Roundtable

2018-19 Raptors Season Preview Panel, Part One

It’s time for basketball. For deep dives into everyone on the roster, read our player previews here. Before actual basketball blow our theories and projections out of the water, let’s preview the season. Assemble, Raptors Republic writers! You can find part two here.

1. What are you most excited about for the 2018-19 season?

William Lou:

Kawhi Leonard. Duh. The Raptors haven’t had a top-five player since peak Vince Carter, and even then it was borderline. We’ve seen great regular season success in this era built off two borderline stars, long benches, and organizational structure, but never have we cheered for a legitimately elite player.

Katie Heindl:

Seeing the way everyone works. Seeing the lineups Nick Nurse puts together using the new pieces he’s got but with an eye to improving his core, and how far he’s going to push getting creative. Also seeing basketball again.

Sam Holako:

It’s very difficult to change the culture when the entire organization runs it back, so what we have this season is the 2nd year of that culture change with new people in key roles: Nurse in-place of Casey and Kawhi in-place of DeRozan. The upgrade in player talent is obvious, but you have NEW guys with NEW skills and NEW goals in a NEW system that seem to align with the team Ujiri wants to roll out. On a personal level, I haven’t been this excited for a Raptor season in a long time.

Zarar Siddiqi:

A legitimate chance of going to the NBA Finals. The Raptors have never been in a position where they’re even in the conversation to reach that far, so this is new.  The US media will “disrespect” them and give Boston and Philly the edge, and the Raptors should welcome that. Better to be underdogs and surprise than favorites and disappoint.

Vivek Jacob: 

Kawhi Leonard. Call it the boring answer but he’s the best player in franchise history and he might only be around for one season, buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Shyam Baskaran:  

Having a real chance at a Finals appearance. We’ve said that mid-season before, but never at the start of the season did it ever seem like it could really be a possibility. I’m excited to know that every night will be a litmus test on whether the Finals really are is a realistic goal. With great roster construction comes great scrutiny, and the Raptors will be no different … but being in the NBA spotlight with a top-5 player on your roster on a nightly basis is going to be awesome.

Tim Chisolm:

Watching what this team is going to do to opposing teams on defence. Their length, athleticism, and focus should engulf teams for long stretches of games and wreck havoc on opposing offences. We’ve never seen anything like the defensive potential of this team in Toronto. This is a franchise that has historically been known for its pitiful lack of defensive acumen, and now they could easily top the league’s defence this season.

Cooper Smithers:

As much as I am fascinated by the Pascal Siakam experiment as a point guard – it’d be disingenuous to not answer with the potential to watch the franchise’s best player in Kawhi Leonard. Additionally, i’ll be curious to see where Nick Nurse and Dwane Casey differ. I think Casey often gets a raw deal, and instances where Nurse might experiment can be traced back to his tenure in many ways (Zone D, Pascal Siakam as a play-maker, shooting a ton of 3PA’s, etc…), but coaching is collaborative anyways.

Josh Howe:

Why are the simplest questions always the most difficult to answer? I’m hyped for everything, man. Getting to watch Kawhi Leonard every night, Kyle Lowry’s surliness, Pascal Siakam’s slightly increased role, Jonas Valanciunas having more space than ever on offense, Delon Wright’s silky eurosteps, Nick Nurse’s creative style, Blake Murphy’s mailbags. Everything. I’m just stoked about everything.

Josh Weinstein:

The development of Pascal Siakam. He’s come a long way since manning the team’s starting power forward position as a raw rookie. Now, with an excellent, highly energized two-way game, Pascal’s ready to wreak havoc and dissect defences in 2018-19.

Anthony Doyle:

Coming out of last year’s playoffs, I wasn’t excited at all about the next season, because I felt like that core had done as much as they were going to do, and simply running it back again didn’t appeal to me at all. The trade has brought new paths forward for the franchise, and has given them solutions to the playoff problems they’ve had. It’s just exciting to have that on the horizon, and while there’s a whole season to go through to get there, watching this team adjust and learn together will be a fun journey, and there’s the potential for this to be a truly special team.

