Toronto Raptors Preview, Plus Other NBA Questions for the Season

Oct 21, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) dribbles the ball against the Washington Wizards during the first half at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 21, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) dribbles the ball against the Washington Wizards during the first half at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports /

With the Toronto Raptors season set to tip off Wednesday night, we discuss their season outlook and answer a few questions about the NBA season.

The Toronto Raptors will open their 2016-17 season on Wednesday against the Detroit Pistons and prior to tip off we thought we would sort through an assortment of Raptors questions, as well as NBA questions pertaining to the season.

1) Aside from DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, who is the most important Raptor?

Demar Grant: Jonas Valanciunas. This team is so thin at center that a JV injury could crater the team. Interior defense would plummet and suddenly the Raptors wouldn’t have anyone to grab boards anymore. Every other position on the floor has multiple players that can slide into that position and at least play spot minutes, the centre rotation is JV then whoever looked good during practice yesterday. I miss Biyombo.

Chris Okrainetz: JV is the obvious choice here because of the Raptors thin situation at centre, which Demar touched on, but I’ll go with Patrick Patterson. Like the centre position, the Raptors power forward depth isn’t great either. An injury to Patterson would force Dwane Casey to be creative with their rotation and likely play more small ball with DeMarre Carroll possibly sliding into the four spot, unless Casey has complete trust in rookie Pascal Siakam.

Aside from possible rotational issues, Patterson’s absence would affect the Raptors spacing on offence. His ability to stretch the floor helps create space for Lowry and DeRozan because teams have to respect his three point shot. He might not be the flashiest player, but Patterson is a key component of the Raptors.

2) The Raptors will finish with over/under 50.5 wins?

Chris Okrainetz: I’ll take the over, but just slightly. Almost everything went right for Toronto last season. I doubt that happens again. If it does, great. I won’t complain about it at all, but I do think this team is bound to endure some regression. I think they will finish with 50-54 wins, which isn’t a huge decrease from last season, but still a drop off nonetheless.

Demar Grant: This one is difficult because I think if the Raptors sustain an injury to either Valanciunas or Lowry, their chances of winning 50 games will be catapulted out of the window. If you ask me tomorrow I’ll probably say under, but I’ll take the over today, even though I said under yesterday.

Toronto Raptors
Sep 26, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey poses with guards DeMar DeRozan (10) and Kyle Lowry (7) during media day at BioSteel Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

3) How far do the Raptors go this season?

Demar Grant: The first round is a lock in the playoffs, unless the Raptors are somehow playing the Cavs. If the season plays out how most of think it will, the Raptors will face the Celtics in the second round and I don’t like the match up. I think the Raptors are thwarted in the second round. The team is worse this year than last year on paper.

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Chris Okrainetz: This is a tough one because the Eastern Conference is improving, but there isn’t anyone outside of the Cavs and Celtics that scares me. If healthy, I think this team will make it back to the Eastern Conference Finals. I love what the Celtics and head coach Brad Stevens are doing, but I just think the Raptors are better equipped this season and Lowry and DeRozan will propel them past the quickly improving Celtics.

Of course, trades, injuries, and other factors could alter this pick come mid-season, but right now I’ll say they return to the East Finals. As for beating the Cavs… C’mon now, we all know this is LeBron James‘ Eastern Conference, Toronto just plays in it.

4) Which team will surprise people this year?

Demar Grant: I’ve heard zero buzz generated for the Washington Wizards. Yes, the Wizards are making the playoffs. Randy Wittman and his drawing board flipping ways are gone, long live Scott Brooks and his lack of plays.

But seriously, Wittman had lost the locker room by the end of the season and the Wizards were riddled with injuries. Any injury to Bradley Beal is devastating because it not only takes away a keen three-point shooter, it also reduces the Wizards number of ball handlers.

But now they’ve been given a clean bill of health (minus Ian Mahinmi) and they’re in “nobody believes in us” mode. Wall, Beal, Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat, Otto Porter Jr., Trey Burke, and Tomas Satoransky can’t secure you at least an eighth seed in the East? C’mon.

