Realistic expectations for the 2015-16 Toronto Raptors


The Toronto Raptors announced their 2015/16 schedule recently and are set to host the Indiana Pacers on October 28 at the Air Canada Centre for the season opener. With a growing emphasis on improving player health, the NBA has trimmed back-to-back games and removed the potential of playing four games in five days. The Raptors will play 17 back-to-backs, which is down from 19 last season.

Some notable highlights from the team’s itinerary include:

  • First rematch with last year’s playoff opponent, the Washington Wizards, on November 28
  • Golden State Warriors, the defending champions, come to Toronto on December 5
  • Showdown with the Orlando Magic in London, England on January 14
  • Andrew Wiggins and the Minnesota Timberwolves visit Toronto on February 24

With the schedule released, the new jerseys unveiled and the roster essentially finalized for training camp, what should we expect from the Raptors this season?

Improve to top 15 on defence

Finishing 23rd in defensive efficiency and tied for 18th in points allowed last season, the Raptors dedicated the offseason to acquiring defensive-minded players. The additions of Bismack Biyombo, DeMarre Carroll, Cory Joseph and Delon Wright should bolster both the team’s perimeter and interior defence. Additionally, the Raptors hired Andy Greer, a former assistant to defensive guru Tom Thibodeau, to help incorporate an improved defensive system.

Rank top 7 in Offence

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Toronto’s offence was not a problem last season. The team scored 104.0 points per game, which was tied for 4th in the league, and had the 3rd best offensive efficiency. Although the Raptors lost microwave scorer Lou Williams this summer, the offensive focus should shift to more ball movement and offensive touches for Jonas Valanciunas, who has the ability to grow as a post player. For these reasons, the team should be even better offensively this season.

Win 50+ games

The Raptors earned 48 wins during the 2013/14 season and 49 wins last season. Given internal development, roster continuity and this summer’s under the radar acquisitions, the Raps should be able to crack at least 50 wins this season.

Win the Atlantic Division

While the NBA is leaning towards removing playoff guarantees for division winners, the Raptors will still be striving to raise another banner this season. Even though the New York Knicks improved on paper, they still don’t match up to the Raps. The Boston Celtics finished 2nd in the division last season and accumulated a massive load of depth this summer, but the team still lacks a foundational player to build upon. The division is simply the Raptors’ to lose.

Post a .500+ record against the Western Conference

In order to compete with the best, the Raptors must beat the best. Though the team finished 16-14 against the Western Conference last season, the Raptors have a good enough roster to improve on that record.

Make the second-round of the playoffs

Maybe the third time will be the charm. Playoff seeding will be crucial for the Raptors, to ensure the team draws a  favourable matchup. The Raptors have experienced an early exit during two consecutive post-seasons, but they are poised to make it to the next level with improvement on the defensive end.

Have at least one player named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team

DeMar DeRozan was an All-Star reserve in 2014 and Kyle Lowry was voted into the starting lineup in 2015. With the 2016 NBA All-Star Game in Toronto, it would be expected that at least one of those two make the Eastern squad. DeMarre Carroll is also a darkhorse candidate to consider.

Maintain top 5 in attendance

With the 5th best attendance in the NBA last season, the Raptors should continue selling out at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto is Canada’s team and Drake’s influence along with the ‘Northern Uprising’ campaign have contributed significantly.

Next: Should Raptors sign Evans?

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