NBA Preview 2013: Toronto Raptors

raptors-logo-claw2Welcome back to the Sports Script for the first NBA preview of the day. Yesterday I did both the Milwaukee Bucks and Sacramento Kings, so if you missed out on either one of them, you can find them here and here. Onto the team at hand, they had an up and down season last year. At times they had plenty of upside, and at other times they looked terrible. It’s Canada’s team, the Toronto Raptors.

Key Additions: Tyler Hansbrough (Signed via Pacers) DJ Augustin (Signed via Pacers) Steve Novak (Traded via Knicks) Masai Ujiri (General Manager, Not Bryan Colangelo)

Key Departures: Andrea Bargnani (Knicks) Bryan Colangelo (Removed from GM Position)

Projected Starters: PG Kyle Lowry, SG Demar DeRozan, SF Rudy Gay, PF Amir Johnson, C Jonas Valanciunas

Free at last! Free at last! The Toronto Raptors are finally free from the regime of Bryan Colangelo. New GM Masai Ujiri brings legitimate hope to this team, especially after throwing away Andrea Bargnani to the Knicks, so they can deal with his complete denial of defensive responsibilities. Other than that, it was a bit of a quiet offseason for the Raptors. They were the only team this year without a draft pick, so they didn’t add anyone that way. They did add bench players in DJ Augustin and Tyler Hansbrough. Augustin is a solid backup point guard, but not much more than that. Tyler Hansbrough is an energy, rebounding, defensive whirling dervish on the court, so you expect 150% effort from the guy when he plays, which is something all teams need in reality. Again the Raptors did two great things this offseason, deal away Bargnani, and remove Bryan Colangelo from basketball operations and bring in Masai Ujiri, who’s the current reigning NBA GM of the year last season.

The starting lineup is full of promise, but is also full of traps that can be easy to fall in, so I’ll help guide you through. First of all, Rudy Gay is NOT  a franchise player and will never be one. He’s a terrible shooter, eye sight aside, takes terrible shots, and has one of the worst contracts in the NBA. This was Bryan Colangelo’s job saving move, and needless to say, it didn’t do him much job, and maybe set the Raptors back years because of that deal. Kyle Lowry is a very good, but very inconsistent point guard, someone who can take over a game, but also someone who tends to disappear a lot. Lowry has the mind-set of a power forward, who plays in a point guards body. He’s very strong when going to the basket, but is also prone to bad mistakes. This might be the last year for Demar DeRozan to prove that he can be a legitimate starting shooting guard in this league. He had a hot start last year, but was very up and down as the season rolled on, and at times showed he had a three-point shot, and other times you wondered if even worked on it at all during the summer. Amir Johnson is one of my favorite players in the league, no seriously, he is. He’s a great energy rebounder, hustle player and is just s very fun person. While he’s limited offensively, he’s definitely a very serviceable player. the final, and most intriguing player in Jonas Valanciunas from Lithuania. He has all the makings of a premiere NBA center, and had a very good rookie season last year. With a full NBA season under his belt, I would expect the 21 to make huge leaps this year in his progression.

The Raptors have a very refined roster, but just need a little bit more to get them over the top. Rudy Gay can’t be “The Guy” for them, and neither can Lowry or DeRozan. Those two are nice players, but third or fourth guys on a contender. Valanciunas is a franchise center so they have that to work with, but it’s still a mystery with the rest team. Masai Ujiri has a plan for this team, and I can guarantee that Rudy Gay isn’t a part of those plans. I expect Ujiri to make a big splash this season by trading Gay, getting cap relief, picks and young players for his gargantuan contract. Until then, lets just enjoy the 10-25 shooting performances and game winning shots that always inevitably follow him.

Final Prediction: 36-46, 10th Eastern Conference

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