As the Toronto Raptors report for training camp for the upcoming season, trying to pin down realistic expectations for a team that won a franchise record 56 games and made the Eastern Conference finals is harder than you’d think it would be.
While the core of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry has been locked in place, it’s unclear how much this team will miss the departed Bismack Biyombo and whether newcomer Jared Sullinger and 2016 draft picks Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl can provide meaningful positive impacts.
Based on my own informal survey of “expert” opinions out there, most seem to expect a close race in the Atlantic Division between the Raptors and Boston Celtics, who added Al Horford in the offseason. The defending champion Cavaliers will still stand in the way of either club from reaching the NBA Finals for the foreseeable future, unless DeRozan and Lowry can elevate their games to a different level. There does seem to be a natural progression towards this if you look at the NBA’s past history, specifically recalling the Pistons and Bulls teams of the late 1980’s and 1990s. I’m not ruling out the possibility this can happen this year, but I’m not betting against LeBron and company.
I will offer up this: I believe there’s a 10 per cent chance the Raptors can pull off that upset to make the NBA Finals, a 60 per cent chance they equal last year’s run to the Eastern final, and a 30 per cent chance this team takes a step back. Regardless, this team will be competitive, fun to watch, and give Toronto some exciting playoff basketball to watch next spring.
|55||Delon Wright||PG||24 6-5|