Toronto Raptors

The Raptors’ breakout player will be…

The defending champion Raptors’ breakout player will be Pascal Siakam, obviously. There are other figures in Toronto due for a potentially bigger spotlight (hello Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby!), but Siakam is about to go from no-name late first round pick, to the league’s Most Improved Player, to, yes, a probable Eastern Conference All-Star. What he means to the Raptors at this stage of his career, and in the future, is impossible to calculate. Siakam is set to become the man in Toronto and has shown so far he has the tools to fully embrace that role.

It all goes wrong if…

Stating injuries here is a bit of a copout, but it all goes wrong in Toronto if one (or, heaven forbid, both) of Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol miss serious time. And if the Raptors toy with the idea of trading either one (or even Serge Ibaka) for future assets, look out. The Raptors will rely heavily on their veterans this season for their ability to organize the rest of the team’s talent on offense, and to anchor the squad on defense. Given their age, it’s not not a concern that Toronto will be leaning on them as much as they are right now.

What we’ll be saying about the Raptors at the end of the season…

No matter how it goes this season, the Raptors will still be the 2019 NBA champions, so it’s definitely possible the fanbase won’t even care what people are saying come April (or June). Still, the general sentiment about these Raptors will come to be something like this: “They put up a better fight in their title defense than we thought.” There’s honour in that.

Final prediction

Vegas has set the Raptors’ line at 46.5 which feels about right. They will certainly not challenge for 60 wins this season, as they have the past couple of years, but a push for 50 is possible. The step down from Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green is no small thing, but the core of Toronto is still solid, as is their defensive identity. Meanwhile, Toronto’s newcomers will be put in the best positions to succeed, Siakam really is about to become that dude, and overall the squad will overachieve once again.

Final prediction: 49-33

Daniel Reynolds (@aka_Reynolds)