- NBA Rank: 7
Conference Rank: 2
- Toronto Raptors
The Raptors made lots of moves last year, but the first one was the biggest: hiring Masai Ujiri is the single best decision this franchise has made in the last ten years. It was not surprising that Masai cleared the roster of Bryan Colangelo's many mistakes; what surprised was how he was able to find teams willing to give him so much in return.
A year later, there is probably no surer bet on the board than the Raptors chances of winning the very weak Atlantic. The question is whether this team has enough talent to compete with Cleveland for the top spot.
Last year, once Bargnani and Gay were moved to make room for players like Amir Johnson and Terrence Ross to play more minutes, the Raptors really started to click.
|John Salmons ||1,281||34||0.060||1.6|
|Rudy Gay ||639||27||-0.009||-0.1|
|Steve Novak ||540||31||0.136||1.5|
|Nando De Colo||193||27||0.109||0.4|
|D.J. Augustin ||82||26||-0.242||-0.4|
|Quincy Acy ||61||23||0.257||0.3|
|Austin Daye ||33||26||-0.224||-0.2|
|Aaron Gray ||20||29||-0.044||0|
Indicates that the player is no longer with the team.
Amir Johnson is finally getting the recognition he deserves. It has always truly baffled me that he's struggled for playing time for so many years (and this was spectacularly baffling given the players ahead of him in Toronto). In truth, when it comes to players who don't score, evaluators tend to concentrate a lot on what they cannot do, and ignore the things they not only can do, but do well. Amir is very foul prone, and he isn't the best passer. But all you need to ask is whether the things he does well compensate for this, and in Johnson's case, it's clear that they do. He is a great shot blocker, a solid rebounder, takes care of the ball, and is a great finisher.
Jonas Valanciunas made some good second-year improvement, with big leaps in rebounding and foul rate. He's one of my dark horse candidates for most improved this year. DeRozan still isn't worth his extension, but at least he has graduated into a capable starter who doesn't shoot his team completely out of games.
The Raps' clear MVP was Kyle Lowry, and his all-star snub was one of the ugliest in recent memory. He seems to have put the "injury-prone" label behind him.
|James Johnson ||3.0||1,201.4||28||0.144||3.6|
|Jordan Hamilton ||3.0||487.5||24||0.122||1.2|
|Lucas Nogueira ||5.0||436.4||0||0.169||1.5|
|Will Cherry ||1.0||430.8||0||0.051||0.5|
|Bruno Caboclo ||3.0||368.3||0||0.029||0.2|
Indicates that the player is new to the team.
Hansbrough and Patterson were great rotation players last year and we're projecting them to be above average next year as well. The craziest rumor I've heard so far is that Tyler Hansbrough has added a three-point shot to his arsenal. I totally want to see this.
It's reasonable to expect more improvement from Ross and J.V. I'm a little skeptical about James Johnson, but I also think Hansbrough and Fields' projections are conservative, so I'm not too worried about it.
The vets are mostly known quantities. Lowry and Amir Johnson will shine, DeRozan will score a lot of points and get too much credit for the team's success, and Vasquez will provide capable backup minutes. None of these players are old enough to expect any degradation in their production.
The Raptors are the clear favorite to win the Atlantic. It will probably be at least one more year before Phil can really turn the Knicks around, and the Nets are going to suffer after the loss of Livingston and Pierce. And always, there is the possibility that Masai could make some moves to improve the team.
If you're a GM hoping to win this season, just remember, if Masai calls...tell him you're busy!