Top five reasons to keep watching the Toronto Raptors this season

Toronto Raptors - Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol (Photo by Brock Williams-Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol (Photo by Brock Williams-Smith/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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(Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Ball movement

Speaking of the Lowry-led offense: When it was an action last season, the Raptors thrived off of ball movement. That’s one team strength that didn’t depart to Los Angeles with Leonard and Danny Green.

After the crucial Marc Gasol trade, the Raptors averaged 27.7 assists per game, which would’ve ranked second among all teams over the course of the full season. They assisted on 65.8-percent of their made field goals after the trade, compared to just 58-percent before acquiring Gasol.

Gasol established himself as a passing hub from the high post, developing a nice chemistry with guards Lowry, Norman Powell, and Fred VanVleet on back-cuts and pick-and-pops. That’s in addition to Lowry’s elite pick-and-roll game with both Ibaka and Siakam, and the generally unselfish nature of the team’s rotation players.

Even Ibaka, who posted a paltry career-high assist percentage of 7.7-percent last season, showed some playmaking skills as a short roller in June’s NBA Finals. The Raptors will take whatever they can get in terms of playmaking this season, and Ibaka figures to play a lot of minutes in what might be only a three-man frontcourt rotation on most nights.

Anunoby, while not nearly the shooter that Green is, might be somewhat of a filler for the 3-and-D role in the starting lineup. Powell usually attacks with his head down, focused only on scoring, and he didn’t show any signs of developing his playmaking during the preseason. Toronto will see what it can get from its strange assortment of new bench pieces; undrafted rookie Terence Davis looks the most promising so far.

The Raptors’ offense is likely to rank outside the top-10 in efficiency, based on a simple lack of individual talent and shot creation off the dribble. Even so, it will be entertaining. There should be great ball movement in the halfcourt, while Lowry’s many long outlet passes and Siakam’s coast-to-coast adventures should translate to transition highlights.