It’s Here: Season Opening Roundtable, Parts 1 and 2

Title: It’s Here: Season Opening Roundtable, Parts 1 and 2
Date: October 25, 2014
Original Source: Raptors Republic (Part 2)
Synopsis: I organized a roundtable discussion to kick off the 2014-15 Toronto Raptors season!

Do you want to know how to start a season off on just the worst foot possible? Spend an hour at 8am hungover putting together a 13-response, 11-question round table, and then lose it. That includes losing my own answers. Might be ready to call it quits on the season already.

Anyway, it’s finally time for the 2014-15 Toronto Raptors season. That means it’s roundtable time. Part two comes tomorrow.

The participants (in order of when they sent me answers, for fairness): Blake Murphy, William Lou, Tim Chisholm,Scott Hastie, Ryan McNeill, Sam Holako, Zarar Siddiqi, Barry Taylor, Greg Mason, Garrett Hinchey, Andrew Thompson, Tamberlyn Richardson, Tim W.

1. What will the Raptors record be?

Blake Murphy: 47-35. I know, it’s a step back, but is a slight step back after a major jump forward not still kind of great? The team improved, without question, but the East has fewer pushovers and, most importantly,everything went right last year. Sorry, everyone, but 50’s a longshot, as regression wins out slightly over development and depth.

William Lou: 50-32, if everyone is healthy. Even if they aren’t, the Raptors have enough depth to withstand a body-blow or two.

Tim Chisholm: 51-31 (assuming relatively strong health) because so many teams in the East are weak. I feel like its high, but they matchup well against so many bad teams.

Scott Hastie: 51-31. A weak division plus the growth of younger players like Jonas and Ross should vault us into that 50-win area.

Ryan McNeill: 51-31.

Sam Holako: Facts: the team is deeper, been together a year longer, with guys who have chips on their shoulder and need to prove that last year wasn’t an blip. 51-31

Zarar Siddiqi: 48-33-1 – I’m picking a tie against Dallas due to the game being abandoned because of an Ebola scare.

Barry Taylor: 50-32 With the returning core, Demar’s FIBA experience, Lowry’s need to prove he’s an All Star, a soft Eastern Conference and even softer Atlantic Division – barring a sever injury to one of the starting five – the Raps should have another record breaking season for wins.

Greg Mason: My gut tells me it will be another 48-win season, given the improved landscape in the East. The fan in me overrides all reason and believes that this is finally the year that the Raps hit the 50 win plateau. The fact that John Salmons will no longer play meaningful rotation minutes has to be worth two extra wins, right?

Garrett Hinchey: The East is going to be tougher sledding than last year, obviously – Cleveland, Chicago, and Charlotte are much improved, Washington will take another step forward, and the back end of the conference should be better too. With that in mind, I’ll predict a repeat of the Raptors’ 49-33 record from a year ago and a top four seed (note: it was 48-34). Status quo, in this case, represents a big step forward for this young squad.

Andrew Thompson: 52-30. Deep, young and hungry. This team wants to win every night. They’re the only top Eastern conference team with continuity and the best equipped to survive an injury for a stretch to any of their important players.

Tamberlyn Richardson: Being the eternal optimist I believe the Raptors finally break the 50-win barrier. A huge benchmark since they’re the only NBA team to never have accomplished 50-wins. Barring injury they finish 52-30.

Tim W.: 49-33.
hi-res-6cbd6a30f25f4fa68fde246edbd5366f_crop_north

2. Do Lowry or DeRozan make the All-Star team?

Blake Murphy: The point guard depth in the East will keep Lowry out once again, but DeRozan is now established as an All-Star Shooting Guard. With steady numbers, he’ll be there again.

William Lou: DeRozan makes the team, Lowry doesn’t. Increased competition at point guard might rob Lowry (yet again) of his rightful spot.

Tim Chisholm: Definitely one (probably DeRozan), but Lowry has an uphill climb vs. Rose, Wall, Irving, Wade (and maybe Rondo). It’s a popularity contest, so he won’t make it as a starter, and there is strong guard competition in the East.

Scott Hastie: DeRozan does. There are injuries at his position, and even though it is broken down into “guards” and “forwards,” I think the coaches will still vote for DeRozan because he is the best 2-guard out there. (Take that with a grain of salt, as the SF/SG position is kind of a blurred line when playing with Ross.)

