- PG – Kyle Lowry
- SG – DeMar DeRozan
- SF – Landry Fields
- PF – Andrea Bargnani
- C – Jonas Valanciounas
A weak starting lineup. One top ten player (PG) in Kyle Lowry. Unsure how to rate Bargnani. At least two, if not all three, of the remaining starters are liabilities.
Kyle Lowry is the star of the show here. A very strong defensive player and good rebounder. Gritty player. A good offensive player who provides solid scoring punch at around 16-18ppg on a solid TS%. A good three point shooter who gets to the rim very well and gets to the free throw line. Struggles in the midrange game. A solid floor general, playmaker and overall passer.
I didn’t get much of an opportunity to see Bargnani play last season. It felt like every time I tuned in to watch the Raptors; Bargnani was either out injured, just returning from an injury, or, the Raptors were in the midst of a really crappy game of basketball.
So, a lot of the news reports (and Dwayne Casey’s comments) have said that Bargnani has improved defensively and was playing capable defense last season at the PF position. Since I didn’t see him, I can’t confirm or deny that. And since I know how much Bargnani struggled defensively in the past, I have trouble accepting it on blind faith. So I’ll have to wait and get a clearer idea for myself this season about where Bargnani’s defensive game is at.
As for the rest of his game, Bargnani is still a dreadful rebounder and overall possession creator. A capable but generally uninterested passer. A lethal jump-shooting big man who appeared to improve as a shot-creator in the brief glimpses I caught of him last season. I think Bargnani should see improved scoring efficiency this season with Kyle Lowry on board. The combination of Lowry + Calderon, and maybe even the threat of Jonas’ finishing around the basket, should create additional space and opportunities for Bargnani offensively. A good scorer who is a 17-20ppg threat on a high TS% when in a 3rd option kind of role. Still developing as a shot-creator to be a 1st or 2nd option on a top class team. Possibly capable of being a 2nd go-to scoring option but his scoring efficiency would take a dent (it’d still be pretty good though).
Jonas Valanciounas was a surprise starter in a preseason game the other night. I expected him to be brought along more slowly. Spend at least the first half of the season as a reserve center before becoming a full time starter. Maybe even a year or a year and half. Anyway, it appears I was wrong on that and that Jonas will get inserted into the starting lineup earlier than I expected so I’ll pencil him in here on my season preview.
Jonas Valanciounas best talent is his rebounding ability. A top notch rebounder in Europe with good size/mobility, excellent length and a fantastic engine. That should translate to the NBA game very well and I’d expect him to be one of the superior rebounders in the league right away.
Offensively, Jonas is a good pick and roll finisher and general finisher around the basket. He should get more points of intelligent cuts, offensive rebounds and running in transition. So he should be good for 12-14 points per 36 minutes with high scoring efficiency (since all his shot attempts are right at the rim). A weak passer, jump-shooter and post-scorer. Defensively, Jonas struggled against power post players in Europe and with foul trouble in International basketball. Add the adjustment to the NBA game, the increased speed and the increased athleticism/talent of his opponents, and one should expect further problems defensively. As a starting center, I’d expect Valanciounas to be a below average defensive player. His length at the basket should get a few blocked shots though.
DeMar DeRozan is now in year four of his NBA career. He still does not play defense, fails to rebound adequately, and, is a very poor ball-handler and passer for his position. Overall, his non-scoring contributions are a large negative for the Raptors team. As for his scoring, DeRozan has shown himself to be a solid but unexceptional shot creator and overall scorer. Useful but not good enough to make up for all his negative contributions elsewhere. A liability for the Raptors. Someone who takes more off the table than he puts on it.
Landry Fields is a player I like but I think he is miscast as a starting small forward in the NBA. He regularly gets overpowered by bigger stronger opponents at the SF position (vs SG position) and is actually a below average defensive player there instead of the strong defensive player he is at the SG position. Also, his well above average rebounding at SG is marginalized at SF where he is matched up against superior rebounders. And offensively, Fields gains zero advantage from the SG position. So overall, Fields goes from a pretty good role player (SG) to one who is a liability (SF) as a starter. The one hope for Fields this year is that his jump-shooting improves on a team that actually moves the basketball, has good floor spacing and teamwork.
- PG – Jose Calderon, John Lucas III
- SG – Terrence Ross, Alan Anderson
- SF – Linas Kleiza, Dominic McGuire
- PF – Ed Davis, Quincy Acy
- C – Amir Johnson, Aaron Gray
A strong bench. Calderon is one of the best backup PGs in the league. Kleiza a well above average backup SF/PF. Amir Johnson a good backup center. A couple of very useful third string players in Aaron Gray and Dominic McGuire.
Jose Calderon is the biggest talent here. Shame to see him back on the bench since he is a top 15 PG in the NBA but it what it is. An excellent facilitator offensively who distributes the ball very well and runs a team’s offense precisely. A strong jump-shooter and efficient scorer. Improves a team’s offense considerably. A liability defensively.
Linas Kleiza creates matchup problems as a combo forward off the bench. Too big and powerful for most backup SFs and too skilled (with solid quickness) on the perimeter for most PFs to handle. Kleiza is an offensively orientated player who gives the Raptors good scoring punch and shot-creation off the bench. Also, like Calderon, a defensive liability.
Amir Johnson is more of a power forward than a center but I’d expect him to see most of his playing time behind Jonas Valanciounas. A good rebounder. A bit of a lightweight defensively which holds him back from becoming a high level defensive PF (good defender instead) and makes him a liability as a man-to-man defender at center. A capable team defender but not a leader defensively. Doesn’t organize team defenses. A similar offensive threat as Valanciounas with a little more of a jump-shot.
Ed Davis is next in line. Solid defender/rebounder. Garbage man offensively. Several reports saying he has improved his jumper and skill-level offensively over the summer. Remains to be seen. Vital for him to show more skill-level offensively to be anything more than a mid level backup PF.
Terrence Ross is a rookie. So an unknown. Very good athlete. Can shoot. Played good defense in college so there is hope for him to be a two-way player in the NBA given time. Will likely take the starting two spot from DeRozan at some point in the next few years. If he has a strong rookie season, Ross may be able to steal it away this year but that may be expecting too much from him.
Aaron Gray is a really good third string center. A physical presence at 7-0 270lbs. A good interior scorer. Very good hands. Finishes well. Little bit of a post-threat. A limited defender/rebounder due to weak quickness/mobility. Could be a useful situational and part-time (say 15mpg) starter now and again for Toronto. Only player (aside from Bargnani) with real power/size at the center position.
Dominic McGuire is a good defender and excellent possession creator. Good ball-handling and passing skills too. Very limited scorer. A multi-position player who can play both SG and SF minutes and occasionally some PF (against combo forward or lightweight perimeter big types). A good contrast in skill-set from Linas Kleiza. A good alternative there for Toronto when they need it.
Alan Anderson is an experienced SG/SF. Good size for a guard. Capable defender and good long distance marksman. A dependable option at SG which is nice to have behind two youngsters like DeRozan and Ross.
Quincy Acy is a poor man’ s Reggie Evans. Not convinced he is an NBA level player. John Lucas III is a serviceable third string PG.
A pretty weak starting unit that is boosted by a strong bench. The Raptors should be a 30 win quality team. Too good to get a high lottery pick and not good enough to make the playoffs. Not a good place to be.