"The Crossover" is a season preview series we're running here at Raptors HQ in which we'll talk to other SB Nation team sites in the Eastern Conference to give us an idea of what to expect from the competition, what their expectations are for both their own team and the Raptors.
1. How do you feel about LeBron James right now?
I'm indifferent about LeBron. On one hand I'm extremely grateful for the four amazing seasons he gave us, on the other hand as more time passes by and details of his Heat exit are revealed there is some bitterness.
However, what's done is done. Of course you can never truly replace the best player in the world but considering what the Heat were undoubtedly faced with the afternoon of July 11th with Chris Bosh's presumptive exit as well, Pat Riley recovered quite nicely and plugged the holes necessary to keep the team competitive.
2. How much does Dwyane Wade have in the tank?
I think he's got quite a bit. He's definitely not Dywane Wade of 2010, but I think we'll see a reinvented version of Wade. This upcoming season is going to be a transformative year for him as he begins to assume the role he relinquished to LeBron, he's also slimmed down a bit after going on a diet during the offseason which should lighten the load on his knees.
He goes by the motto "my belief is stronger, than your doubt" and I have a sneaky suspicion that we'll hear it quite a bit this season. Nothing fuels Wade more than those who have written him off and with the departure of LeBron, a lot of that has gone on since July, so he's definitely coming into the season more fueled and focused to hush the naysayers.
3. Are you ready for a Chris Bosh led team?
Absolutely, and we've seen glimpses of it during the past four seasons when either Wade, LeBron or both have sat out. There's no doubt about it that Bosh sacrificed his game the most during Miami's Big Three era, so it will be nice to see him be the featured player.
Again, much like Wade this will be a transformative year for Bosh but one with a lot of upside. Remember when Wade and Bosh committed to Miami in 2010? The city of Miami was buzzing about that, then a few days you-know-who made their big decision... so I'm sort of viewing this season as the delayed version of 2010.
At the time no one expected LeBron to come to Miami also, it was going to be a team led by Wade and Bosh so now we'll get to see what all the fuss about that was about and I'm pretty excited about that.
4. Where do you see the Heat finishing this season?
The competitive balance in the East is a bit more even in comparison to recent years. I think it goes without saying that it's been tipped a little bit more towards Northeast Ohio right now with Chicago as number two if Derrick Rose stays healthy.
Quite honestly I had the Heat somewhere around the four or five seed, but then Paul George's gruesome injury during the USA Basketball scrimmage changed that and I'm going with the Heat somewhere around three or four.
Like I said, I think Riley did a heck of a job retooling the roster considering what he was up against. While the lofty championship expectations may have faded, I still expect the team to be very competitive.
5. How do you think the Raptors will do this season?
The Raptors were a bit of a surprise to me last season and I think they have a good shot of being right back in the playoff hunt this year since they were able to keep their key free agent Kyle Lowry and they added more depth by turning John Salmons into Lou Williams.
Williams received the second-most votes for Sixth Man of the Year a few seasons ago and with even more time removed from injury I think the bench is a bit more formidable. Instead of featuring Vasquez off the bench the Raptors now have the luxury of both Vasquez and Williams.
Personally, I look at this Masai Ujiri run team and expect them to be competitive. He did a great job during his stint in Denver especially with the Carmelo Anthony trade by getting key rotation players in return for a superstar who was forcing his way out and I think it's only a matter of time before he turns the Raptors into one of those teams that are always competitive, always in the hunt. I see them finishing somewhere between the five or six seed.