2013-14 NBA SEASON PREVIEW CONTENT LIST
Atlantic: Celtics | Nets | Knicks | 76ers | Raptors | Division Preview 1 and 2
Central: Bulls | Cavaliers | Pistons | Pacers | Bucks | Division Preview
Southeast: Hawks | Bobcats | Heat | Magic | Wizards | Division Preview
Pacific: Warriors | Clippers | Lakers | Suns | Kings | Division Preview
Northwest: Nuggets | Timberwolves | Thunder | Trail Blazers | Jazz | Division Preview
Southwest: Mavericks | Rockets | Grizzlies | Pelicans | Spurs | Division Preview
Top 10 by Position: PG | SG | SF | PF | C
Top 10 Lists: Sixth Men | Sophomores | X-Factors | Intensity | Under 25 | Comeback | GMs | Europeans | Overrated | Contenders | Wild Predictions
Fantasy Basketball | NBA Fandom Games | League Preview | Ultimate Season Predictions
Media Day: Lakers | Clippers | Kings | Knicks | Bucks | Suns | Pacers
Most Important Player: Rudy Gay
It’s hard to pick between Rudy and Jonas Valanciunas because Jonas is already starting to look like the future of the Toronto Raptors franchise. Gay is coming off a vision correction procedure, so look for him to play a little bit better than he did with the Raptors last season—not that great, but the best the Toronto has to offer. Raptors fans hope he can live up to the max contract he signed with the Memphis Grizzlies and maybe even make the All-Star team this upcoming season. If not, expect Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri to start looking for potential deals involving Rudy.
X-Factor: Terrence Ross
Ross had a lackluster rookie year that looked even worse in comparison to Andre Drummond’s (Drummond was selected right after Ross in last year’s draft). Raptors fans can only dream now of the potential Andre Drummond-and-Jonas Valanciunas front court that could have dominated the league for years. That is the kind of pressure put on Ross’s shoulders this upcoming season and for the rest of his tenure with Toronto. DeMar DeRozan signing a lengthy contract last season almost guarantees Terrence Ross will forever be a sixth man at best with the franchise. Ross needs to learn how to become the J.R. Smith of the Raptors, an X-factor off the bench who can come into the game and drop double-digit points.
Rotations: The starters for Toronto this year will be Kyle Lowry at the point, DeMar DeRozan at the 2, Rudy Gay at small forward, Amir Johnson at power forward and Jonas Valanciunas at center. The power forward spot will be crowded. Even though Amir will be the starting 4 for the entire year, look for Tyler Hansbrough and Quincy Acy to battle him for minutes. The point guard spot is also very interesting. Kyle Lowry will be the starter barring injury, but D.J. Augustin will be looking for big minutes as the backup. So will 24-year-old rookie Dwight Buycks, who impressed in Summer League play. Aaron Gray will spell Valanciunas at center.
What Needs To Go Right: For the Raptors to have a successful season, one that entails playoff games in April, every starter needs to play at least 75 games. The Raptors missed out on the playoffs last year by four games largely due to injuries. Landry Fields missed 31, Kyle Lowry missed 14 and Jonas Valanciunas missed 20.
It’s Really Bad If: Jonas Valanciunas misses a significant amount of games once again. Jonas’s missed time last year hindered the team’s play and his development. At this point, his health is the biggest factor keeping him from tapping his All-Star potential. Valanciunas is only 21, so these first few years in the league are huge in determining how good he will be later on in his career.
Bold Prediction: The Raptors make the playoffs this year and give a high-seeded team a great series, unless it’s Miami. The Raptors have a recent history of playing right down to the wire with great teams, usually coming up short. But if a couple of calls or shots go their way, don’t be surprised to see a Raptors playoff team take a high seed to six games.
Quincy Acy, PF
Strengths: Hustle, rebounding, toughness.
Weaknesses: Gets into foul trouble.
Season Prediction: With a steady diet of minutes this season, Acy will turn into an updated version of Reggie Evans.
D.J. Augustin, PG
Strengths: Long-range shooting, ball handling.
Weaknesses: Undersized, not an efficient scorer.
Season Prediction: Augustin has been a starter in the NBA, so I expect him to be a solid backup for the Raptors. This season he’ll be a guy who comes off the bench and pose a double-digit scoring threat.
Dwight Buycks, PG
Strengths: Ball handling, speed with the ball, scoring.
Weaknesses: Taking care of the ball.
Season Prediction: Midseason, Dwight Buycks will take over Augustin’s spot as the backup point guard.
DeMar DeRozan, SG
Strengths: Slashing, athleticism.
Weaknesses: Long-range shooting, passing.
Season Prediction: Thanks to an increase in three-point percentage, DeMar DeRozan will improve his points per game numbers but his overall game won’t take much of a leap forward.
Landry Fields, SG/SF
Strengths: Hustle, rebounding, defense.
Weaknesses: Shooting, ball handling.
Season Prediction: Fields was hurt most of last season, so going into 2013-14 healthy, I expect him to be a stabilizing force for the Raptors bench.
Rudy Gay, SF
Strengths: Slashing, athleticism, clutch.
Weaknesses: Long-range shooting, ball handling.
Season Prediction: Rudy will feel more comfortable with the Raptors this season going into his first full year with the team. That comfortability will lead to improved statistics and maybe even an All-Star appearance.
Aaron Gray, C
Strengths: Size, rebounding.
Weaknesses: Unskilled offensively, slow.
Season Prediction: Backing up Valanciunas at center, Aaron Gray will lose minutes to forwards Amir Johnson and Tyler Hansbrough.
Tyler Hansbrough, PF
Strengths: Strength, hustle.
Weaknesses: Field-goal percentage, foul trouble.
Season Prediction: Tyler Hansbrough will make a run at being the sixth man of the Raptors, maybe even the starting power forward.
Amir Johnson, PF/C
Strengths: Hustle, energy, athleticism.
Weaknesses: Gets into foul trouble, undersized.
Season Prediction: Amir will keep his starting job despite competition from Tyler Hansbrough and Quincy Acy. Johnson will become a double-double machine and have a Kris Humphries-type role for the Raptors.
Kyle Lowry, PG
Strengths: Strong for a point guard, toughness.
Weaknesses: Mercurial, his height can limit his ability to score.
Season Prediction: Most Raptors fans believed Kyle Lowry was the number one point guard last year, but he ran into some stiff competition when he returned from injury. With Jose Calderon out of the picture, look for Lowry to take over this team and show everybody why he is a top-10 point guard in this league.
Steve Novak, SF
Strengths: Shooting, moving without the ball.
Weaknesses: Defense, ball handling.
Season Prediction: Novak does one thing and he does it well: shoot the three. Look for him to be among the league leaders in three-point percentage.
Terrence Ross, SG
Strengths: Athleticism, youths
Weaknesses: Free-throw shooting, passing, ball handling, long-range shootings
Season Prediction: Terrence’s numbers will improve slightly, but mostly due to more playing time. Ross had a mediocre rookie campaign. Based on his performance at Summer League, don’t expect him to be much better.
Jonas Valanciunas, C
Strengths: Free-throw shooting, mid-range jump shot, low post game.
Weaknesses: Bigger players out-muscle him, too aggressive occasionally.
Season Prediction: Valanciunas looked stellar at Summer League recently and has continued that play with his national team this past week. Look for Jonas to bring that level of play right into next season and start to show everybody why he is the future of the Raptors.