Alex Gres:

Besides the obvious addition of a bonafide 2-way superstar – defense. I am VERY interested to see how this group meshes on that side of the ball, with long-armed and feisty defenders in virtually every position. While I could still see the Raps have difficulty generating consistent offense at the highest level, the potential of their defense could keep them afloat in every important game this year.

Matt Shantz:

What is there not to be excited about?  Riddle me that.  But if I had to pick just one it will be watching OG and Kawhi terrorize on defence together.  Imagine using a screen to escape OG, only to have the Claw step up to steal the ball and your soul in the process.  It’s going to be glorious.

Trung Ho:

Primarily just the fact that it’ll be a lot different. We’ve had a lot of the same over the past four years (exceptional regular seasons, early playoff exits), so it’ll be exciting to see the circus around Kawhi and the team over the entire season.I’m also excited that we now have probably a top-3 defensive lineup in the league (Lowry-Green-Kawhi-OG-Ibaka?).

Oren Weisfeld:

Kawhi Leonard. Say what you will about DeMar DeRozan, but he was one of the most entertaining players to ever put on a Raptors jersey. I’m excited to see what Kawhi brings to the table, offensively and defensively, and I’m excited to watch the Raptors defence collectively smother teams and collect steals like it’s nobody’s business.

Sam Folk:

Kawhi Leonard is without question THE event every night the Raptors play and I’ll be hanging on each possession he handles. That being said, the progression of Pascal Siakam is what I’m most looking forward to. There’s potential for an All-Star in that body of his and Siakam fulfilling that is truly what makes us the Spurs of the East.

Colin Connors:

Personally, I’m most excited to see if Delon Wright makes another jump this year. With him being a restricted free agent this coming offseason at age 26, this is his opportunity to prove to another team he’s worthy of a starting role.

Louis Zatzman:

The diversity of possibility is most exciting for me. The Raptors last year ran two lineups for the vast majority of their minutes on the floor, which was successful; however, it meant that we knew what to expect. This year, you want a Siakam-at-center look? Check! Three wings? Three point guards? Transitional lineups with Siakam handling and Van Vleet and Lowry scooting around screens? Triple check! It’s all going to be tried out before the playoffs, which will be fun even if it doesn’t result in a record number of wins for the franchise.

2. Has the preseason raised, lowered, or failed to change your expectations for this team immediately after the Kawhi Leonard trade?

William Lou:

Nothing changed. All we learned is that Nick Nurse wants to have a very fluid starting unit and that he wants to go small. Kawhi’s jumper was rusty but he still managed to be effective. The first three games of the regular season will be infinitely more telling.

Katie Heindl:

It’s had me buy into the hype a least a little bit, but my expectations remain firmly linear until the season really gets underway. I’ll be honest, it still feels strange not to see DeRozan on the court, a part of me is still going to be watching for him in the first few games.

Sam Holako:

Hard to divine much from the preseason other than we have a different style of play to look forward too. Kawhi’s minutes were controlled but he looked really good (rust aside). Siakam looks like he’s going to be fantasy basketball steal of the season, and …. OF COURSE THE PRESEASON RAISED EXPECTATIONS; FFS!! It’s going to be a good season and we got a taste of what to look forward too; the preseason did its job imho.

Zarar Siddiqi:

They have slightly raised because Kawhi appears to be happy and open to giving Toronto a fair shot. It’s early days, and signs on that front are positive.

Vivek Jacob:

Raised my expectations. One of the biggest question marks I personally had regarding Nick Nurse was his willingness to be his own man and truly put his own stamp on the team. With the different lineups to start each half, the flashes of defensive potential and his very down-to-earth manner in how he’s taking all the information in, I’m thoroughly impressed with what I’ve seen from him so far.

