“Toronto Raptors. After a busy summer, the Raptors enter this season with high expectations. The message coming out of Toronto is that this team is much better than last year’s squad, which won 23 games, and that making the playoffs is a realistic goal.
The Raptors bring back their core from last season while adding key contributors such as Kyle Lowry, Landry Fields, Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross.
Dealing a first-round pick for Lowry was a steal for Toronto. It may have been the most underrated acquisition of the summer. Lowry was exceptional last year, playing at an All-Star level for the Houston Rockets prior to missing games due to a bacterial infection. He’s one of the best defensive point guards in the league. On the offensive end, he’s improving as a shooter and he’ll make his teammates much better with his excellent court vision. He’s also great at drawing fouls and he’s statistically the best rebounding point guard in the league. Lowry is a difference maker. Not to mention, he’s already emerging as a leader in Toronto, which the Raptors desperately needed.
The Raptors are much better with Lowry running the team and they still have Jose Calderon, who will either be an exceptional sixth man or an attractive trade chip that Toronto can move for another contributor prior to the trade deadline.
If Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan can take the next step in their development, Toronto should be able to grab the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. Bargnani showed glimpses of brilliance last year and, if he can stay healthy, he seems poised for a breakout season. DeRozan regressed last season, but he’s expected to step up and produce in a contract year.
The Raptors are flying under the radar entering the season, but they could end up being the biggest sleeper in the league. They have plenty of talent and if they can mesh under head coach Dwane Casey, this team should be able to exceed expectations and make the playoffs for the first time since 2007-08.” – Alex Kennedy