Raptors Lead

4 Questions Toronto Will Answer This Season

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With just days away from the beginning of one of the most anticipated NBA seasons in recent years, the Toronto Raptors find themselves in a very unique position. With their first NBA championship under their belt, the Raptors enter uncharted territory. Very few teams lose their Finals MVP to free agency during the summer. The loss of Kawhi Leonard makes defending the title almost impossible for the reigning champions. That being said, Toronto’s depth positions them still as one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. With their chemistry and now championship pedigree, the Raptors are looking to be a dark horse this season. For Raptors fans, this season will be an interesting one to follow. The only guarantee going into this year is that there are a lot of questions that will be answered.

1. How High is Pascal Siakam’s Ceiling?

It’s hard to imagine anyone predicting how good Pascal Siakam would be at the beginning of last season. The reigning MIP more than doubled his points per game, while shooting at a clip of 55% from the field. He developed a convincing 3-point shot, and had the speed and agility to beat nearly any big man off the dribble. More than anything, he developed confidence. That confidence will play a massive role this season, with Siakam likely becoming the primary scoring option for the Raptors. Last week, Kyle Lowry told ESPN that Siakam would be their “go-to guy”, and it isn’t much of a surprise.

 

What remains to be seen, however, is just how good Siakam can really be. He’s already surpassed what anyone expected his ceiling to be when he was drafted. But now, that ceiling has the potential to be much higher.

If the Raptors expect to stay competitive, Pascal Siakam needs to take another step forward. The 25-year-old seems up for the challenge, and will get all the opportunities in the world to show it. With a Raptors team that will be looking to find ways to score, Siakam will need to put up more than the 17 points per game he did last season. Throw in the fact that he will become a free agent next summer, and this shapes up to be a huge year for Siakam.

Many have compared Siakam’s giant leap last season to that of Giannis Antetokounmpo. While comparing Siakam to the Greek Freak might be jumping the gun a bit, if he can become anything close to Antetokounmpo, the Raptors might have their next superstar in Spicy P.

2. Can OG Anunoby Bounce Back?

One of the most forgettable storylines of last year’s legendary playoff run was the loss of OG Anunoby. Anunoby suffered a ruptured appendix and underwent an emergency appendectomy just days before the start of their first round matchup with Orlando. After an expected return of a few weeks, Anunoby dealt with an infection that sat him out for the entire playoff campaign. With the amazing championship run that the Raptors pulled off, it’s understandable why Anunoby has not been talked about much.

Nevertheless, Anunoby is a player that was integral to the Raptors during the season, especially on the defensive end. Unfortunately, he did not take the leap forward that the Raptors were hoping for last season. OG started just six games last season, compared to the 62 starts he had in his rookie year. But these things happen when your team trades for a superstar at the same position. With the 2x Finals MVP now in Los Angeles, the starting small forward is back up for grabs again.

While OG is likely the favourite to start, it still won’t be the cakewalk that many may be expecting. With the Raptors’ additions of Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, OG won’t consistently get that starting spot without a fight. Anunoby certainly appears to have the most potential of the three, but that remains to be seen.

If OG Anunoby is able to take the leap forward that the Raptors were expecting of him last season, it could make a big difference in making up for the loss of Kawhi.

3. Who’s Scoring the Ball?

With Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green both making their way to California, one of the biggest concerns could be the loss of defensive identity. However, with the likes of Lowry, Anunoby, Ibaka, and Gasol to name a few, the Raptors have the ability to maintain their strong defensive play without skipping a beat.

The offensive end, however, is where the Raptors could feel the loss of their two starters most. The tandem of Leonard and Green combined for roughly 37 points a night last season, and that has to come from somewhere. The Raptors didn’t make any individual signings that will make up for 37 points a night. It will need to be a team effort if the Raptors are expecting to remain one of the highest ranked teams on both sides of the floor.

The Raptors could struggle offensively if the entire team doesn’t pick up the slack. It’s going to take more than a few steps forward from Siakam and Anunoby to outweigh their off-season departures. Head Coach Nick Nurse will have his hands full in reshaping Toronto’s offense to say the least.

4. What does the Future look like?

The GM savant that is Masai Ujiri built this Raptors team so strategically that they were able to win a championship, and easily transition into rebuild mode the year after. The Raptors have an abundance of expiring contracts this season, which gives Toronto flexibility to move into whichever direction they see fit.

Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol, Fred VanVleet, and Pascal Siakam are the most notable players set to hit free agency next summer, and the question remains whether or not any of them want to stay. Toronto has made it clear that their main priority will be to sign Pascal Siakam long-term, and rightfully so.

With only about $3.5 million guaranteed after the 2021 season, the Raptors could really do anything. They could choose to go full rebuild, and develop their prospects. 2021 free agency is already looking promising, and Toronto could be in the search for a superstar to pair with Siakam.

With the flexibility that Masai Ujiri has given his team, the options are endless. One of the most important expiring contracts, however, is Ujiri himself. Nobody can argue that all of Toronto’s success would not be possible without Masai at the helm. His years of calculated moves resulted in Toronto’s first NBA title, and is continuing to pay dividends during their looming rebuild.

The Toronto Raptors aren’t going to be winning any championships in the foreseeable future. They do, however, possess the chance to have one of the quickest rebuilds in NBA history. Despite that, there are many questions that need to be answered this season. Those questions will begin to be answered on October 22nd when the Raptors receive their championship rings, and begin their seemingly impossible journey to defend their title.

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