Shyam Baskaran:

Failed to change. The pre-season is what it is. It’s mostly a conditioning drill for the players, and helps to test out certain schemes and lineups. But from a win/loss perspective, we can’t read too much into it. The true test will be when the games start to count, and we start seeing this team’s closing lineups, particularly against elite teams in the league like the Celtics, Warriors, Rockets, etc.

Tim Chisolm:

I really hope everyone’s answer is that it failed to change their expectations. What could anyone have possibly learned? Nick Nurse did exactly what he’s been promising since he got the job, which was to mix and match lineups whenever the mood strikes him, and the players all played some preseason version of what we know they’re all capable of. I remain unmoved.

Cooper Smithers:

Including recency bias where the Raptors’ defense engulfed the Nets in the 2nd half of their penultimate preseason game – it raised the ceiling. Offensively they just make too much sense to not do well, in addition to being elite for 5 years. But that preseason performance was so dominant that it has to excite fans.

Josh Howe:

I suppose it’s failed to change it. The preseason was the perfect testing ground for Nurse to try things out with no consequences, and he did just that, sometimes playing the starters only in first halves, sometimes not playing them at all, etc. It’s difficult to have your expectations alter drastically when games are being played with experimentation as the sole purpose, rather than experimentation and winning. So I stand exactly where I’ve stood since the deal: Very excited and high on what this roster can accomplish.

Josh Weinstein:

This team is oozing with potential. This pre-season has shown us flashes of what the Raptors could be. With Kawhi and the guys still developing chemistry, expect this team to only get better from here on out.

Anthony Doyle:

I didn’t have a lot of expectations from preseason, aside from just getting out healthy. Aside from a slightly banged up Delon Wright and Norman Powell, that was achieved, and we got a game of Pascal Siakam looking fantastic going head to head with Anthony Davis, one of the best players in the game. I suppose I’d say my expectations are slightly raised based on the growth shown by Siakam and Anunoby, but I was already pretty high on this team and there’s a ceiling on how high your expectations can be in any given season.

Alex Gres:

It didn’t change anything for me. Preseason is there to build some chemistry, get folks back into shape, and experiment with some new sets. And if Nurse is to be believed, there’ll be some element of that in the regular season as well.

Matt Shantz:

Due to scheduling I ended up only watching two of the pre-seasons games, with small parts of others, and basing any conclusions off of preseason always seems foolish.  It is going to take time and their new players to adjust to one another, and for Nick Nurse to make his impression, but I was at least encouraged by glimpse.  Against Utah we saw pieces of the Raptors overall potential, as they locked down on defence and scored at will (for stretches) against one of last year’s best defensive units.

Trung Ho:

Because it’s preseason, it’s hard to definitively make statements about expectations, but I’m excited. We’ve seen how deep the club is and how many different possible lineups we’ll have to throw at different teams. We’ve yet to see Kawhi in his 2014 Finals MVP form (obviously), so that’ll be exciting to watch his progression.

Oren Weisfeld:

My biggest takeaway from the preseason had to do with Nick Nurse’s fluid lineups and the separation of JV and Ibaka. Although playing those two together gave the Raptors a lot of size and rebounding, they got burned in the playoffs because of their inability to switch across multiple positions as neither of those two have the speed to guard smaller players on the perimeter. I think separating JV and Ibaka is genius because not only will it push those two to compete for the starting (or finishing) center position all season, but it will enable the Raptors to play small and fast throughout the season and not be caught off guard come playoff time when playing small is most advantageous.

Sam Folk:

The preseason didn’t move the needle for me at all. If Leonard plays to his full capability I expect a first place finish and a finals bid. If he’s up and down, I expect 2nd or 3rd.

Colin Connors:

Lowered. As exceptional as Kawhi Leonard has looked, it’s clear it’ll take time to return to peak form. That might cost a few games early on.

