Toronto Raptors Roundtable: Biggest surprise, realistic goals, and more

Toronto Raptors - Pascal Siakam (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Pascal Siakam (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /
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Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors – Ronade Hollis-Jefferson (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

Who’s been the Toronto Raptors’ biggest surprise? What are realistic goals for this season? Is Pascal Siakam a top-10 player? We asked these questions and more to our Raptors roundtable.

The Toronto Raptors have surprised everyone with their play so far this season. Despite their offseason departures, the defending champions are right in the midst of the Eastern Conference race, currently in a standings traffic-jam with the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, and Philadelphia 76ers.

But what are the biggest questions of the season so far? What are the team’s biggest surprises, biggest concerns, and more? We paneled our contributors to give their thoughts.

What has been the best surprise of the Toronto Raptors season so far?

Mike Bossetti:

The depth is the obvious answer, and therefore, probably the correct one. However, I’ll go in a different direction. It’s been the noticeable improvement of all three of the Toronto Raptors young core. Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and OG Anunoby are all significantly better than they were last season.

And while yes, younger players are supposed to improve, rarely does it happen this smoothly. Players often take small steps back and large leap forwards. All three pieces of the Raptors’ core took leaps in the right direction this season.

Nikola Cuvalo:

The resilience and cohesiveness exhibited by the roster after an early spate of injuries. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has shown up at both ends of the court in limited minutes. Terence Davis is providing consistent rotation-calibre play. VanVleet and Siakam have stepped up as the clear next generation of the franchise. There have been so many positives to take from this 15-4 start, but the ability to pile up so many wins without their talented vets (Lowry & Ibaka) speaks volumes about their young talent and the elite coaching the Raptors possess on the sidelines.

Michael Walton:

The biggest surprise of the Raptors season so has been how Marc Gasol has been able to stay effective on offense despite having easily the worst shooting season of his career. The offense is performing better with Gasol on the court (110.5-offensive rating) than it did last season. He has been able to maintain his effectiveness on offense by settling into a lesser role.

Gasol’s usage rating has dipped 8.6 percentage points from last season but his masterful passing, screening, and solid 3-point shooting, combined with his defense, has resulted in the second-best Net Rating of his career (+10.1). The Raptors will likely need the 34-year old Gasol to shoot better than 30-percent from 2-point range at some point, but even if he struggles inside, as long as he continues to successfully work as a secondary playmaker and defensive force, the Raptors will be in good shape.

Geethan Viswathasan:

The team’s depth and being able to withstand injuries to Lowry and Ibaka and still produce a competitive defensive unit against the best teams in the league.

Another positive, albeit not as big of a surprise, was the further development of Pascal Siakam. Siakam has been all-worldly good this season, and while many expected him to take a jump, most didn’t expect anything like this.