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Raptors preview from a Celtics perspective

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  • Raptors preview from a Celtics perspective

    Atlantic Division Preview: Toronto Raptors

    No division in the NBA has improved from last year as much as the Atlantic. It may be a stretch to think all five teams are playoff-bound. However, it isn't far-fetched to think that four of the five teams will be in the postseason come next spring.

    Therefore, each week we'll preview one of the five teams that make up the division and see if any of the other four can unseat the Boston Celtics atop the Atlantic to earn a top-four seed. Boston has finished in the top spot for the past five straight seasons. In week one we detailed last year's fifth-place team, the Brooklyn Nets.

    Toronto Raptors

    In this second installment, we examine the Toronto Raptors. The only team residing outside the United States finished last season at 23-43. They were 16 games behind first-place Boston, one ahead of New Jersey. Their last Atlantic Division title came in 2007, the season before the Boston's Big Three united.

    Starting Five:

    PG: Kyle Lowry
    SG: Terrence Ross
    SF: DeMar DeRozan
    PF: Andrea Bargnani
    C: Jonas Valanciunas

    Key Reserves:
    PG: Jose Calderon
    SG: Landry Fields
    SF: Linus Kleiza
    PF: Amir Johnson, Quincy Acy
    C: Ed Davis, Aaron Gray

    2011-2012 Notes:

    Last season was a disappointing one for the Raptors. Their first-round pick, Jonas Valanciunas remained overseas which weakened their frontcourt considerably. Then came star power forward Andrea Bargnani's injury that forced him to miss 35 games. Bargnani had been averaging around 20 points per game for the second consecutive seaeson. With him out, their leading scorer was third-year shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, who averaged 16.7 points per game. Team leader Jose Calderon averaged 10.5 points and a team-high 8.8 assists per game, while the young Ed Davis led the team with 6.6 rebounds a night. Toronto stumbled to the lottery again and came out with the No. 8 overall pick. They chose University of Washington shooting guard, Terrence Ross.

    A Sleeper Favorite:

    The Toronto Raptors are getting a lot of love right now as big sleepers in the East. It appeared that Andrea Bargnani was finally starting to live up to his No. 1 overall pick and becoming an elite scorer. With him returning, and both Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross as high lottery pick rookies, and the acquisitions of Landry Fields and Kyle Lowry, it is not hard to figure out that the Raptors will be much better this season.

    Bargnani's return alone gives them one of the best scorers in the NBA. He will return to his 2010 form and score more than 20 points per game, but don't expect further improvement. That season he was putting up nearly 18 shots per game. With a much improved team, the shots will be better distributed, and he'll see less opportunities.

    Maybe the biggest improvement is the trade that brought in Lowry from Houston. Toronto let go of Gary Forbes and a future first-rounder in the deal. What they got is one of the best young point guards in the league. Lowry was very good the past two seasons for the Rockets. He is the type of guard who can give you an all-around performance. He averaged 14.3 points, 6.6 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game last year, and similar numbers the year before. He does all this while playing excellent defense and has good range on his shot. This was a huge move for Toronto.

    Their one-two punch at point guard may be the best in the NBA, with Jose Calderon sliding into a secondary role. He has been one of the most balanced and steady distributors in the league for the past decade.

    The Raptors successfully blocked New York from attracting Steve Nash, but are now stuck with Landry Fields. They will be paying him nearly $19 million over the next three years. Devoid of that contract, Fields has potential to be a solid piece. He was a great role player for the Knicks but was forced to start at shooting guard when he is really more suitable as a backup guard or small forward.

    A ton will still hinge on the rookies. Jonas Valanciunias, Terrence Ross and Quincy Acy are so important to the success of this team. Valanciunas was taken fifth overall in 2011, but remained in Lithuania for one more year. He recently played for the Lithuanian national team in the 2012 Olympics. They made the elimination round, but lost immediately to Russia. Valanciunas did finish the elimination game with seven points and nine rebounds. The 6'11" center will start immediately for Toronto as they are so thin up front.

    Ross was chosen eighth overall and Acy 37th this past June. Ross has great size for the shooting guard position. At 6'6" he towers over players like Avery Bradley. As a sophomore, he used that size at Washington to grab more than six boards per game to go along with his 16.4 points. The Huskies were snubbed from the NCAA tournament last year, but were a one-seed in the NIT. There they made the semifinals before losing to Minnesota. Ross averaged 25 points per game in the tournament. He will be able to score in NBA, but will have to learn to score within the system. Playing with the Raptors will be different than playing 2-on-5 like he and Tony Wroten did in college.

    Acy was a four-year player at Baylor and averaged 12 points and 7.4 rebounds per game as a senior. He led the Bears to the elite eight of the NCAA tournament last year, and had 22 points and eight rebounds in their loss to Kentucky. Unfortunately, his 6'7" frame is very undersized for the power forward spot in the NBA.

    Rounding out the Raptors roster are some decent-looking young players. Ed Davis was a lottery pick in 2010 and has been a solid role player for Toronto the past two seasons. 27-year-old Linus Kleiza had an impressive Olympics for Lithuania. Alongside Valanciunas, Kleiza poured in 25 points in a near toppling of Team USA in the opening round.

    The Raptors will be vastly improved from last season, but the rest of the Atlantic has gotten better as well. That was before the Philadelphia 76ers just potentially landed Andrew Bynum as well. Still, even if Valanciunas and Ross aren't immediate impact players, DeRozan, Lowry and Bargnani are good enough to bring this team to .500. Whatever gravy the rookies bring will boost them over, but not by much.

