2014-15 Record: 49-33
Anthony Bennett, Bismack Biyombo, DeMarre Carroll, Cory Joseph, Luis Scola, Delon Wright
Tyler Hansbrough, Chuck Hayes, Amir Johnson, Greg Stiemsma, Greivis Vasquez, Lou Williams
Projected 2015-16 Lineup
PG Kyle Lowry SG DeMar DeRozan SF DeMarre Carroll PF Patrick Patterson C Jonas Valanciunas
It’s been hard to not cheer for the Raptors over the past few years, as the team has found a way time and time again to bring thrilling basketball to a city that loves it. They added Carroll in the offseason, and that could end up being regarded as the biggest free agent move of the year. Putting him in the starting lineup over Terrance Ross is such a huge upgrade that it’s hard to quantify, but there are some losses that could hurt this team as well.
Amir Johnson didn’t get much national media attention over the past few years, but he was very useful for the Raptors. Now that he’s gone, there’s going to be some combination of Pat Pat and Luis Scola working at the PF slot. I doubt that either of them will be super impactful on their own, but together they could do something good. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Carroll play in that slot for a bit.
Losing Lou Williams will be a big hit as well. They’re hoping that Ross can score in bunches off the bench, but it’s hard to replicate what Williams did. If the bench unit suffers, Toronto could struggle at times.
X-Factor: DeMarre Carroll
While his postseason production was valuable, I’d still say Carroll was the fifth best player on a great team. When you’re in that position, it’s a lot easier to shine, as almost none of the focus is on you. In Toronto, he won’t have that luxury. He’s a high profile signing and will need to be the third best player on this team if they’re really going to contend. That said, you can’t put a label on how valuable his defense could be for the North.
Most To Prove: Jonas Valanciunas
The polarizing big man got signed to a big deal in the offseason, and since then there’s been no shortage of armchair GMs questioning his value. I have little doubt that the man is worth it. He’s talented on offense and can gobble rebounds in bunches, but there is some merit to the questions about his rim protection ability. He has the potential to be a superstar center, now it’s time to prove it.
Why They’re Worth Watching
The fans alone make this fun. I want the Raptors deep in the playoffs so I can watch the fans line the stadium again and again. In fact, a Clippers v Raptors NBA finals may be the best one we could hope for, assuming Paul Pierce reaches the freethrow line in game 7 in Toronto.
Best Case: 53 Wins
If Kyle Lowry keeps up his ridiculous preseason play, Carroll proves he’s a star, and the bench unit meshes together, this could be a special team.
Worst Case: 44 Wins
If DeRozen isn’t playing at an all-star level, this team could have trouble scoring points. They’ll still make the playoffs, but the East is too tight for them to retain home court in the first round.