Chris Okrainetz: The New York Kni… Sorry, just kidding. I’ll head out west with this question and say the Utah Jazz. Vegas has them pegged to win 49 games this season, which doesn’t make them a “surprise team” as far as odds are concerned, but I think for the casual NBA fan, the Jazz will surprise them.

Between Rudy Gobert, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, George Hill, Dante Exum and Rodney Hood, the Jazz have a solid core and will compete this season. They might not surpass the Warriors or Spurs, but they’re much better than people think.

5) Who finishes with a better record this year: the Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers or Brooklyn Nets?

Demar Grant: I love this question but it’s easily the Lakers.

Finally escaping the undying grasp of Byron Scott and Kobe Bryant this squad of youngsters can finally showcase what they can actually do. Luke Walton will have the offense looking something akin to what the Warriors were running last year and D’Angelo Russell is the perfect point guard to run it.

When you don’t have supreme talent you can supplant it with passing, (see the 2014 Spurs). The Lakers are going to run and shoot threes and just be fun as a team. The team chemistry and culture is going to be at it’s zenith and they actually have some talent on the roster.

The 76ers are still a couple years away from winning 20+ games. Nerlens Noel and Ben Simmons are out and they were two players who were actually supposed to be productive for their team. And the Nets… *shudders* yikes.

Chris Okrainetz: Out of these lottery bound teams, I’ll take the Lakers. They have some decent pieces in place with Russell, Julius Randle and rookie Brandon Ingram, so I think they’ll improve this season.

As for the 76ers and Nets. Well, the Nets are raging tire fire and look like they’re at least a few years away, barring some miracle takes place, and the 76ers are slowly heading in the right direction, but with Noel and Simmons expected to miss time, they’ll be the same old 76ers until those players return.

6) The league MVP will be…?

Demar Grant: To me it’s down to Steph Curry or LeBron James. The Warriors are still Curry’s team and the culture and swagger that team has extends from him and Draymond Green, not Kevin Durant. Even when you see them play together, Curry is still commander in chief of that squad.

LeBron is going to do LeBron things, meaning averaging 27/7/7 while leading his team to another NBA finals. He overcame monstrous odds last year and people will want to repay him for it. If LeBron play 70+ games I think he’s getting the award.

Chris Okrainetz: The easy choice here is Russell Westbrook. The hype-train on Westbrook is ridiculous and everybody is anxious to watch his 2016-17 revenge tour after Durant spurned him and the Thunder for greener pastures in the Bay area with Golden State.

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However, I think two other players have a real shot at winning this award and they’re flying under the radar a bit. The first guy is Damian Lillard. He’s a superstar in this league, plays on an exciting team, is the unquestioned leader there, is well respected and liked across the league, and he’s a hell of a player. He’s someone to keep an eye on for sure.

The other player is Karl Anthony-Towns. I might be drinking the KAT kool-aid here, but he looks sensational. Step back threes?! Ball handling like a guard?! There isn’t much he can’t do and if the Timberwolves take a giant leap forward, like people are expecting, I think KAT will be a big reason for that and he’ll garner MVP consideration from it.

7) Who will win the Larry O’Brien trophy: the Warriors or the field? (The field being any other team in the league)

Demar Grant: Warriors all day. Don’t forget Durant just joined a 73 win team.

Chris Okrainetz: Despite their rebounding and defensive issues, I’ll take the Warriors here. I trust that Steve Kerr will have these guys rolling come playoff time and they’ll be extremely difficult to defend.

If you doubt the Warriors, here’s a scary thought: remember last year in the NBA Finals when Harrison Barnes missed all those open looks? Well, those shots are now going to Durant… Yea, I highly doubt he misses as many as Barnes did.

Next: 10 Bold Predictions for the Raptors Season

Again, this team will only get better as the season progresses and I think come playoff time nobody is stopping them.

What do you think of our answers? Do you agree or disagree with our thoughts? Let us know in the comments section below.