With the NBA season just under way, we take a closer look at this year’s Toronto Raptors. Now there will be ups and downs throughout the year, but keep track of the following three things to see how good (or not) this Raptors season will be.
Dominating Guard Play
— Raptors Nation™ (@WeTheNorth__) October 25, 2016
The Raps will live and die by how well Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan play. Simple as that. They both have had great seasons last year (combining for 44.7 pts a game) and despite being inconsistent in the playoffs, they did lead the team to the Eastern Conference Finals. To top it off, let’s not forget they also both won a gold medal at the Rio Olympics. The good news for Raptor fans is both have a lot to play for this year. Lowry is on a contract year and not only looking for a big contract, but also looking to stay in Toronto. Lowry was a little off on his shooting opening night (3-13) but did what he had to do to give this team an easy victory. Really happy he isn’t looking just to boost his stats. DeRozan, on the other hand has the money, but no respect. In this year’s Sports Illustrated Top 100 Basketball players, DeRozan ranked #46 which is unusually (and incredibly) low. DeRozan was understandably put off by this low ranking and may want to prove once again, why he is a two time all-star. Dropping 40 before the 4th quarter hasn’t even begun is quite a statement. Are you listening Sports Illustrated? The bad in all of this is that both players have played so well, I am not sure if they haven’t already reached their ceiling. If they do have another level, it will bode extremely well for the Raptors.
Love this view!!!! Pain? What pain…… pic.twitter.com/iZfZLmaUqR
— Jared Sullinger (@Jared_Sully0) October 25, 2016
The Raptors main acquisition last year was DeMarre Carroll. Unfortunately, he missed over 50 games last season due to a knee injury and he wasn’t 100% during the playoffs either. We are still not sure if he is fully recovered and how many minutes he plays with the team is important so that he can get on the same page with the other starters. What worries me (and therefore should worry you) is that this year’s main acquisition, Jared Sullinger is about to have foot surgery and will miss anywhere from 2-3 months. Apart from the missed action and being able to gel with his new teammates, there is another wrinkle to this injury. For those that may not know, Sullinger is a big boy… I mean a 260 lbs big boy and that’s a lot of weight for a foot to carry, so it worries me that a) how well will his foot heel, and b) if to improve the foot he can’t do regular work outs, what shape will he be in when he returns. This will be difficult for the trainers to manage and they should (pardon the pun) tread lightly. The good aspect about the Sullinger signing however, is that he knows this may be his last chance (like Bismack Biyombo last year) to prove to the NBA that he belongs and is here to stay. So he could potentially have a breakout season when he returns, depending on what’s left of that season at that time.
The “Not-so-Young” Kids
— Hoops Rumors (@HoopsRumors) July 10, 2015
The one area where there should be a dramatic increase in play (not necessarily production) is with Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross. We have all seen how well they can impact a game but we have also seen them drift by the wayside and be lost on both ends of the court. The one word we need to hear about both of them this year is consistency. Valanciunas was a monster opening night getting Andre Drummond in early foul trouble and finishing with 32 points and 11 boards. Ross only had 4 points, but he only took 4 shots as they kept feeding the hot hands. He was still active with 3 assists, 2 steals and 4 boards. Both though need to prove they are up for the 82 game grind and that they can be counted on consistently (there’s that word again) on both ends of the floor. Valanciunas had a difficult summer as he didn’t play as well as he wanted too in the Olympics. On top of that he also got called out by his coach on not putting in any effort. Having followed JV since he was drafted, I find the coaches comments hard to believe. I hope the summer was only an aberration and that now, back with his team and familiar surroundings, he can be that third scoring option the Raptors need. For Ross, his athleticism and energy can be such a factor on both ends of the floor. He doesn’t need to score 20 points a night, but hustle plays and hi-lite reel plays can get the crowd amped up and in turn, feed that energy to the rest of the team.
Overall, I think the minuses slightly outweigh the plusses and this team takes a slight step back. I doubt they will reach the 56 win plateau from last year but should finish around 50 and definitely in the playoffs. Post season success will depend a lot on matchups so we will wait for that. As much as it may seem like a disappointment to win fewer games than last year, keep in mind the Raptors are one of the youngest teams in the NBA so there is still a bright future ahead of them.
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