With the rumored announcement of the 2016 NBA All Star Game being hosted in Toronto, Tim Leiweke, President of the Toronto Raptors, must be smiling. Since coming to Toronto, one of Leiweke’s goals was to bring basketball relevance to the city, and winning the All Star Game will help that process. It stands to reason that Leiweke would also wish to bring success to the Raptors team before the event. General Manager Masai Ujiri and Leiweke have 3 years to make the necessary improvements to the team. With only DeMar DeRozan and Steve Novak on the payroll in 2015-2016 (other players have team options) there is certainly flexibility to make significant changes to the roster by then.
Will the Raptors be able to give a solid showing in the 2016 All-Star Game and corresponding season? There are a few players on the current Raptors squad who have the potential to make the Big Game. Rudy Gay has been mentioned for many All-Star games, but has yet to make one. If Gay is still on the roster in the weaker Eastern Conference, he will battle with LeBron James, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony for the small forward position. Jonas Valanciunas may also become a strong contender for a role on the All-Star team if his development continues to improve at the current rate. Centres are currently a weak spot in the Eastern Conference so I’ll suggest JV has the best chance of the current roster talent to make the All-Star Game. Least likely to make the Toronto All-Star game is Kyle Lowry. Kyle has loads of potential and can certainly put up large numbers in Points, Rebounds, Assists, and Steals. Should he become a consistent performer every night, trusting in his teammates and himself, it is not unreasonable for him to reach an All-Star game in his career. Kyle will find the path to the All-Star much more difficult than the other two. He will require injuries to some of the bigger profile point guards and substantial improvement in his consistency.
The NBA pre-season is only two weeks away much may be made of the coming year to determine both the team’s future, and path the team will follow on route to the 2015/16 season. Will Rudy Gay and Kyle Lowry be able to step it up and show they can be the future of the Raptors core for years to come, or will they falter?