In this week's column at Grantland, basketball guru Zach Lowe dove into his annual "crazy" predictions for the NBA. The looks into the crystal ball range from the insane to the probable, with Lowe's track record showing better than most. A few of his 35 points touched on the Raptors, with the one predicting their place in the Eastern Conference playoffs standing out most.
The prediction reads "Toronto finishes closer to No. 8 than No. 2" and Lowe's argument is this:
All the projections say this is crazy, and if Skinny Kyle Lowry lights it up all season, this prediction will go down in flames. But something doesn’t smell right. This team feels rickety. Maybe it’s the continued rumblings about Casey’s job status and his relationship with Lowry — still a prickly sort. It could be the absence of Amir Johnson, who filled every gap and propped up an otherwise awful defense last season. The Drakes have remodeled that defense, but they allowed 106.6 points per 100 possessions last season, equivalent to a bottom-five mark, when Patrick Patterson and Jonas Valanciunas shared the floor.
Maybe it’s DeMar DeRozan’s looming free agency, or that Masai Ujiri hasn’t put his imprint on the team beyond the DeMarre Carroll and Cory Joseph signings. If they hover around .500 too long, something might crack. In that scenario, almost no Toronto trade would surprise me.
While damaging, this doesn't sound too far-fetched. There seem to be more question marks around the Raptors today than there were at this time last year. There's less cohesion and coaching issues appear to be floating somewhere near the surface. Lowe touches on Casey specifically in another point on "good coaches getting fired":
As Ken Berger reported earlier this week
Dwane Casey could be in trouble if the Raptors stumble early. Casey has done good work, but Toronto embarrassed itself in the playoffs last season, and the team gutted Casey’s staff of assistants for the second time in only a few seasons. They brought in Andy Greer, a Thibodeau staffer in Chicago, to revamp the defense, and before landing Greer, they made a hard run at another defensive guru, per league sources: Darren Erman, Jackson’s former assistant in Golden State, and now the associate head coach in New Orleans.
Finally, Lowe passes out knowledge on whether Terrence Ross will sign an extension in the vein of Jonas Valanciunas:
Terrence Ross: yes; it’s something like 50-50 as of now, sources say, and determined negotiators can take 50-50 situations over the goal line.
What are your thoughts on these predictions? More crazy than true, or will any of these come to pass?