It’s been just weeks since the LA Lakers ended the Toronto Raptors reign as NBA champs by winning the NBA finals, and a new season is already upon us. With free agency just days away and training camp not long after, it’s time to start thinking about realistic expectations for the Toronto Raptors’ upcoming campaign.
The Toronto Raptors find themselves in an interesting position heading into the 2020/2021 season, it seems like sort of a transition year while they gear up for the Giannis sweepstakes next offseason. Several potential outcomes are in the realm of possibility, and there are a few factors to take into consideration when trying to predict their destiny.
The Toronto Raptors’ roster could look very different when training camp begins in early December. Pending free agent, Fred VanVleet is looking more and more likely to be out of their price range (much to the chagrin of Toronto fans).
Another fan favourite UFA Serge Ibaka has also been linked to other potential destinations, including the Lakers. Not to mention the cloudiness of the Terrence Davis situation. He could be off the team completely depending on the results of his pending legal charges.
On the flip side, however, Toronto could be looking to add some pieces as well. Reigning 6th man of the year Montrezl Harrell has been rumoured to be interested in signing with the team. They’re also a potential trade destination for disgruntled Victor Oladipo, who could be on the way out of Indiana.
Regardless of who leaves, the core of Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and Norman Powell should give the Toronto Raptors enough too at the very least, be a playoff team in an improving Eastern Conference. Throw in another piece in the upcoming draft and some potential free-agent acquisitions and they could find themselves as a legitimate dark horse contender. They still have the league’s best coach Nick Nurse as well, which can’t be discounted.
The east’s new hierarchy
Speaking of that improved Eastern Conference, The Toronto Raptors will find themselves with some new challenges to overcome this year. The Brooklyn Nets, with the addition of Kevin Durant and new head coach Steve Nash, are primed to jump right to the top of the conference. A potential James Harden trade, which has been rumoured, would make them even more potent.
If Brooklyn climbs to a top spot, that means someone has to fall out of one, and the Toronto Raptors seem like a logical candidate. Boston will still be there with their young duo of Jason Tatum and Jalen Brown. The reigning Conference champion Miami Heat will likely bring back almost the same roster. Milwaukee still has league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and despite their playoff woes, they’ve proven they can rack up regular-season wins with the best of em’.
Then there’s Philadelphia, their roster fit issues are still more prominent. They do have a new coach in Doc Rivers though, and new team president Daryl Morey instantly makes them a trade candidate for any star on the market. A healthy Ben Simmons, who missed the entire bubble restart and postseason, will make them more dangerous as well.
All that is to say, The Toronto Raptors could on the outside looking in when talking about true contenders in the East. Don’t expect them to just fall off the face of the earth, but it’s hard to imagine them finishing ahead of any of those teams (maybe with the exception of Philly) in the standings.
If the Toronto Raptors truly want to compete in the East this year, they’ll have to bank on internal development as they’ve done in each of the last four years. No player is primed to take more of a leap than OG Anunoby.
Anunoby’s playoff performance was extremely promising. Though the numbers don’t jump out at you, his knockdown three-point shooting, all world defence and clutch shotmaking seemed like a sign of things to come. He was starting to look reminiscent of a young Kawhi Leonard when he got his first taste of real playoff competition with the Spurs in 2014.
Anunoby will certainly have a much bigger role this year, and If he improves his ball-handling and playmaking, he could have Allstar potential. If Anunoby takes a big step in his game it would drastically raise the Toronto Raptors ceiling.
As previously stated, several outcomes for the 2020/2021 season seem possible for the Toronto Raptors. The best-case scenario would be a top-four seed and a surprise run to the Conference Finals.
The worst-case? The injury bug hits the team again and a bad start to the year leads to a midseason offloading of Kyle Lowry’s expiring contract, ultimately missing the playoffs.
The final prediction falls somewhere in between:
- 44-28, 5th in the Eastern Conference.
(Keep in mind this is a 72 game season as opposed to the regular 82)
Though they’ve likely fallen out of championship contention, expect the Toronto Raptors to be competitive all year, and win the 4/5 matchup in the first round of the playoffs.