We asked all of our writers to answer a series of preseason questions in 100 words or less. Some people wrote theirs as early as Oct. 17, so the odd comment may seem out of place. Leave your own brief answers in the comments, and check out part one if you missed it.
5. Make a bold prediction for the 2013-14 season.b>
Andrew Thompson Rudy Gay will resign with the Raptors. The hate has gone too far. I think that a smarter and more focused Rudy Gay with a defined role and functional vision is going to have a very good year. A franchise player year? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t a valuable asset. Oh, and before the comment section war ensues, remember, resigning doesn’t mean forever. Just ask Ujiri about Aaron Afflalo and Nene.
Blake Murphy Kyle Lowry plays well enough to get paid this offseason, but it won’t be by the Raptors. On the floor for 75 games and finding his role among some ball-dominant wings, Lowry utilizes his sometimes-excellent defense, strong guard rebounding and consistent outside stroke to create a buzz around himself entering the summer. Masai Ujiri, however, is hesitant to sign the check.
Garret Hinchey It’s sad that this is a “bold” prediction, but one of the Raptors’ backup point guards will emerge as a legitimate option to help take some pressure of Lowry. My money’s on Julyan Stone, and that would be best for the Raptors – a 6 foot 7 point guard who can defend three spots is a great luxury to have if he’s even passable running the floor. Both Stone and Dwight Buycks are green but have plenty of potential and could improve significantly in a short time.
Sam Holako D.J. Augustin wins most improved player of the year.
Tim Chisholm I think that DeMar DeRozan, and not Jonas Valanciunas, will be a Most Improved candidate. I’ve been stunned by his preseason play and in today’s efficiency-driven media landscape, a guy that turns himself from an efficiency nightmare into an efficiency darling would be a great poster child for that shift in focus and thinking.
Tim W. I’m predicting the team will start off the season 6-14 and Ujiri will start tearing the team down and trade Gay, Lowry and at least one other player.
William Lou The Raptors will win two playoff games against the Brooklyn Nets. That’s right, the Nets will be the 3rd seed, and the Raptors will be 6th. Everyone stays healthy and Ujiri sees enough “growth” to keep everyone around. The Raps make the playoffs, and win two games at home in games 3 and 4.
Zarar Siddiqi TNT and ESPN will pick up at least four Raptors games because of the buzz the team will create.
6. Will Rudy Gay finish the year on the team? Any others likely to be shipped out?
Andrew Thompson If Rudy is traded, it will be next summer or season once his contract is controlled and the overreactions have regressed. If DeMar breaks out, he’ll be traded early on enough to make sure the high lottery is still in play. If the lottery were in play, I would have to think that Lowry would be able to nab a pretty price from any contender or team with delusions of contention in need of a point guard. But if the team excels, the roster is too young for selling assets to make much sense.
Blake Murphy Gay will finish the year with Toronto. The market this year is definitely going to be a buyer’s market with a ton of names available from tanking teams. While Gay is maybe the best of the bunch, he also has a huge price tag; contending teams that are cognizant of the luxury tax would need to send back a lot of salary, too, making a deal even less acceptable to Ujiri.
Garret Hinchey This all comes down to how Terrence Ross develops – if he becomes a legitimate, consistent scoring option, then Gay will become expendable even in the short term. My money’s on no, but as I said in my column last week, he won’t be given away just for the sake of giving him away, even if the team decides to tank. As for the rest of the team, DeMar is probably the most likely to move if he disappoints, given the interest in him around the league and the terms of his contract.
Sam Holako Doesn’t make sense for him to; either the Raptors trade him (Bill Simmons thinks he makes sense on half the teams in the league), or he opts out and is the #1 free agent on the market. Feels like everyone on the roster is tradable at this point; you telling me if we were offered the #1 overall pick in this draft for JV that Masai wouldn’t lose a few nights sleep over it? How about a top 3 pick (this year) and Tobias Harris? See, you’re going to lose sleep now as well.
Tim Chisholm Yes, I think Rudy lasts the year. If there is a player that is mostly likely to be shipped out it is Terrence Ross. His year-over-year improvement looks marginal at best at this – admittedly – early juncture, and rebuilding teams may be intrigued enough by his potential to offer something of value to Toronto to nab him.
Tim W. I’m guessing Gay will be gone before Christmas, either to Milwaukee, Detroit, Washington or possibly Sacramento. I think Lowry and his expiring contract will also go, so that Ujiri can get something for him while he still can. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see DeRozan also traded.
William Lou He’ll stick around, but he’ll turn down his option at the end of the season and test free agency. If a key player suffers a prolonged injury (ie: Johnson, Valanciunas, Lowry), I see Ujiri turning Steve Novak, and Hansbrough into second round draft picks. Everyone needs capable bigs and three-point shooters.
Zarar Siddiqi He will get traded to a team that thinks he could be a Rashard Lewis-type of player – Gay’s value around the deadline would be as an expiring deal the following year, or even presently if he decides to opt out. The Raptors will put feelers out on whether he’s likely to opt out, and if they think he won’t, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him shipped.
