Article Written by Hudson Stewart (@hudson_stewart6)
The beginning of the Raptors’ season is just a day away, with the club playing Cleveland on Wednesday in what should be a great start to the season. Every new season is exciting, but with everything that went down this off-season, this sets up to be a special one for the Raptors. There’s a ton to look forward to, and that’s why I’ve come up with 4 main things to be excited about for this Raptors’ season.
1. Kawhi Leonard is a Raptor
Until I see actually see him on the court on Wednesday, it still won’t set in that the Raptors have Kawhi Leonard. We’ve definitely had good players in Toronto before, but no one that has lived up to Leonard’s caliber. If he can stay healthy, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with all season. Unless the Raptors are playing a team like Golden State or the Lakers, they’ll have the best player on the court with Kawhi and that’s something Raptors have never seen before. Although they’ve always had a deep roster and good role players, and they still have that, but now they also have the a Top-5 player in the league.
2. Breakout for Valanciunas?
The Dwane Casey era in Toronto was highlighted by many things; one being his reluctance to play Jonas Valanciunas at the end of games when it really mattered. He’d always start Valanciunas, but he never trusted him to close games. Now that Casey is gone, I’m interested to see if new head coach Nick Nurse will give Jonas more of a chance to prove himself in big spots. We know for sure that Kawhi and Lowry are the Raptors best two players, but I think that if he’s put in a position to succeed this year, Jonas Valanciunas can be the team’s 3rd best player.
3. Another Year for the Bench Mob
One of the biggest stories from last year’s team was the emergence of the Raptor’s bench unit, one that became the best in the league. They lost Jakob Poeltl this off-season, but the rest of the guys can definitely take a step forward this year. Specifically, I really think that Pascal Siakam can become a dynamic player, especially on the defensive end where he could be part of one of the league’s best defensive teams. Delon Wright will also look to a have a big year, since his contract is set to expire at the end of this season.
4. Relatively Weak East
LeBron James is no longer in the East, which means that there will finally be a new team in the Finals out of the conference this year. Boston is probably a bit better than the Raptors, but the latter are definitely close and it’s not that far-fetched to say that we could see the Raptors in the Finals this year. Who knows what will happen - but at least we know that we won’t see the Raptors get swept by LeBron again this year.
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