Louis Zatzman:

The preseason dramatically raised my hype level, if not expectations. It’s one thing to imagine your favourite sports team as the Death Star, and it’s another to see it.

3. The Raptors have had a number of seasons in a row where the regular season meant nothing, and the playoffs were the only measuring stick. Has that changed?

William Lou:

I disagree with the premise for two reasons. One, the regular season always has meaning because you can’t just invalidate the thrill of watching a team win consistently for six months, regardless of how hallowing those playoff failures felt. Two, the Raptors have never operated like the regular season was meaningless – just look at Game 82 when Fred VanVleet got hurt because Dwane Casey wanted No. 60. The regular season matters and the playoffs matter more, as it always was.

Katie Heindl:

I disagree with this line of comparison in general. How can the regular season mean nothing? Obviously things have consistently fallen apart in the postseason but to discount completely the improvements made, just as consistently, in the regular season is like saying this team has to start from scratch every year. Now, this year they really do start from scratch, so we’ll see how that goes.

Sam Holako:

Somewhat…yea..definitely. The regular season is still important, but we know this team is going to be top 2 in the East; a not so dark horse finals team. You need to be in the conversation at all times, and they have put themselves in that position with the moves they made this offseason. 60+ wins and at least 7 hard fought games in the eastern finals are the bar for success.

Zarar Siddiqi:

Not at all. In fact, last season reinforced that view, and we should interpret regular season results with caution.  The playoffs have been the measuring stick since the second time the Lowry/DeRozan combo made the playoffs (the first dedicated to getting your feet wet).

Vivek Jacob:

I don’t buy the “regular season means nothing” talk. If all people cared about were playoff performances, I assure you Toronto wouldn’t have a hope in hell of re-signing Kawhi Leonard, let alone acquire him in the first place. The multiple 50 win seasons, the top seed in the conference, DeMar DeRozan’s growth, they’ve all made the big trade possible. The goal this season will be to win a championship, and the probability of that happening is higher than it’s ever been, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Shyam Baskaran:

I think so. If this was any other year, and we had mostly the same crew back (Casey, Lowry, DeMar specifically), I’d say playoff results was legitimately the only thing that mattered. But given how the roster moves (the bold and the subtle moves) have shaken out, and with the wholesale coaching changes, I think you’ve got to use the regular season to properly assess this team. Positive results in the regular season might prove that this team could do it in the post-season as well, but in any case, we won’t know until that first playoff game tips off.

Tim Chisolm:

Nope. Well, not really. The regular season is a ramp-up for the Playoffs for a team like Toronto. Nurse wants to be able to have more versatility in his attack when the Playoffs arrive, and that means that the regular season has to be a testing ground for those options. Weird lineups, quirky attacks, unpredictable defences — those things have to be honed over the next 82 games so that the Raptors aren’t so painfully predictable by their postseason opponents.

Cooper Smithers:

In a macro sense that sentiment makes sense, but the nuance within those seasons mattered too. The “Culture Reset” that took place last year set up confidence that this year’s team will work. It’ll be an interesting ride along the way – but an early exit would likely mean that the regular season felt meaningless.

Josh Howe:

Personally, I’m not of the opinion that regular seasons past, nor those in the future, have meant or will mean “nothing.” You don’t buy a book and only read the ending—the journey matters. That said, yes, the playoffs have been disappointing when the franchise has experienced such success over 82 games for the past few years. I do believe that this regular season will mean more than last (chemistry, gauging Leonard’s feelings on the team, experimenting with lineups, etc.), but the playoffs will remain the ultimate measuring stick, as always. Like with any good story, every single page is important.

Josh Weinstein:

I wouldn’t say so. It’s important the Raptors establish themselves as the true team to beat in the Eastern Conference, especially with LeBron now in LA. Ultimately, this team will be judged in the post-season, but the 82-game grind will still serve as a great way for the team to solidify its rotations and build winning habits.

