Season preview: Toronto Raptors

Season preview: Toronto Raptors

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Season preview: Toronto Raptors

STAYING: OG Anunoby, Lorenzo Brown, Serge Ibaka, Kyle Lowry, CJ Miles, Norman Powell, Malachi Richardson, Pascal Siakam, Jonas Valanciunas, Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright.

ADDED: Chris Boucher (Golden State), Kay Felder (Detroit), Danny Green (San Antonio), Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio), Jordan Loyd (Hapoel Eilat) and Greg Monroe (Boston).

GONE: DeMar DeRozan (San Antonio), Alfonzo McKinnie, Malcolm Miller, Lucas Nogueira and Jakob Poeltl (San Antonio).

STRENGTHS: On paper, it’s the best roster Toronto has ever assembled … Last time we saw healthy Kawhi Leonard, he was the best two-way player in basketball … If he gets anywhere near his 2015-17 form, he’s in the mix for best player in the Eastern Conference … He scores efficiently, doesn’t force matters and makes a massive impact on the defensive end … It’s just a great combination of talent, IQ, effort and gifted physique … Oh, and he wins … Not all his own doing, but Leonard actually has by far the best winning percentage in NBA history among players with at least 250 regular-season games … The Raptors bring back an elite point guard in Kyle Lowry … He’s quite the floor general … His vast improvement as an outside shooter over the years should prolong his career at the highest level … They have quality players at all five positions and terrific depth … Plenty of three-point shooting threats too … Even Jonas Valanciunas is hitting threes at a good rate, which should prevent him from sharing the same fate of other centers in the NBA … He’s a post-up beast too … For a team in win-now mode, they have a good number of young up-and-coming players … Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and Delon Wright were solid on secondarly roles last season and they should take a step forward this year … Toronto was the lone team in the Top 5 in both offensive and defensive rating in 2017-18 … They start off from a super high point … Great home-court advantage … Bête noire LeBron is no longer in the same conference, which Toronto fans will probably appreciate.

WEAKNESSES: You could question many things about Toronto the previous seasons, but they had good chemistry and played with effort with Dwane Casey and DeMar DeRozan there … They messed with a good thing … It could be for the better … Or not … Although still terrific for the Raptors, Lowry saw his performance drop off a bit last season … This will be his Age-33 campaign, so we may see more of that this year … Leonard is not the congenial guy DeRozan was and may have one eye out the door with free agency at the end of the season … Odd locker room fit? … With freakish athleticism gone, Ibaka has regressed quite a bit recently … Toronto’s playoff struggles are well documented … Can they put it together when it matters the most?

PREDICTION: 2nd in the Atlantic Division, 2nd in the Eastern Conference.

SALARIES:

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