Monday, October 19, 2015

2015-16 Season Preview: Toronto Raptors

TORONTO RAPTORS
[] 49-33
[] Offensive Rating: 112.1 (3rd)
[] Defensive Rating: 108.7 (26th)
[] Net Rating: +3.4 (T-9th)
[] Eliminated in 1st round of NBA playoffs
[] Coach: Dwayne Casey

This is arguably the high point of a Raptors franchise that has never had a 50-win season, and only has two playoff series wins to its name, both coming back in 2001.  So it makes sense that Toronto went out and made some aggressive, smart moves in the offseason, moves that will likely take the team above the 50-win plateau, and more importantly, out of the first round.  The biggest move was adding DeMarre Caroll to bolster the wing position opposite DeMar DeRozan.  Carroll's ability to impact the game at both ends of the floor was clear the last two seasons in Atlanta, and Toronto is hoping he brings the same performance north of the border.  They also went out and added Cory Joseph, Luis Scola, Anthony Bennett and Bismack Biyombo to a bench that left something to be desired last season.  Carroll, Joseph and Biyombo should help improve a defense that was dead weight for the Raptors last season.  If the defense is improved, the sky is the limit for this team, because all of the pieces that have made the offense one of the league's best are still in place.  Kyle Lowry is one of the best PGs in the Eastern Conference, DeMar DeRozan is a productive, high usage player, Jonas Valanciunas is blooming in the low post, and DeMarre Carroll is going to provide the shooting to balance it all out.  This Raptors team has the pieces to get things figured out and advance past the first round of the playoffs, if Dwayne Casey can just get out of the way.







Projected Starting Five
  
PG: Kyle Lowry - 6'0, 205 - 10th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
70
17.8
19.3
25.4%
52.7%
33.8%
.375
80.8%
.299
32.4%
12.8%

Lowry put together the first All-Star season of his career last year, although his 2013-14 campaign was better on paper.  Nonetheless, he's the lifeblood of the Raptors and his performance will be critical to this year's season, just like it was in the last three years.  He'll turn 30 in March, and we're probably looking at one of his last prime seasons.  That all sounds pretty negative, but assuming Lowry even comes close to matching last season's production, the Raptors are in decent shape.

SG: DeMar DeRozan - 6'7, 225 - 7th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
60
20.1
17.4
28.4%
51.0%
28.4%
.089
83.2%
.438
17.0%
10.4%

DeRozan is kind of a throwback player, thriving in the midrange and at the FT line.  He doesn't shoot the three ball well, but he also doesn't bother taking many.  You would prefer DeRozan either get to the rim more or expand his game to the three point line for efficiency's sake, but it's hard to argue with the overall production he provides.  He'll have a shot at earning the second All-Star bid of his career.

SF: DeMarre Carroll - 6'8, 210 - 7th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
70
12.6
15.9
16.9%
60.3%
39.5%
.466
70.2%
.277
8.3%
9.3%

Carroll goes from super-role player with the Hawks to high dollar free agent signing with the Raptors.  That will increase expectations, and based on the fact there there are fewer offensive options in Toronto (Carroll was arguably the 5th option in ATL behind Teague, Horford, Millsap and Korver), he'll need to take on a bigger role.  That may not be a problem, but we just don't know how Carroll will function in a high usage role.  He's never had a Usage Rate above the 16.9% rate he posted last year.  I'd look for Carroll's efficiency to take a hit this year as he looks at a role that sees his USG% bump into the low 20s.

PF: Patrick Patterson - 6'9, 240 - 6th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
TRB%
AST%
81
8.0
14.6
13.1%
56.8%
37.1%
.529
78.8%
.150
11.6%
10.7%

Patterson will likely step into the vacant PF role created by Amir Johnson signing with the Celtics.  He's a legitimate stretch four, who has a few holes in his game but his overall a solid player.  He doesn't offer anything in the post, doesn't get to the FT line and isn't an impact defensive player.  However, he's the kind of shooter who keeps the defense honest for Lowry, DeRozan and Valanciunas.  He's the typical "you can do better, but you can do worse" kind of player.  Even his PER says he's a replacement-level player.

C: Jonas Valanciunas - 7'0, 255 - 4th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
FT%
FTr
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
BLK/36
80
12.0
20.6
19.1%
62.3%
78.6%
.423
19.1%
11.8%
26.3%
1.6

Valanciunas has been coming along nicely over the last couple of years, culminating into a lowish usage, high efficiency season last year.  The key now will be to turn him into a bigger piece of the offense.  There's plenty to work with though: among players with at least 300 post-up possessions, nobody scored more PPP than Valanciunas' 1.02.

Bench

PG: Cory Joseph - 6'3, 190 - 5th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
79
6.8
15.5
17.0%
56.4%
36.4%
.107
73.4%
.348
19.7%
12.4%

Joseph was one of several key bench additions for the Raptors this offseason, and I think he's the best of the bunch.  Joseph gives the Raptors a versatile G who can play both backcourt spots if asked to, a capable defender and a potential offensive option who's still developing his game on that side of the court.  The one question mark here will be how he fares outside of the comfy confines of San Antonio's championship-level system.  I don't think the Raptors are going to be missing Greivis Vasquez much.