    Final Record: 44-38
    4th in the Atlantic Division
    8 seed in the Eastern Conference

  • #2
    That's realistic I would say 42-40 with Philly and I do think we get the 8th seed.


    • #3
      Great analysis. I think 8th seed is just about right, we'll be fighting philly for that spot but i think we'll beat em out.


      • #4
        I think 44-38 is a lot better than an 8th seed. When you consider that more than half of teams from each conference make the playoffs it's pretty common for the 8th seed to have a losing record. For example, in the 10-11 season, the last full season, Indiana got the 8th seed with a 37-45 record. 44-38 was good enough to get Atlanta 5th. At the very least it should be closer to .500


        • #5
          Such a refreshing review, especially from a Boston standpoint. 44-38. Wow. That would be awesome!


          • #6
            really excited to see lowry go at one of my favourites in rondo.

            this and philly give bigV a great learning experience vs garnett and a big strong bynum.

            this author is giving them a bigger jump then i would have. i was figuring around 500 ball as the tops.


            • #7
              I think its actually pretty reasonable I was going over the schedule and there was 50 games that I think we are capable of winning/ feel that were better than the other team. I know 50 games isn't realistic for us but I figure no less than 40 is fair


              • #8
                That estimated record is good enough - in this conference - to possibly net a 6th spot. I think. (correct me if mistaken)

                I remember the Bucks a couple seasons ago were either 6th or 7th near to that record.

                Anyways, I think that's a good analysis, but it also seems slightly overrated. At any rate, I believe we'll make the playoffs, but rather be proven than disappointed.


                • #9
                  High praise indeed.

                  I would be shocked (and elated) to see Toronto finish with such a record! I like to think .500 is a good record, but man, I still could see them struggling for the first 20 games or so as this is really a new team.
                  Walking like I'm already there.


                  • #10
                    I agree with 8th seed but 44 wins is too high imo.


                    • #11
                      Matt52 wrote: View Post
                      I agree with 8th seed but 44 wins is too high imo.
                      I agree 100% with you here Matt. I expect that 44 wins is a bit over the top. Hey, I would be stupid happy if they got that, but realistically? I think 42 is top end. More likely 39-40.


                      • #12
                        I very good write up. Id love to see Ross starting .. but I think itll be Fields for at least the first 20-30 games. Otherwise, I agree with most everything said here. I think hes bang on that the success (or lack thereof) of the rookies is really the swing factor. If Ross / JV can be legit contributors .. playoffs are very realistic. If not, no chance ..
                        I think 44 wins is optimisitc .. but otherwise like what this guy has to say.

                        One final thing .. not to beat the dead horse .. but pretty much every write up that has been posted here (and there have been some good ones in the last couple days) notes that Landry is overpaid and we got him due to the Nash chase .. so can we please drop the "BC really wanted him and his contract is appropriate" stuff and just move on with the fact that we hopefully got a good, young player, but had to overpay for him given unfortunate circumstances ..


                        • #13
                          Wow, this is just going to be a very interesting NBA season, and not just for Toronto, but it will be the most fun for us in years. I think for the most part the preview is pretty much spot on. Toronto has a legitimate shot at the bottom of the playoffs. I would say that being in our division will make it tough for us to make the playoffs, but the NBA is maybe the most balanced pro league in terms of facing teams. The other divisions in the East will be very very weak. I think there's a slim shot our entire division makes the playoffs.
                          Central: Indy should run away with it. If Chicago struggles and is too far down the ranks when Rose comes back, I can see them missing the playoffs. Even if Irving is healthy, I still think Cleveland is too young and lacks depth. They have a lot of promise with him, Thompson, Waiters, and if Zeller can be a solid player, that's great too. But what do they have after that? If Irving takes a BIG step forward I can see them challenging for the playoffs, but otherwise I just don't see it. Milwaukee and Detroit won't make it. So really, I see Indy as a sure thing, and it's possible no other team makes it from this division.
                          Southeast: Miami. Nuff said. Orlando will be in tanksville this year. Same with Charlotte. Washington is a big mystery but could easily challenge for the spot. Atlanta is also a mystery, but I see them taking a step back, just not sure if it's out of the playoffs.

                          So with no order: Miami, Boston, NY, NJ, Indy should all be locks. If Bynum fits in with Philly, I'd say they've got a pretty safe shot too. Then I think Toronto, Atlanta, Washington, Chicago, Cleveland battle it out for the last 2 spots. Mil, Det, Orl, Cha all miss for sure.
                          Last edited by white men can't jump; Sat Aug 11, 2012, 09:57 AM.


                          • #14
                            Miekenstien wrote: View Post
                            really excited to see lowry go at one of my favourites in rondo.

                            this and philly give bigV a great learning experience vs garnett and a big strong bynum.

                            this author is giving them a bigger jump then i would have. i was figuring around 500 ball as the tops.
                            Don't forget Tyson Chandler and Brook Lopez.


                            • #15
                              theycallmeZZ wrote: View Post
                              DeRozan, Lowry and Bargnani are good enough to bring this team to .500.
                              I'm surprised people are agreeing with this.

                              I also don't think it's a lock that JV starts the first day. I also don't think it was a disappointing season for the Raptors last year, based on any reasonable expectation someone could have had before the season...unless you mean that they didn't tank enough to get a higher pick.

                              I also didn't realize Ed led the Raptors in rebounding last year. Was his the lowest team leading rebounding number in the league?
                              Two beer away from being two beers away.