Anthony Doyle:

Not really. The regular season will be interesting in terms of calibrating expectations for new coach Nick Nurse and getting a feeling for just how healthy Kawhi Leonard is, as well as developing the young guys, but the simple fact is that this team will be evaluated based on how they do in the playoffs, and the playoffs probably will play a large part in determining whether or not Kawhi stays past this season. It’s unfortunate, because this will likely be a very enjoyable Raptors season, but in terms of narratives, it just won’t matter. When the Raptors succeed, expect to see a lot of people saying “But can they do it in the playoffs?”, regardless of how those narratives actually fit.

Alex Gres:

Yes and no. No, because Nurse has already stated he’ll continue to experiment throughout the regular season to give them the largest array of possible options in the postseason, and that’s where Toronto needs to take the next step as a franchise. Yes, because Toronto hasn’t had a player of Kawhi’s caliber since Vince (different players, but Vince definitely had star power). With the uncertainty regarding his future with the club past next summer, us Raps fans will relish his talents every moment he steps on the floor. This should keep the regular season exciting and somewhat meaningful.

Matt Shantz:

This season’s team, at least on paper, has the best chance in franchise history at making a run to the finals, but ironically that isn’t the only thing that will define this season for Toronto as many fans are already looking past the playoffs towards Kawhi’s free agency decision.

Trung Ho:

It’s changed this year for the obvious reasons. There’s a lot to prove in these 82 games. Every game will likely draw some sort of new take or projection on/for the club, which I’d argue we haven’t really seen since the pre-We The North era. We’ve landed a top-5 player under special circumstances and with pressure to make a perfect one-year run out of it, so all eyes will be on us the entire year.

Oren Weisfeld:

Not really, although home court advantage is always good to have. At the end of the day this Raptors team is going to be measured on their playoff success, and Kawhi is likely only going to stay if they have playoff success. They are simply too skilled and too deep to justify not going deep in the playoffs.

Sam Folk:

Even though the Raptors have a ton of young talent that we’ll enjoy watching improve, unfortunately the season is completely dependent on the playoff performance. Finals or bust, most likely.

Colin Connors:

The regular season might actually mean more this year considering the large part it’ll play in convincing Leonard to stay. If the team flirts with 60 wins and Leonard is heavily involved in MVP discussions all year, it makes Toronto that much harder to walk away from.

Louis Zatzman:

It’s tiring to watch the regular season knowing that the Raptors will win 50+ games, with little-to-no additional information that wasn’t present the year before. The culture change was fun last year, but this season will be new and wild. I can’t wait to learn all the things, good and bad. For the first time in several years, I don’t know what will happen – and more importantly, I don’t know what it will look like on the floor. I’m as excited for the regular season this year as the playoffs, which hasn’t been true for a long time.

4. A variety of possible root issues behind the Raptors’ playoff demons seems to be gone, as DeMar DeRozan and Dwane Casey have been shipped off. Is this team better equipped to hold up in the playoffs?

William Lou:

Yes and no. They’re better equipped because Leonard is just straight-up better in every facet than DeRozan, and even though Nurse is a question mark, it was certain that Casey would panic and cost the Raptors something in the playoffs. But they still have this issue where if teams aggressively double Leonard and force him to give up the ball, they can’t rely on a consistent second scorer. They also don’t have a versatile defensive big that can reliably play over 30 minutes a game.

Katie Heindl:

On paper, sure, but so was the team in years prior. There’s no doubt the new pieces on this team can deliver, that Kawhi Leonard can be the missing piece he’s being touted as and add a new depth to the Raptors that was missing throughout the last few playoffs. Likewise, Nurse is a new coach on paper, sure, but so was the team in years prior. There’s no doubt the new pieces on this team can deliver, that Kawhi Leonard can be the missing piece he’s being touted as and add a new depth to the Raptors that was missing throughout the last few playoffs. Likewise, Nurse is a new coach as much as he’s old guard, and the pressure’s on him to take this team farther than they’ve ever gone “or else”.

