The Raptors have assembled a strange lineup and, to be 100% honest, I don’t even know what to think of it. The biggest move in the off-season was bringing in veteran
bowling ball point guard Kyle Lowry. I thought he was the best player on an underrated Houston team last year (mark my word – nobody will call Houston underrated this year). Especially for many of the smaller or more finesse PGs in the league, Lowry is a handful to guard on defense. DeMar DeRozan seemed to take a slight step back last year. I thought he was going to make the transition from mediocre NBA shooting guard to a solid option. His 42% from the field and 26% from downtown is seriously limiting him as a player. One player that did take a major step forward last year before getting injured was former #1 pick Andrea Bargnani. “Defense” is still not a word that translates will into his native Italian tongue, but the big man showed enough offense to garner some possible all-star whispers for the first time in his career. Initially thought of as a major bust, Bargnani has quietly but steadily improved in each of his six seasons. Another season of improvement would be welcome to Toronto Raptors fans. The signing of Landry Fields is a head scratcher. Initially, it was thought to be done to lure Steve Nash to Toronto and block the Knicks from being able to sign Nash. The thought of the Knicks opting against signing Nash, though, in favor of keeping Fields was kind of insane to begin with. The Raps had better hope Fields ups his game or they just tied up a lot of cap for not a lot of player.
2011 Draft pick Jonas Valanciunas will make his debut this season. He’s very raw offensively at this point (he averaged just 3.6 pts and 3 boards per game in the London Olympics), but he’s a big body. He’s looked good in the pick and roll which should suit Lowry well. He’s looked better in the past in Euro basketball and World Championships. If he can become the best version of his skill set, he’s someone who can provide some help for the Lowry and Bargnani.
The bench is doesn’t have a whole lot of offense firepower. Former starter Jose Calderon is a prime candidate to get moved to a playoff contender in need of point guard as he’s vastly overpaid but in the last year of his deal. Amir Johnson should continue to thrive in his role as scariest dude in the league who can defend and get a few rebounds. I think there is a decent chance Ed Davis makes a jump this year. Remember, he was in his second year last year (a year a lot of players make “the jump”), but we had no training camp, no exhibition season, and no summer workouts with the team. Offensively, he’s not there but he’s still long, he rebounds, and he blocks shots. He’s not going to be an All-Star, but at just 22, I could see him mold into being a solid NBA power forward. Rookie Terrence Ross has all the physical tools to succeed in the league, but I worry that I see a little Wes Johnson in him. As a rule, I’m not particularly in love with wing players that can’t get to the free throw line.
Biggest question mark
What kind of player is Jonas Valanciuas going to be? I don’t think we’re going to have the answer after two games or even two seasons, draftexpress has his celing as “Andris Biedrins Meets Joakim Noah”. Even his work case comparison (Omer Asik) just got paid. My favorite Monday podcaster Jalen Rose (“…got to give the people… give the people what they wantttttt!”) claims if you are 7 feet tall and can walk and chew gum at the same time, there is an NBA roster spot waiting for you.
Predicted season scenario
Another team I can see going one of two ways. The bottom of the East is so pathetic. Bargnani and Lowry have the ability to carry this team to way more wins than they should. I think they will be another team that might be a tough out, but the mediocre bench is going to kill them over the course of the season.
Predicted Record: 27-55