2017-18 NBA team season preview: Toronto Raptors

Preseason has wrapped up and now we anticipate what is to come from the Toronto Raptors this upcoming season.

In a team that seems to be attempting to change up their style of play, from heavy isolation to getting more players involved, the Raptors should be one of the more interesting teams to watch for this season.

Coming off of last season, finishing third in the east and getting swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round of the playoffs, the Raptors roster seems to look a lot different.

New Rotation

Four guys in the Raptors rotation, found a new home this off-season and now the Raptors will be looking at their young guys to fill in those gaps. Patrick Patterson and PJ Tucker, two guys that went out west this off-season, were probably the Toronto’s best defenders throughout last season.

Cory Joseph and DeMarre Carroll both staying in the east but were traded this off-season so the Raptors could avoid paying the luxury tax.

This means that guys like Norman Powell, Delon Wright, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl and Fred VanVleet should expect to be given the chance to prove what they can do for a Raptors team that is hoping to stay competitive in the east.

NBA Draft

Another player the Raptors may look to for minutes at the small forward position is rookie OG Anunoby. Toronto selected Anunoby with the 23rd pick in the 2017 NBA Draft and should be ecstatic that he actually fell to them.

The former Indiana Hoosier, was considered a lottery pick by many but a knee injury that he sustained back in January, made the interest for the young prospect fall drastically. ESPN’s Chad Ford, even had Anunoby slotted at 13 before the injury.

Head coach of the Raptors, Dwane Casey, even said Anunoby is a top-10 pick and the Raptors were lucky to get him.

OG has played in a few pre-season games but the Raptors seem to be slowly easing him into the NBA for precautionary reasons. Anunoby has a lot of expectations to be great in his first year, as the Raptors are very thin at the small forward position.

Who Starts at Small Forward?

Speaking of the small forward position, it’s still a mystery on who coach Casey will select to start. The spot is up for grabs between Norman Powell and CJ Miles.

Both guys have gotten their chance to see how they gel with the starters during pre-season but it seems like it could go either way at this point.

The argument for Powell is that he’s been most productive starting, when looking at his stats compared to coming off the bench. Powell is also probably the better defender and with the new contract he signed, you’d expect the guy that makes more money to get the start.

In CJ Miles’ case, the Raptors would love to space the floor more for their two all-stars, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, to make it easier on them offensively.

You’ll have to tune in on October 17 when the Raptors take on the Chicago Bulls to see who Casey inserts at the three spot.

Mixing & Matching

With a shortened pre-season, you would guess Casey would have loved more time to get a feel of the 9-10 man rotation he’d like to run with for the majority of the season.

Expect there to be a lot of work shopping early on with weird lineups and guys you’d think wouldn’t work together, get their time on the court with one another to find something that gels.

Will be interesting to see how the pairing of Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas are for the starting group as Casey doesn’t seem to like having them out there together for long periods of time.

Expect Jonas to possibly get more time with the second unit, to provide scoring to a young inexperienced group.

Raptors Depth Chart

PG: Kyle Lowry/Delon Wright/Fred VanVleet

SG: DeMar DeRozan/Norman Powell/KJ McDaniels

SF: CJ Miles/OG Anunoby/Bruno Caboclo

PF: Serge Ibaka/Pascal Siakam/Alfonzo McKinnie

C: Jonas Valanciunas/Lucas Nogueira/Jakob Poeltl

Last Roster Spot

Both McDaniels and McKinnie are battling for that last spot on the roster and if it was my guess and preference, McKinnie should and would be a great addition to this Raptors team.

McKinnie’s leaping ability is one to watch out for and the Raptors new style of play of moving the ball and knocking down more three’s helps in his benefit as he hopes to get that last roster spot.

McDaniels on the other hand, doesn’t seem to fit the Raptors knew style of play as he’s shot a career 29 per cent from beyond the arc. The one thing that’s working in McDaniels favor is his familiarity with the league being a second round pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Many believed he was destined for big things given the chance but those opportunities seem to have not been there for him and it might also not be here in Toronto.

Raptors Standing in the East

It’s quite obvious the Raptors are fighting to stay relevant. Yes, they’re still considered a top team in the eastern conference but the real question is for how long?

The Cleveland Cavaliers somehow found a way to get better than they already were, trading away a distraught Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics for Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder and adding Dwyane Wade after he was bought out of his contract with the Chicago Bulls. They also got in return the Brooklyn Nets first round pick for next season, that is likely to be a top-5 pick.

So the question is how do you beat that?

The logical answer is you probably don’t. You gotta hope that the new additions don’t gel but any team LeBron James is on has a really good chance at making it to the NBA Finals.

The next team you would expect to be the most competitive with Cleveland from the east, is Boston. Boston adding Gordon Hayward and Irving to their starting group gives them the best shot at dethroning the Cavaliers.

Yes, they lost some key guys in Avery Bradley and Crowder that made Boston but they were able to make up for some of that loss in drafting Jayson Tatum and acquiring Marcus Morris from Detroit.

The Celtics traded the first overall pick in this past draft to draft the freshman from Duke so you would guess that they must have a lot faith in his abilities to be able to be a guy to produce right away for them.

After Cleveland and Boston the second tier teams in the east same to be the Raptors, Washington Wizards and the Milwaukee Bucks.

From that point on, the east looks to be wide open as teams like the Miami Heat and the Charlotte Hornets will probably be the next batch of teams destined for the 2017-2018 NBA playoffs.

Predicting Raptors Season

If one had to make a prediction for the Raptors win total with the current roster as it stands, I would say 45 wins is reasonable.

Yes, that seems pretty low but I believe Patterson and Tucker’s absence are gonna be missed more than people expect and the Raptors defense is gonna suffer because of it. It’s hard to put trust in such a young group of guys who really haven’t showed that they have what it takes to be part of the rotation regularly and produce.

I won’t be surprised if they surpass a win total of 45 but predicting over 50 wins is being way too bold and I’m not that.

Expect this upcoming season to be more fun than most as we get to see the true development of the young guys on the roster and figure out who has the potential to blossom into something special.