Key Returning Players
Key Free Agents
2019 record: 53 – 19: 2nd in the East
Projection for 2020: 48 – 34: 5th in the East
The Raptors took care of business by inking the undrafted Fred VanVleet to a 4-year, 85 million dollar deal that should keep him with the Dinos right through his prime. This was a key signing for the Raptors, as they positioned themselves to have a near all-star level talent firmly in place with their current all-star level guard (Kyle Lowry) on the final year of his contract. Last season, VanVleet had the best statistical year of his career by putting up averages of 17.6 pts, 3.8 rebs, 6.6 ast, 1.9 stls while drilling 2.7 treys and shooting 85% from the line. The one bugaboo would be his FG%, which at 41.3% has plenty of room for improvement. Steady Freddy’s style of play transcends throughout the entire team. He is a hard-nosed and pesky defender who at 6’ 0″ (with shoes) is not afraid to mix it up with bigger guards and stand in and take charges. At the same time, on the offensive end you have to respect his range and change of speed. Freddy can just as easily pull up from behind the arc in transition or shift gears to get to the rim and finish while using his body perfectly to shield off bigger defenders.
The man next to Fred in the backcourt on opening night will be the longest tenured Raptor and his mentor, Kyle Lowry. In 2019, we watched Kyle put up 19 points, 5 boards, and 7.5 helpers resulting in his best points average since 2016 when he put up 22.4 per contest. Kyle continues to perform at an all-star level and will turn 35 years old before the season ends in April. Lowry is the heart and soul of this Raptor squad and will look to resume his role as the leader of the team he has experienced the most success in his career, in what is also a contract year for the six time all-star. Yes, while father time comes for us all, I am going to bet that Kyle keeps him at arm’s length for at least one more season.
Soaking up a majority of the available back court minutes off the bench will be Norman Powell. Last season, Powell also had the best season of his career. He saw his minutes reach north of 28 while scoring 16 pts per contest on a neat and tidy 49.5% from the field. He will give you over a steal per game (1.2) while chipping in a handful of boards (3.7 last season) to go along with an improved jumper that netted 2.1 treys per game at a 40% clip. Powell will be there near the end of standard drafts and is worth a flier, especially should any injury occur to any starter.
Terence Davis could also be a contributing factor off the bench after showing fearlessness on the court when given an opportunity. However, Davis was arrested on October 27th for an alleged assault on his girlfriend. Therefore, his role with the team is unknown.
The Raptors selected Malachi Flynn out of San Diego State with the 29th pick in this year’s draft. Now, while I do not expect much of a role for Flynn in his rookie season, he is someone to keep in mind if you are in a keeper league. Fred could do for Flynn what Lowry did for Fred (say it 3 times fast).
Pascal Siakam is where the bread is buttered in this front court and, while he looked like the Monstars stole his skills while in the bubble, I expect the 26-year-old Cameroonian to take another step forward this season. In 2019, Pascal saw his FG% plummet to 45.3% from 54.9% the year prior on his run to becoming an NBA champion. Clearly, the Kawhi effect might have had something to do with that as Spicy P had a career high 18.4 FG attempts per contest, way up from his 11.8 when the Claw was roaming the 6. In 2020, I see that FG% being closer 48% as Pascal improves his 3-point efficiency (35.9) and finishes at the rim at a higher clip with a move or two added to his arsenal. Heading into only his fifth season, there is reason to be optimistic that Pascal will improve on his all-star season, when in 60 games he poured in 22.9 pts per game to go along with 7.3 rebs, 3.5 assists and 2.2 threes. With a combined stocks (steals and rebounds) of 1.9, Pascal is offering enough to warrant a late second or early third round selection.
Joining Siakam up front is OG Anunoby, who saw an increase in every statistical category, and was a pleasant surprise for the Raptors. Noted as a highly capable multi-position defender due to his 232 pounds, 6′ 7″ frame, OG became a respectable 3-point threat (39%) while becoming increasingly efficient from the field at 50.5%. After losing Serge Ibaka in free agency to the Clippers (2 years, $19 million) there will be more expectation thrust upon the original OG. At only 23 years old, OG is on a trajectory to continue to expand his game and improve upon his 10.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Look for OG to be in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year in the future as he steadily increases his steals and blocks averages from last season (1.4 and .07 respectively) and routinely guards the opposing teams best player.
The aforementioned Serge Ibaka is out as is Marc Gasol, who both took deals on the west coast. Helping to fill that void this season will be newly acquired Aron Baynes, who should start and will provide the Raptors with a stretch big who can pull bigger defenders out to the perimeter and provide opportunities for open lanes into the paint.
Chris Boucher signed a two- year deal to remain with the Raptors and, while he is likely looking at a time share in the middle, his upside for production in 24 minutes should outpace Baynes.
Rounding out the rotation will be newly acquired Alex Len. While Len has never lived up to the promise some believed he had early in his career, he will be welcomed as added depth on a team that is lean in the big man department.