7. Will Dwane Casey be retained at the end of the season?
Andrew Thompson I think that whether or not the team plays well, we are going to start hearing George Karl rumors attributed to ‘anonymous sources’ by the all-star break. But I think that if the team responds to him, that is just going to end up being noise. Let’s put it this way: It’s his job to win, but not his job to lose. He won’t be here no matter what.
Blake Murphy No. Here’s the thing – Casey is a pretty good coach, but general managers only get a few coaching hires in their tenures, and I think Ujiri would want to avoid being tied to someone he didn’t choose as his first de factor hire. I’m also unsure promising assistants Bill Bayno and Nick Nurse were brought in just to assist, I think they’re both auditioning.
Garret Hinchey No – and a quick losing streak or poor start could see him out the door even sooner. Ujiri brought in his guys as assistants for a reason – the writing’s on the wall, and there’s not much Casey can do to change it, even if he improves his shortfalls (lineup decisions, mostly).
Sam Holako No; George Karl is still on the market. Here’s something to daydream about: Raptors stumble BADLY out the gate, Casey gets the boot by January, Karl takes over and the Raptors have a renaissance like the 2005 Nuggets did when he took over there…that thought makes me happy.
Tim Chisholm Yes. Casey is cheap and he focuses on real, tangible areas of the game. I don’t see the Raptors sending big bucks on an old school coach when they’ve invested so heavily in their analytics department. They are going new school upstairs and it says here that so long as Casey takes in that information he’ll be good to stick around going forward.
Tim W. No, I don’t see it. If the team doesn’t start off the season well and decides to rebuild, then it will be a good excuse for Ujiri to bring in a coach of his choosing. Maybe a coaching who’s better at developing players than Casey. I don’t see that coach being George Karl, who was Denver’s coach long before Ujiri was hired there.
On the other hand, even if the team doesn’t rebuild, I don’t think they’ll do well enough for Casey to save his job.
William Lou Probably not. Why would you? His teams have been unsuccessful and it’s not like he has a proven track record or something. He draws up terrible plays on offense and the Raptors’ defense isn’t very good either. Sorry, pal. I’m sure he’ll end up back on the bench as an assistant coach for a playoff team, drawing more zone defenses that feature Jason Kidd-types on Lebron James.
Zarar Siddiqi Yes. With help from Nick Nurse he’ll show enough improvement offensively to make a case that he can manage an NBA offense. Defensively, he’ll have a tough time teaching and convincing guys like Terrence Ross to pony up, but I feel that he’s a fundamentally good defensive mind to not show improvement over last year, even if it comes at the expense of pace. If Masai Ujiri didn’t think Casey was capable of the job, he’d already be gone.
8. Predict a record and playoff seed/result if applicable. Explain.
Andrew Thompson 43-39, 7th place seed. The battle for 13th-15th place in the East is going to be fiercer than the battle for 7th-10th. The top 5 teams seem to be a lock, but the Knicks, Cavs, Wizards, Pistons, Bucks, Hawks and Raps all have major chemistry and or injury concerns. The Raps are building on what they started at the end of last year and have the athleticism and bench to wear teams down with running, defense and getting free throws off drives. Plus, optimism is way more fun. Give it a shot.
Blake Murphy 38-44, eighth seed in the East. I know we’re selling hope here, but the 6-10 seeds are all very close such that a couple lucky breaks could see the Raptors sneak in. Of course, if there’s a single injury to the starting lineup, they’re doomed. Also worth considering – while preseason generally “doesn’t matter,” bad teams posting really good preseason records has actually shown to portend an improvement in the coming year.
Garret Hinchey I’m optimistic about the Raptors’ current roster being playoff caliber, but the East has improved drastically this year. I don’t see the Raps finishing ahead of Miami, Brooklyn, Indiana, or the Bulls, but they have a chance to be in the mix with New York, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Detroit, Atlanta, and Washington at the bottom of the playoff ladder. Let’s go with 41-41, an eighth place finish and a first round exit.
Sam Holako Lots of unknowns with this team, and my heart tells me 34 wins. However, it’s tough not to get excited by the solid pre-season. If Gay finishes the year in White Vegas, DeMar and JV take it up a notch, and the bench can set a tone and be aggressors, this team can compete for the 8th seed in the playoffs. We’ve seen enough from them to know that they are serious about competing, and nothing short of the front office Riggin for Wiggins (sorry) will change that.
Tim Chisholm I think the Raptors finish 38-44 and nab the eighth seed. I think Kyle Lowry’s inevitable injury will derail the team’s momentum at some point, but I think that the middle of the East is overhyped and that Toronto has a stellar starting five that they can ride into a first round slaughter by Miami.
Tim W. If the team does rebuild, then I’m going to predict a record of 25-57. If Ujiri doesn’t blow the team up, then I’m going to guess 39 wins and no playoffs.
William Lou The 2013-14 Toronto Raptors finish the season with a record of 44-38 and make the playoffs as the 6th seed in the East. Despite great fanfare, the Cavs will be snake-bitten with injuries to Irving, Bynum and Varajeo. The Wizards will fall apart without Okafor to center their defense and the Bucks will learn that only one of the words in Brandon Knight’s title “NBA-quality starting point guard” is true. The Raptors keep the core intact and Nick Nurse patches together a capable offense en route to second in the Atlantic (over the Knicks).