The Toronto Raptors took a major gamble when they traded away DeMar DeRozan for a one-year-rental on Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, knowing they could both leave at the end of the season as free agents.
And, while both players ended up packing their bags, it’s safe to say that Masai Ujiri’s bet paid off, as the team made it to the Finals and won their first Championship in franchise history.
Now, they’ll have the tough task to defend their crown without one of the best players in the world, even though they still have a very competitive team. But how will they line up to start the year? Let’s break it down:
Bench: Fred VanVleet, Cameron Payne, Patrick McCaw, Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Serge Ibaka, Chris Boucher
Point Guard: Kyle Lowry
Kyle Lowry finally put his doubters at ease. He was one of the most valuable players all season long last year, played great during the playoffs, and was a major part on the team’s Championship run.
He’s not getting any younger and topping last year’s production without Kawhi Leonard won’t be easy, but he was a stud when Leonard was rested due to load management, and can still shoot the ball at a high rate.
Shooting Guard: Norman Powell
Norman Powell may not exactly be a scoring threat, but he makes up for it with top-notch defensive instincts. He doesn’t back down from a challenge, and isn’t afraid of putting his body on the line on every single possession.
Powell will give the Raptors some versatility, as he can play both guard spots and even defend some small forwards. He’s strong, fast, and athletic, but needs to be a more consistent shooter.
Small Forward: OG Anunoby
Following a bit of a breakout season, OG Anunoby took a back seat last year and struggled with injuries for most of the season, so we’re hoping him to have a bounce-back year.
Anunoby has the tools to be one of the best wing defenders in the league and his freakish athleticism makes him hard to stop in the open court. He needs to work on his jump shot, but has the skills to be a stud in this league.
Power Forward: Pascal Siakam
The Toronto Raptors are Pascal Siakam’s team now. Siakam’s story is amazing, as he went from being a non-factor and constantly assigned to the G-League, to becoming the NBA’s Most Improved Player and second-leading scorer on a Championship team.
Siakam held his own on defense against some of the best scorers in the world last year, and took great strides in the offensive end as a shooter as well. He can do it all on both ends of the court, and it’s only going to get better.
Center: Marc Gasol
Few people have had a more successful year than Marc Gasol. He won the NBA Championship with the Raptors, and then the FIBA World Cup with Spain, so he’ll definitely be thirsty for more once the season starts.
Gasol will likely be eased back into action after spending all of the summer playing with his national team. Still, we all know what he brings to the table: a top-notch defender that can also create for others and score from all three levels.