2018-19 Season Preview Extravaganza | The Raptors Are All In

by Julian Andrews
Web Editorial Associate Follow

Twenty-nine different opposing NBA teams will walk through the doors of Target Center to play the Wolves this season, and we want you to know as much as you can about all of them. We’re going worst to first in order of last year’s standings and telling you everything you need to know. Next up, the team that made the biggest trade of the offseason.

Notable Players Acquired: F Kawhi Leonard (trade), G Danny Green (trade)

Notable Players Lost: G DeMar DeRozan (trade), C Jakob Poeltl (trade)

Recapping 2017-18: It seems like the Raptors are perpetually maligned for being one of those teams that is on the brink of a ton of success but never can push things over the edge. The 2017-18 season was a perfect example. 

To be clear, the Raptors were a good team. They finished 60-22 and earned the No. 1 seed in the East. They lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to LeBron James and the Cavs, before firing their coach Dwayne Casey and trading their best player, DeMar DeRozan, to the Spurs for Kawhi Leonard.

The offloading of the team’s franchise player and head coach would seem like an ominous sign of things to come, but the future is actually still very bright in Toronto. For much of 2017-18, the Raptors looked like they had a legitimate chance of making the finals. Rookie OG Anunoby shined, DeRozan was finally shooting threes and had a career year in assists. Kyle Lowry still looked good, and the team had one of the deepest benches in the league.

So what happened? 

The Raptors clearly looked at their roster and made the assessment that they would be unable to compete at the highest level without shaking it up. While DeRozan is unbelievably talented on offense, he is not an efficient scorer, and his defense leaves much to be desired. But he’s the kind of player that nobody else could offer the Spurs, who were eager to move Leonard after a dramatic breakup that lasted the better part of a year. When a player like Leonard comes available, you go get him.

On top of Leonard, the Raptors still have an intriguing young core. Fred VanVleet is excellent, Pascal Siakam and Anunoby are dripping with potential, and Delon Wright has shown real ability as a 3-and-D wing. Regardless of how the Leonard trade ends up working out, the Raptors have a future.

The Big Question:

Will Kawhi be enough?

The Raptors clearly think their time to finally get over the hump in the East is now. Leonard is a definite upgrade over DeRozan, but it’s important to remember that we’re not sure that the Leonard who was a perennial MVP candidate is the one who will show up this year. Even if Leonard is at his best, the Raptors still have to deal with a frightening Celtics team and a Sixers squad that is young, talented and hungry. If Kawhi can play at his best, and the Raptors’ younger players can take a clear step forward, it could be an exciting year up north. If not, the Raptors might be caught with a few regrets. 

How Do The Wolves Beat Them?

Strong bench play. The Raptors have one of the deepest bench in the league, so not losing ground when the starters are on the bench will be critical. That’s not an easy task with VanVleet, Wright and Siakam, but the Wolves second unit will need to step up. Additionally, Karl-Anthony Towns needs to play big. The Raptors don’t have anyone who can match up with him down low, and the Wolves need to take advantage. 

Andrews’ Prediction:

I expect the Raptors to make the Eastern Conference Finals and push their opponents into a long series. It will come down to Kawhi’s health and the team’s ability to put things together quickly at the beginning of the season, but they could be really special. At the very least they’re one of the most interesting storylines to watch.

Describe This Team In 15 Words Or Less

Different than last year’s Raptors, with a higher ceiling and a lower floor.

So When Can I See Them?

The Wolves cross the border to face the Raptors on Oct. 24, Toronto comes to town Apr. 9.