Going through a few links that I missed reporting on during the Olympics and Zach Lowe's final "Off-season Evaluation" post for SI.com jumped out at me.
Lowe had previously touched on various clubs that he felt were "intriguing" or perhaps primed for disappointment come next year, and recently turned his attention to the rest of the pack, including the Toronto Raptors.
The Raps actually lead off the piece and Lowe notes that were one team with perhaps the best case for being included on his previous "intriguing" list. From the post:
If there's a team from this group that belongs on the "intriguing" list, it's probably Toronto, which landed its franchise point guard in a fascinating trade with the Rockets after improving from cover-your-eyes awful to league average on defense in coach Dwane Casey's first year. Kyle Lowry will serve as the team's major free-agent prize because the Raptors reserved their rather significant cap space for a two-pronged pursuit of Steve Nash, a strategy that included both a sizable offer to the two-time MVP and a crazy offer sheet to Landry Fields designed to block the Knicks from a sign-and-trade deal for Nash...
Lowe goes on to further break down the changes made to Toronto's roster, including the impact of the Fields deal, the addition of Jonas Valanciunas, and what to make of the leftovers on the roster like Linas Kleiza and Ed Davis.
Bottom line: With some internal growth and Lowry on board to upgrade the defense at the top of the arc, the Raptors have a chance to make some noise in the race for the No. 8 spot - especially if the Sixers slip after their own offseason makeover. Toronto also will be a team to watch on the trade and free-agency markets because of its glut of big men, decent cap flexibility, still-available amnesty provision and point guard Jose Calderon's expiring deal.
It's hard to argue with this and indeed, a healthy Raptors team could easily be in the conversation for the eighth seed, especially if clubs like Chicago and Orlando indeed fall off.
However a lot has to go right for me to say that the playoffs are any sort of lock next year, including major contributions from the likes of Valanciunas and Terrence Ross, a return to form for Landry Fields, another step forward by DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis, and of course, an 82 game sample of the 13 game Bargs from last year.
But to Mr Lowe's point, I think that's what makes this upcoming version of the Raptors so intriguing, and more interesting I'd argue than any Dino squad in the past five seasons.