Sam Holako:

Yes. They are deeper, and better both defensively and offensively. Not much else to say.

Zarar Siddiqi:

There are three reasons I believe this to be the case: 1) Just a straight swap of DeRozan/Leonard means we have gone from a negative to a positive in a position which plays 30-35 minutes a game.  That’s huge. 2) The natural progression of the young guys due to experience will return higher defensive yields, improving our overall defense. 3) I would have to believe that the offense will improve enough that we are not entirely predictable.  This could be due to better use of JV, more equitable ball distribution, and just better movement in crunch time.

Vivek Jacob:

In theory, yes. But time will tell, Their performance against the elite teams and their ability to be flexible and versatile defensively will have to shown on more than just paper.

Shyam Baskaran:

On paper, absolutely. Wing depth, defensive tweaks, and having a top-5 player on both sides of the ball are huge factors that make playoff success more achievable. Great offense and coaching can win you regular season games – the Raptors showed that last year. But defense and talent usually win out in the playoffs, and Toronto has made major upgrades in both categories this off-season.

Tim Chisolm:

Seeing as how they now have arguably the best player in the Eastern Conference (sorry Giannis), that should mean that the answer is yes. Typically, the team with the best player emerges victorious in most Playoff battles. That’s not always true, but it’s true often enough. Leonard tips the scales heavily in Toronto’s favour, now the club just has to make sure that they are maximizing his effectiveness.

Cooper Smithers:

I have my reservations that Casey was conclusively a root cause of their playoff failures, but I do feel they are better equipped. DeMar DeRozan is a fantastic player, but an inherently flawed one that doesn’t scale up when playing with better talent, and has a finite limit to how effective he can be against elite competition. No such limitations or flaws apply to Leonard. He might not reach those heights, but on a theoretical level he has no inherent flaws and only gets more valuable once the competition gets better.

Josh Howe:

Yes. DeRozan is a very good player, but throughout his career he has been rather easy to game-plan for in the playoffs, not to mention he’s been a colander defensively. In his stead now is Kawhi Leonard, a player boasting all of the offensive prowess without any of the defensive deficiencies. As for Casey, he is also very good at his job (I think he’ll be solid in Detroit), but there are things you can definitely critique about his decision-making in the postseason, and Nurse was hired specifically to do a better job with the micro details that Casey struggled with.

Josh Weinstein:

Yes, so long as everyone stays healthy. The defensive potential of this group is scary, and that matters when the games start to slow down in the post-season and mid-court execution is of the utmost importance.

Anthony Doyle:

Yes. The simple truth is that DeRozan was, as good as he is, a limited player who’s flaws became focal points in the playoffs and who became a liability, frequently. Leonard brings the same positives as DeRozan, in that both are dominant offensive presences with the ball in their hands, but Leonard also has to be respected off-ball, opening up space for other guys in the offense, and he also is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, which should help a Raptors defense that struggled against elite offenses a year ago. At the same time, Casey, who was a fantastic coach in Toronto throughout his tenure, had some issues with a rigid rotation in the postseason that kept rearing their heads, and Nick Nurse thus far seems much more open to being flexible and looking for adjustments that may better fit the situation.

Alex Gres:

Absolutely. We can have a number of lineups in which every player can hold their own defensively, and most are able to switch as needed too. That alone should give us a chance to win in every game. It doesn’t hurt that we’ve added two guys with legitimate championship pedigree as well.

Matt Shantz:

Toronto’s roster is deep and versatile, with the ability to play both big and small.  The league continues to move further towards positionless basketball, requiring players who can defend a variety of players on any one possession.  The Raptors are now full of these players (Kawhi, OG, Green, Lowry, Delon, Siakam, etc.), having removed their biggest defensive liability, and can should be better prepared to succeed in the playoffs.

