When last seen, the Raptors were … coming up one possession short in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Despite the post-championship departure of Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors remained near the top of the league with an elite defense and cohesion among a capable and experienced top seven. But when things got tight against the Boston Celtics, they just didn’t have the offense to get over the hump. The 100.3 points per 100 possessions they scored in the conference semis was the worst mark for a team in a 2020 playoff series. Pascal Siakam struggled in the bubble and averaged just 14.9 points on an effective field goal percentage of 40% over the seven games.
What’s new? Two more pieces of the Raptors’ championship rotation have taken their talents to L.A. The departures of Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka leave a hole a center that Aron Baynes (along with more minutes from Chris Boucher) will attempt to fill. The Raptors also have a new (and temporary) home, set to play games at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla. until pandemic restrictions are lifted.
What’s missing: Even if Siakam rebounds from his sub-par bubble performance, he needs to take things to another level if the Raptors are going to improve offensively. They’re strong in transition, play cohesively, and were the only team that ranked in the top six in both 3-point percentage (37.4%, fifth) and the percentage of their shots that came from 3-point range (42.1%, sixth) last season. But they lack the go-to guy that can get to his spot whenever needed. Even before the season restart, Siakam saw a drop in efficiency with his increase in usage rate.
POTENTIAL STARTING FIVE
Kyle Lowry | 19.4 ppg, 7.5 apg, 1.4 spg
The 34 year old ranked fourth in minutes per game (36.2) last season. In the last year of his contract.
Fred VanVleet | 17.6 ppg, 6.6 apg, 1.9 spg
Led the league with 4.2 deflections per game. Back with a new and lucrative four-year deal.
OG Anunoby | 10.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.4 spg
Saw a big jump in 3-point percentage (from 33.2% to 39.0%) last season. Still just 23 years old.
Pascal Siakam | 22.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 3.5 apg
One of the league’s best two-way players. Salary jumps from $2.3 last season to $28.8 million this season.
Aron Baynes | 11.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.6 apg
Had a great start to last season and made nine 3s in a game, but played in only 42 of the Suns’ 73.
Chris Boucher | 6.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.0 bpg
Intriguing two-way talent (he can shoot 3s and block shots) should have a more consistent role.
Patrick McCaw | 4.6 ppg, 2.1 apg, 1.1 spg
Low-usage player on offense, but still a key piece that the Raptors were missing in the bubble.
Norman Powell | 16.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.2 spg
Made the most of an expanded role last season. One of the league’s best in transition.
Toronto Raptors, last 5 seasons
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
Season Prediction: The Raptors could certainly remain at or near the top of the Eastern Conference. The defense should remain one of the league’s most disruptive units, and the continued development of both Siakam and Anunoby offers some hope for an offense that took a step backward last season. Of course, the top of the East promises to be more crowded this year, Lowry turns 35 in March, and the departures of Gasol and Ibaka could put a small dent in the all-important cohesion that has fueled the Raptors’ success on both ends of the floor.
Predicted finish: 42-30
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