It's that time of the year again where previews dominate NBA reading material. Conference, league, MVP, D-League...you name it. We'll kick our bunch of preview links off with Zach Lowe from Sports Illustrated's "tiered" take on the league, that puts the Raptors...well...in the "just lousy" category.
ESPN.com used Basketball Prospectus' SCHOENE methodology to look at the Eastern Conference (Insider) and again, the Raps didn't fare too well. From the post:
The Raptors still are building back up from the abrupt end of the Chris Bosh era. New coach Dwane Casey will begin by trying to end Toronto's two-year streak of finishing dead last in Defensive Rating.
That was pretty much it, except for the Raps being slotted under the "heading for the lottery" category.
Also from ESPN Insider, John Hollinger on the Raptors' fortunes this season:
Toronto has finally come to grips with reality. No longer are the Raps delusional about loading up on mediocre veterans with long-term deals, nor about winning games without bothering to play defense. With Toronto again last in defensive efficiency in 2010-11, the overmatched Jay Triano was finally shown the door. Replacing him is former Dallas zone defense maestro Dwane Casey, who now must upgrade one of the most pathetic defensive outfits in league annals...
He predicts the team to hit 19 wins, and a bottom three finish in the East, but is bullish on Toronto's future up front:
In fact, Toronto's frontcourt looks pretty darn good going forward. First-round pick Jonas Valanciunas won't be coming over this season, but at only 19 years of age, he ranks among the best players in Europe and looks like a star in the making. He and Davis could be a fearsome combo in five years; Bargnani, whatever you think of him, would make for a pretty potent sixth man in that arrangement.
Hmm...Bargs as a 6th man option? Where have we heard that before...
Continuing on with previews, at SB Nation, the Dinos are slotted in the basement once more under the heading, "when keeping it real European goes wrong."
They also failed to impress in SB Nation's annual "Watchability Scale."
More previews? How about Hickory High's NBA Anti-Awards, which is led by Mr. Bargnani.
(More lunchbox links after the jump...)
I suppose even without previews, we had a pretty good idea of how Toronto would be ranked by various NBA types. A tough schedule early on doesn't help, and in the end, the Raptors have the worst odds in the league in terms of winning the NBA title.
So maybe Toronto is trying to compensate in other ways, like providing some mesmerizing effects on the baseline of the ACC?
Or providing top notch in-game experience via their D League Squad, the Bakersfield Jam, as reported by Stadium Journey?
Or maybe management is ok with these types of preseason report cards as they know that it's the season after this one, that the real push will be made. For now, they're simply going to freshen things up with a coat of paint.