The start of the 2022-23 NBA season is less than a week away! As teams wrap up their preseason schedules, make their final roster cuts and get ready for the real games, your bloggers here at Raptors HQ and across SB Nation are left to ponder how good — and how bad — things might get for their teams.
The good news for us? The Toronto Raptors are once again in position to have a winning season, and even the worst case scenarios aren’t all that bad!
What’s the “Best Case” scenario for the Toronto Raptors this season?
The Toronto Raptors could very well win the Atlantic Division this season, and possibly even be the team to come out of the East. Both Bill Simmons and Brian Windhorst have said so! Well, OK, they kinda hedged it with “it’s not crazy” and “they’re a trade away” caveats, but it could happen.
The Raptors won 48 games last year despite a slow start, and bring back the same team, with the addition of Otto Porter Jr., who should help address the outside shooting woes. Who’s to say they can’t win 55 this year? The Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets have the talent edge on paper, but they didn’t exactly have “normal” offseasons, you know?
If everything goes right, if the internal growth that the team expects actually comes to full fruition, if Scottie Barnes improves, if Pascal Siakam improves, if Fred VanVleet stays healthy... well, top seed isn’t impossible!
What’s the “Worst Case” scenario for the Raptors?
OK, so here’s where it gets interesting. The “worst case” could well be some sort of slow start, followed by injuries, that leaves the team under .500 as the trade deadline approaches. Does Masai Ujiri then blow it all up, trading away everyone but Scottie Barnes for a chance at Victor Wembanyana or Scoot Henderson? That’s not bad at all, right?
In which case the worst case here is exactly the same as it was last season: The Raptors keep their core together but don't see the growth they need; they finish outside the top six in the East, get bounced out of the play-in round, and are stuck with a low-value late lottery pick.
That would essentially render this a lost season, and leave us expecting a big roster reset next offseason, meaning a return to winning ways would be 2-3 years away. No thanks!
The “Most Likely” scenario for the Raptors in 2022-23
Most likely seems like a repeat of last year — the Raptors finish top six and everyone labels them as a first-round spoiler. I actually think that they can fulfill that spoiler role this year; injuries and illness had the Raptors floundering early in last season’s playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers, but this year, with Scottie Barnes more experienced, if they’re healthy, I think this team can beat any team in the East in a seven-game series.
So I think the most likely scenario is 50 wins and a second-round playoff appearance.
Things to get excited about
Scottie Barnes. By all accounts Barnes continued to work on his game over the summer, and his body; he’s bigger and his shot looks smoother. He’s been a little rough in the preseason, and a sophomore slump is always a risk, but Barnes is so all-around talented, not to mention so charming and irrepressible, that’s it’s pretty much impossible NOT to get excited about him.
But I’m also excited for a full season of in-his-prime Pascal Siakam. After coming back from his shoulder injury last season, Siakam showed that he’s still the player he was in 2019-20, pre-Bubble, when he was an All-Star starter and a no-brainer second-team All-NBA selection, and that he still has room to grow. No one works harder on their game than Siakam, and he had a healthy offseason, so I expect to see an uptick in his already-impressive numbers this season.
And to tie these two together — last season there were questions about whether Siakam and Barnes could play together. I think that a 48-win season answered them! They were just fine together. So this year, I want to see what’s beyond “fine” as they truly learn how to play off one another’s strengths.
Predictions for the 2022-23 Toronto Raptors
I predicted 50 wins for the Raptors a few weeks back, and even though that prediction was made before the Cleveland Cavaliers acquired Donovan Mitchell, I’m sticking with it. I think it’ll take the Cavs a little while to adjust. I think the Celtics might get off to a slow start with the head coaching change, and Robert Williams’ injury. The Nets remain the most unpredictable team ever. There’s always something happening in Philadelphia. The Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks are all a year older.
I also predicted we’ll see the Raptors and 76ers in a dogfight for the 4-5 seeds in the East. I would love for the Raptors to get homecourt in a potential first-round rematch, but they’ll most likely finish 5th, behind Milwaukee, Boston, Miami, and Philly; I have Brooklyn and Cleveland fighting for sixth.
Changes (or not)
The only significant roster addition the Raptors have made was acquiring Otto Porter Jr., who now has the highest career 3-point field goal percentage on the entire team. So he addresses an immediate need — while also being the same size as just about everyone else on the team!
It looks like Juancho Hernangomez will also join the back end of the rotation, but he’ll likely be in the 11th man role.
There were no notable departures, except perhaps fan-favourite Yuta Watanabe, who never quite able to take advantage of the (limited, admittedly) opportunities he got last year. He’s in Brooklyn now.
By the numbers
Last season’s team record: 48-34
Last season’s conference ranking: 5th
Last season’s offensive rating: 113.9 (14th)
Last season’s defensive rating: 111.6 (11th)