The Canadian representative in the NBA is entering the new season in a somewhat uncertain status. The team certainly does not belong to the group that will be at the bottom and compete for high draft picks. However, it’s also very difficult to call Toronto a championship contender or even a Conference Finals contender. Based on this, making any predictions for the Raptors is quite challenging.
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Last season’s results: 9th place, 41-41.
Arrivals – Dennis Schröder, Garrett Temple, Giddey Dick (13th pick), Jalen McDaniels.
Remained – Malachi Flynn, Gary Trent, Scottie Barnes, Precious Achiuwa, OG Anunoby, Otto Porter, Thaddeus Young, Chris Boucher, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl, Chris Clemons.
What to Expect from the Team
After Fred VanVleet left the team this summer, it’s not entirely clear in which direction Toronto is heading, and what path Masai Ujiri has chosen for the club. It seems they are in a waiting mode. A star trade, similar to the Kawhi Leonard situation, may not be far off. Perhaps not as a dinosaur but more like a snake, they have coiled up and are preparing for an “attack.” Last summer, they assessed the situation around Kevin Durant’s trade request, and this year they were considered one of the top contenders for Damian Lillard until he was traded to Milwaukee.
The fact that they are not in a hurry to part ways with Siakam indicates their willingness to compete. Moreover, he can sign an extension with Toronto as early as next year, under the revised rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which could be worth over 200 million for 4 years. If Siakam makes it to an All-NBA team, his supermax extension could increase to a 5-year deal worth over 300 million! This, in my opinion, is a good reason for him to stay, especially after the Raptors traded his friend Jakob Poeltl.
Pascal Siakam himself doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to leave Canada either. In one interview, he stated that Toronto feels like home to him, and he won’t re-sign with a team that trades him. Although logically, Toronto should be heading into a rebuild, the appointment of head coach Darko Rajakovic, a former assistant from Memphis known for his player development skills, indicates that they are not giving up. He is credited with the progress made by Jaren Jackson and especially Desmond Bane.
I believe OG Anunoby will be one of the first to change his club affiliation. However, he is still young, at 26, and he could comfortably stay with the revamped Toronto. He is one of the best 3&D wings in the league, consistently among the NBA leaders in steals and has a career three-point shooting percentage of 38%.
One player who will definitely remain in Canada is Scottie Barnes. He’s a very promising and skilled basketball player, known for his excellent shooting. He’s one of my favorite rookies from this year’s draft class, and he brings a lot of energy and talent to the team.
Season’s Joker: Scottie Barnes
After a disappointing season, it’s not time to write off Scottie Barnes’ career. His progress should improve with VanVleet’s departure, as Fred was the primary ball-handler of the team. I believe that this season is when Barnes will make a strong impression. He is one of the most versatile players in the league. Tall, athletic, strong defensively, handles the ball well, and is an all-around player.
Rajakovic will have to work to set up the game in a way that benefits both Siakam and the highly promising Barnes. It’s possible that the Raptors may end up lower in the standings and fall below the expected position if they decide to undergo a rebuild. However, it’s important to keep in mind that Toronto is easy to underestimate, just as they were last season when they were not expected to win many games, yet they finished 5th in the Eastern Conference with 48 wins.
Prediction: 11th place in the Eastern Conference.