka back. Probably a business decision. Anyways, he still plays good defense and provides an interior presence. For a big man, he shoots remarkable well, almost 40% from three-land. He’s also a black hole, as in, once he gets the rock he’s shooting it. Ibaka asks, “What is an assist?” Pascal Siakam is only 22 years old, but he oozes with potential. He’s very agile for his size and could be a force on the defensive side of the ball. Offensively, he’s raw but did showcase some moves and a J during the Summer League.
C – Jonas Valanciunas is one of the few big men that shoots free throws well (81% last season). He was also 18th in double-dubs with 29. While he received 26 mpg last season, there’s a chance his minutes get shaved this season. The Raptors played very well with a small ball lineup with Ibaka at the 5. Jakob Poeltl is the backup in name only. It’s going to be tough for him to get minutes.