Trung Ho:

On paper they are certainly better equipped now to hold up in the playoffs. Your only real competitor in the east pound-for-pound will be Boston, and past that, you now have new pieces (Kawhi, Green, Nurse) that have really re-shaped the team to be able to match up with the Western Conference elites.

Oren Weisfeld:

Yes. As Masai Ujiri said after the trade, the Raptors gave the core of Lowry, DeRozan and Casey multiple tries and they couldn’t get it done. Replacing DeRozan with a healthy Kawhi and adding Danny Green makes this team scary on the defensive end without sacrificing much offensively. Additionally,  Nurse is getting everyone used to playing with each other while playing smaller, faster lineups who push the pace and play a more modern game that is better equipped to challenge the top contenders in the East. Finally, the young guys like OG, Fred, Delon, and Siakam have another year under their belt and should take significant steps forward this season. The Raptors should be dangerous come playoff time.

Sam Folk:

DeRozan is my favourite player of all time. It’s sad to say, but his exit and Leonard’s entrance could very well be a panacea for the Raptors playoff woes. Leonard is larger than life in the eastern conference. I expect that to be hugely evident in the playoffs.

Colin Connors:

One of the worst parts of DeRozan’s past second season shortcomings is the national media’s grouping of Kyle Lowry into that same conversation. In actuality, Lowry has produced at, or above, expected levels in recent years. With Lowry still in the fold, and Leonard— who was number #1 in playoff PER his last appearance— it’s undoubtable they’re better equipped. Additionally, Nurse’s experimental nature should have the team more prepared to lean heavily on certain lineups more for series at a time.

Louis Zatzman:

This team is built for the playoffs because of its defensive versatility. If Siakam can actually rebound on the defensive glass now (tbd), that gives the Raptors four or five more legitimate lineup variations than they had last year. If Nurse is true to his word, and experiments with lineups, the Raptors will be far more insulated from injuries in the playoffs than they were last year, when a Van Vleet injury was catastrophic. More defence, more wings, and more options should equate to more wins when it counts.

5. Do you favour a three-wing starting lineup that likely includes Danny Green-Leonard-OG Anunoby, or would you rather another big at the power forward spot, either in Serge Ibaka or Pascal Siakam?

William Lou:

I prefer the Raptors to play the match-ups. If they’re going against a smallball team like the Celtics, then start with three wings. If they’re going against Detroit, then trot two bigs out there. Nurse is willing to empower all his bigs to play every role – we’re even seeing Jonas as a playmaker out of the post – so they should be interchangeable.

Katie Heindl:

I like and want Siakam in the mix, and as a big he’s got an added bonus of speed and fluidity that Ibaka lacks. He compliments Leonard and Anunoby because he can bring size and physicality, versatility and quickness. 

Sam Holako:

Ibaka and JV aren’t great together, and you need Siakam’s energy off the bench in the long term, but as long as the guys have well defined roles when on the court, being fluid with the starting lineups to start the season should be goal in-order to find the winning recipe. A Green/Leonard/OG wing rotation is tantalizing though.

Zarar Siddiqi:

I don’t care who starts.

Vivek Jacob:

I like the way Nurse is going about it. I’ve always wondered why matchups don’t play a bigger factor during the regular season and why people just stick with the tried and tested method of the same starting lineup over and over. Play the matchups, see what sticks, find solutions for what doesn’t, and you’ll be better for it in the post-season. All that being said, I can see the three-wing lineup along with Valanciunas at center as the most regularly used “opening” lineup.

Shyam Baskaran:

It’ll probably be a game-to-game decision (and rightfully so), but if I had to pick, I’d go with a three-wing starting lineup, with possibly Serge or JV at the 5. It’s a lineup that could suffer rebounding-wise, but the on-ball defense would be off the charts, and depending on how opposing teams execute their wing rotations, it could prove to be the type of shooting lineup that makes the Raps potent on both ends of the floor.

