For a team that hasn’t seen post season play since 2008, this year looks to be one of the most anticipated Toronto Raptors’ seasons in years. Rudy Gay is an offensive force not seen in these parts since Vince Carter was still on the team. Kyle Lowry is expected to rebound from an injury plagued season. Young Players like DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, Amir Johnson, and of course their lottery prize Jonas Valanciunas look to further grow into becoming respected names in the league.
Even role players like Tyler Hansbrough, D.J. Augustin, and former Knicks: Steve Novak & Landry Fields should become valuable contributors towards Toronto’s battle for a playoff spot. However it’s important to temper those expectations a bit, because the East has greatly improved and for the changes made by Toronto, it might not be enough to keep up with new threats seen in Detroit and Cleveland. At best Toronto might be fighting for an eight seed and a subsequent beat down in the first round.
Backcourt: Raymond Felton & ? –vs- Lowry & DeRozan
One of Toronto’s most potent threats comes from their backcourt. DeRozan responded to the critics of his recent $40M contract signing by relentlessly hitting the gym throughout the summer and receiving rave reviews from coach Dwane Casey about his preseason play.
It’s not uncommon for streaky young scorers of his type to shed their work ethic once they sign a big contract, but for DeRozan, he seems focused on having a break out year.
Lowry is another guard that is also expected to greatly improve from injuries and will actually be playing for a contract at the end of the season. If you can remember Lowry’s play when he was considered healthy, very early and very late in the season, you probably remembered him filling up box scores with double digit assists, 20 plus points, and an incredibly high field goal percentage. Is this the real Lowry? If it is, he might actually be Toronto’s most important player and will no doubt be a core component of a possible playoff campaign.
Either way, DeRozan and Lowry are underrated names in the conversation of being the NBA’s most entertaining backcourts. Unfortunately, we all know by now that being entertaining doesn’t correlate with wins.
As of this moment, New York’s starting backcourt situation is currently in disarray. What was once Raymond Felton and Iman Shumpert is now up for debate. Coach Mike Woodson is seemingly unconvinced with Shumpert status as a starter but if does seem as if Felton can be penciled into the starting lineup.
Over in Toronto, DeRozan’s starting spot may even be in jeopardy with the emergence of Terrence Ross. Still, regardless of who makes the cut I don’t see any of the New York Knicks possible starters, other than Shumpert, making the leaps expected in pretty much all of Toronto’s starting guards. Especially considering the possibility of Rudy Gay being traded which will open up the window for a new franchise star to emerge.