To me, the Toronto Raptors could be one of the NBA's most intriguing teams this season. They made one of the more underrated moves of the past off season in getting Kyle Lowry for a future first round pick. If this move (and the others made) makes the Raptors significantly better like it could; this draft pick could not amount to much. The Raptors then over payed for Landry Fields (3 yr, $20 million), which wasn't brilliant but didn't hurt them too much. Couple those moves with the fact two top 10 picks will join the team and the Raptors have an interesting mix of players, even without getting Steve Nash.
So how does that bode for this season in the Eastern Conference? First off, it depends largely on the progression of some key players, starting with DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan is a talented, athletic, 23 year old player who can play both wings. The Raptors drafted him 9th overall based on talent, but so far he hasn't been living up to how he could play. If you look at the basic numbers DeRozan looks not too bad, posting 16.7 PTS, 3.3 REB, and 2.0 AST, while shooting 42%. Advanced stats shows though that DeRozan could be better; DeRozan posted a 12.8 PER while the league average is 15. DeRozan also had a Win Shares Per 48 of .054, while the league average is .100. Both of these stats suggest that he plays below average, not something you want out of a top 10 pick 3 years into the league. Another player that need to improve is former 1st overall pick Andrea Bargnani. Bargnani is a very good offensive player when healthy, but the problem is he doesn't really put anything else on the table. He posted a 9.8 Total Rebound Percentage for the 31 games he played last year, which is just pitiful for a 7 footer. For comparison Ben Uzoh put up a 10.3% in his 16 games as a Raptor last year. BEN UZOH rebounded at a higher rate, that should not be acceptable for any big man. Bargnani isn't a real good 1 on 1 defender either, but that is something I don't know if he will ever put forth the effort to get better there.
Along with these these two players, young big men Jonas Valanciunas and Ed Davis could be key for the Raptors. If one of these two, or preferably both, can be solid options in the rotation then Toronto's front court doesn't look as thin as it does now. I personally feel that Valanciunas could be a solid NBA player right away, but I am very cautious of this statement knowing how long it can take Centers to learn to play in the NBA. I also think Ed Davis could be much better. Even though you need to be cautious with summer league games, Ed Davis showed much more polish this summer. The part of his game I saw the most improvement during these games was in his offensive moves in the post. 2012 first round pick Terrance Ross will look to be in the rotation immediately, but may not be a huge factor to the team right away.
So how does the team stack up? Well the first thing that jumps out to me is that, more than likely, Kyle Lowry is better than any other player the Raptors have had since Chris Bosh. This is a great sign for a team that is looking to make a bit of a jump. The next thing is that Calderon is a way better bench player than the Raptors have had in awhile, and Ross might be right up there with him. This, plus some player progression, could lead to the Raptors being a potent team this season. If that happens you can look at the fact they were willing to wait a season to get Valanciunas as a key reason this team isn't drafting in the top 10 again. Toronto is solid enough to be able to contend for the 8 seed in the East, but with the log jam that is set up who isn't? The Raptors will more than likely finish somewhere between 12 and 8 in the East, depending on player improvement, and Valanciunas and Ross being ready. Overall though, this is a much better team they have fielded in the post-Bosh era of the franchise.