Tim Chisolm:

Definitely OG. He offers more predictable three-point shooting than Siakam, and the team should be more focused on expanding OG’s game than worrying about catering to the last year’s of Ibaka’s effectiveness. You get terrific switch-ability with Anunoby joining Green and Leonard in the starting five, and Siakam is the motor that makes that bench unit run so you’d hate to lose that punch.

Cooper Smithers:

I’m a little surprised that Ibaka-Valanciunas pairing is getting next-to-no run, especially considering the starting 5 last year had an elite net rating amongst 5-man combinations. Ultimately, having the flexibility to go either way is important, and there is very little 3-wing data to go off of, so I am open to it. In short – some combination of both being available is likely best.

Josh Howe:

I prefer the former, though I don’t think I dislike the latter as much as some do. Either way, the team is going to show off a variety of looks, so we will likely get to see every combination we’ve been looking forward to or dreading. I do think that when the dust settles and the playoffs begin, the Raps will typically stick with a three-wing starting unit, as it’s simply the most versatile and all-around lethal.

Josh Weinstein:

I think Pascal would be a good fit in the starting five, then have Ibaka come in off the bench. My ideal starting five: Lowry/Green(or OG, it’s a toss up)/Leonard/Siakam/JV.

Then again, with Nick Nurse shuffling rotations as much as he plans to, this may not matter much in the end.

Anthony Doyle:

The three-wing lineup seems destined to happen, and I’m fine with it. Also, the Ibaka-Valanciunas pairing was fine a season ago, and is probably underrated at this point. Nurse seems to favor the flexibility though, and with the team’s depth on the wing and in the guard spots, there’s some sense to starting smaller to fit in the minutes for everyone, and it allows the Raptors to match up better defensively off the bat. Hopefully this is something that they’ll adjust when the situation requires it, and that’s something to keep an eye on going into the season.

Alex Gres:

I’ll cop out and go with Nurse’s policy – experiment, keep it fluid, and adjust as needed.

Matt Shantz:

I’m a big supporter of Nurse’s plan to rotate the starters based on the game at hand.  For example, if Utah is starting Favors and Gobert I’d favour (pun!) starting Ibaka next to Jonas for some added size.  In general though, with the league trending smaller I’d be in favour of starting Green, Kawhi, and OG to bring the ability to switch everything.

Trung Ho:

I like it, it seems like an elite wing-defensive lineup. Even Pascal at the 5 for some super small-ball. It sounds like Nurse will have lots of variations of lineups depending on matchups, this would be one of my favourites to keep an eye on.

Oren Weisfeld:

It’s a complicated question because I think it’s more about speed than size. What I mean by that is that I rather start (and finish) with only one of JV or Ibaka on the floor, depending on the matchup and who’s playing better. With that said I do think Siakam is quick and athletic enough to guard multiple positions, unlike Ibaka (as we saw last playoffs), and so replacing Anunoby with Siakam in the starting (and finishing) lineups makes sense to me depending again on the matchup and who’s playing better.

Sam Folk:

If Anunoby can be the same player he was last year, at the very least, the Raptors best lineup will likely include him and Leonard. The 2nd game of the season against the Celtics should be a great look at how our wings bounce around the perimeter and switch on defence. I think a lot of potential waits for us in those lineups.

Colin Connors:

This should vary game to game, which is what Nurse has preached through much of preseason. Against traditional front courts such as Myles Turner-Domantas Sabonis in Indiana, I’d expect they substitute one of Siakam or Ibaka for Anunoby, but otherwise I favour starting small and embracing modern basketball.

Louis Zatzman:

I favour as much time as possible for Siakam alongside Lowry-Green-Leonard-Valanciunas as starters. Siakam’s ball-handling and passing will be gold when he’s alongside elite shooters like Lowry, Leonard, and possibly Green. Even if three wings is the right closing lineup against a variety of opponents, I think Siakam is the most versatile offensive and defensive option as a starter.

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