G: Delon Wright - 6'5, 185 - Rookie
GP
PPG
APG
SPG
FG%
FT%
3P%
35
14.5
5.1
2.1
50.9%
83.6%
35.6%

The 20th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, Wright has the size to see minutes at both backcourt postions.  He's known mostly for his defensive exploits, but if he wants to stick he's going to need to A) put some good weight on his frame and B) develop either an outside shot or an ability to be a pure distributor.

SG: Norman Powell - 6'4, 215 - Rookie
GP
PPG
RPG
APG
FG%
FT%
3P%
36
16.4
4.7
2.1
45.6%
75.1%
31.9%

Powell was a volume scorer in his last year at UCLA, Powell was the 46th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.  He was traded to Toronto by the Bucks, along with a 2017 1st round pick from the Clippers, for Greivis Vasquez.  A great athlete with long arms, Powell will have to put those attributes to work to overcome his poor outside shooting.

G/F: Terrence Ross - 6'7, 195 - 4th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
82
9.8
11.2
18.3%
51.9%
37.2%
.518
78.6%
.074
6.5%
8.1%

Ross' name gets bandied about often in trade talks, as the young wing has yet to live up to his lottery pick status.  No matter the expectations, Ross has value as an outside shooter.  He's got to do more going towards the basket or as a playmaker to increase his value though.  We'll see if he finishes the year as a Raptor.

SF: Bruno Caboclo - 6'8, 190 - 2nd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
8
1.3
-1.8
31.5%
41.7%
66.7%
.250
N/A
.000
0.0%
25.0%

Caboclo is still about as mysterious as he was when the Raptors shocked most by making him the 20th pick of the 2014 NBA Draft.  He only played 23 NBA minutes last year, and despite that he also only saw 62 minutes at the D-League level.  That all leads me to believe that Caboclo is still extremely raw.  He should see more minutes this year, but just how many games he plays in is a mystery.  I'll guess he shows up in half of the Raptors' 82 games, playing maybe 8-10 minutes per contest, and showing enough to make Raptors fans excited about his future.

F: James Johnson - 6'9, 235 - 7th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
70
7.9
17.9
17.4%
61.7%
21.6%
.126
65.7%
.252
11.4%
15.0%

Johnson will play both forward spots for the Raptors this year, although he played more of his minutes at PF last year, according to Basketball-Reference.  His toughness (did you know he's a black belt? /s) and versatility are his best qualities.  Johnson shot an impressive 64.3% on two point attempts last year.

PF: Luis Scola - 6'9, 240 - 9th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
FT%
FTr
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
BLK/36
81
9.4
16.8
22.8%
51.5%
69.9%
.352
17.5%
9.3%
25.6%
0.4

Scola is approaching the back end of his career, but there's no reason to think he can't serve a purpose off the Raptors' bench.  He's not a stretch four, but he's got a decent mid-range game and he'll do enough to earn minutes where they're available when Patterson and/or James Johnson need a breather.  His veteran experience should also be of use to a Raptors team that is looking to get beyond the first round of the playoffs.

PF: Anthony Bennett - 6'8, 240 - 3rd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TRB%
57
5.2
11.4
17.8%
45.8%
30.4%
.077
64.1%
.215
8.7%
13.8%

Bennett made improvements in just about every area of his game last season, but he was so poor in his rookie season that the end results still weren't pretty.  He's only 22, so it's too early to write him off at this point, but he needs to make a bigger leap this year to get somebody, anybody back on his bandwagon.

C: Bismack Biyombo - 6'9, 240 - 5th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
FT%
FTr
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
BLK/36
64
4.8
15.2
11.6%
57.8%
58.3%
.941
18.0%
13.7%
22.6%
2.9

Biyombo's fifth season will be his first outside of Charlotte, and he'll take his value at the defensive end of the floor to a team that can use a specialist behind Jonas Valanciunas.  You won't mistake Biyombo for Tim Duncan any time soon, but he did enough on offense last season to keep himself from being a major liability.  He's the only established shot blocker on the roster.

C: Lucas Noguiera - 7'0, 235 - 2nd NBA season (2013-14 Liga ACB stats)
GP
PPG
RPG
BPG
FG%
FT%
18
6.2
4.1
1.6
70.3%
67.7%

Noguiera appeared in 6 games for the Raptors last season, racking up 23 minutes played, 6 points, 11 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 steals.  The 23 year old C is best known for his abilities as a shot blocker, which means he'll be in a fight for minutes with Biyombo behind Valanciunas.

Outlook

The Raptors only got better in the offseason and that should mean an improvement from last year in the win column and come playoff time.  The additions of DeMarre Carroll, Cory Joseph, Luis Scola and Bismack Biyombo greatly improve the upside and depth of the roster.  That should equate to a third straight Atlantic Division title and better chances of advancing past the first round of the playoffs.  Kyle Lowry is going to earn another All Star bid, and DeMar DeRozan could find himself on the right side of the equation too.  Add an average defense to the Raptors' highly efficient defense and I think the Raptors come away with 52 wins.

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