With the NBA offseason activity beginning to wane heavily this week, albeit for a few signings still up in the air- Brandon Jennings/Nikola Pekovic notably. And on the eve of the NFL and college football's annual takeover of all things media, I think it's finally time to make some predictions for the upcoming NBA season given that the majority of rosters are somewhere between working rough draft and fixed. Now before reading this column, I need you guys to realize a few things: 1) I'm making NBA predictions in JULY and literally ANYTHING can happen before the season to derail these predictions. 2) These are 100% serious. I am not here to troll or make fun of anybody. That would be churlish and a waste of time. 3) I encourage you to respond with how you feel about my predictions. So without further ado, I present to you a running column that will include a Fanpost for each and every NBA team, "The Flagrantly Early, Incredibly Half-Baked NBA Predictions Series."
No. 1: Jonas Valanciunas will close the gap on Ziggy
When you think of Lithuanian superstars, two obvious names come to mind: Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Arvydas Sabonis. Two of the all time Lithuanian greats who came over to the states and integrated their Euro-ball style game into the NBA. When it's all said and done I wouldn't be surprised if young Jonas were amongst those ranks as well. Jonas is going to get his shot this year as the Raptors starting season, and I believe he will perform well. He's got a full season under his belt finally, and he's coming off what was an impressive summer league by most scout's standards. In 24 minutes he averaged 9 & 6 last season, and with no Andrea Bargnani ahead of him he should have plenty of playing time to develop into a solid player, much akin to Nikola Pekovic or Vucevic. I mean, Aaron Gray's not taking any minutes off his plate. Predictably his averages should shoot up because Amir Johnson really doesn't call for many touches either. Jonas should do a considerable amount to gain respect in this league and close the gap on Ziggy, however, Arvydas Sabonis is much farther off into Lithuanian folklore.
No. 2: Toronto will lead the league in high flying dunks
One of the greatest assets the Toronto Raptors have for this upcoming season are the 3 highlight reel dunkers that will suit up in the red, black, and silver. Rudy Gay, Terrence Ross, and DeMar Derozan are three guys who can absolutely slam it home and boy is it exciting. While I don't love the Raptors chances to make the playoffs (I believe they will be dangerously close though - maybe last team out), I believe in the energy this team can bring to the Air Canada Centre when those guys go high flying. The Raptors one of those teams that are absolute locks for Sports Center Top 10 when they get out on the fast break. It's great to watch these dunkers when they get going and get creative. Dunks don't win you games alone, but they can certainly change the momentum or rile up the fans and sometimes that's all you can ask for. If one thing is certain for this year's Raptors: there will be dunks.
No. 3: Toronto will be a rebounding force
When Jonas Valanciunas becomes an indestructible rebound machine, feel free to phone and remind me I called it. Along with young Jonas, the Raptors have Amir Johnson and the newly acquired Tyler "Psycho T" Hansbrough at power forward - both of whom were top 25 rebounding rate amongst PFs. Between those 3, this unit should mop up the defensive glass. Furthermore, Kyle Lowry had the 2nd highest rebound rate amongst PGs. Those are some serious chops which gives these Raptors great hope to keep games competitive if they limit their opponents possessions.