Ryan McNeill: Kyle Lowry will have a better season, but, since there are so many elite point guards in the Eastern Conference, DeMar DeRozan gets the nod because he’s easily one of the top shooting guards in the conference.

Sam Holako: DeRozan repeats for sure; he’s at the top of the East for shooting guards, but Lowry may get caught up in a Kyrie Irving reality vs perception/hype beast of a situation. I’m betting both, but Lowry could find that politics blocks him two years in a row.

Zarar Siddiqi: Both do. With Paul George out and Bradley Beal injured, there’s going to be plenty of room for DeRozan to get in. Even if Lowry has a horrible season he’ll still make it, mostly due to the heavy guilt felt by coaches for ignoring him last year.

Barry Taylor: Yes. If they’re winning the way they should be there’s room for both. Injuries could/will take out guys like Rondo, Wade and Paul George. If it has to come down to one though, my magic 8 Ball says Demar will get the nod.

Greg Mason: Both will deserve a spot but given the fallout from last season’s snubbing and the return of Rose and Rondo, Kyle will likely be the only Raptor who gets the nod.

Garrett Hinchey: Yes. With Derrick Rose back, guard spots will be tougher to come by, but there’s no way one of these two doesn’t make the trip to Brooklyn. My guess is Lowry as voters try and make amends for his snub last season, but I do expect DeMar to have a huge year and wouldn’t be at all shocked if he made it, too.

Andrew Thompson: Lowry paid his nonsense penance for a bad attitude rap around the league last year, when he should have joined DeRozan as an All-Star last year. Meanwhile, with Beal out and Wade’s injury still a few weeks away, it’s not crazy to think DeMar could start. They’re both in this year.

Tamberlyn Richardson: DeRozan broke through last season making his first All Star/USA teams: He returns.

Lowry was snubbed last season with arguably the best Eastern point guard performance. Preseason he’s showcased he intends to prove 2013-14 was no fluke, and is taking the leadership mantle seriously. I’m predicting he’ll increase his shooting percentage, 3-point makes/percentage and assists plus get some crucial game winning buckets resulting in his first All Star selection.

Tim W.: Only one, and I think it’s going to be DeRozan, again, even though Lowry probably deserves it more. DeRozan, especially after playing for team USA, has more respect around the league, and that matters.
NBA: Toronto Raptors at Dallas Mavericks

3. Take a guess at the numbers for Ross and Valanciunas

3B. Who takes a bigger step forward?

Blake Murphy: Ross 12.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 13.5 PER. Valanciunas 13.3 points, 9.4 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 17.5 PER

Ross has taken some nice steps in skill development, but that doesn’t always translate to the court right away. Valanciunas’ improved awareness and timing on defense should be a major help to the team’s back-end, and if he can continue to show vision on his rolls, he could be a much more effective player even without a huge statistical jump.

William Lou: Valanciunas: 13 points, 9 rebounds, 30 minutes. Ross: 10 points, 2 rebounds, 26 minutes.

Valanciunas takes the bigger step forward, maturing into a decent rim-protector. Plus, his beard game is much stronger than Ross’s.

Tim Chisholm: Ross: 12 ppg on 41% shooting, 38% from three, JV: 15 ppg, 11 rpg, 55% FG.

Definitely Valanciunas. His defence is still wonky, but his consistency is much higher than Ross. Ross has to battle the fact that with Greivis Vasquez, Lou Williams and James Johnson can push him for minutes, Valanciunas isn’t sweating Chuck Hayes, Tyler Hansbrough and Bebe.

Scott Hastie: Ross – 12 points, four rebounds, one assist. His preseason has been underwhelming – an abundance of pull-up jumpers and poor decision-making – but he will probably get more run in the offence. Lou Williams and the dual PG line up of Lowry and Vasquez could screw all this up.

Valanciunas – 13 points, nine rebounds. I don’t feel confident in this and totally think JV will break through that. I need to Casey have the confidence to play him in the fourth quarter before saying he will have noticeably different numbers than last year.

Valanciunas, easily. The learning curve for young big men is steep, and I think we should expect to see an improved defensive Jonas this year.

Ryan McNeill: Ross will lead the Raptors in steals and bump his scoring to 13.2 points per game while shooting better than 47% from the field. Valanciunas will continue his steady growth and flirt with averaging a double-double (14 points and 9.5 rebounds).

His confidence and increased size will allow him to be an important cog on both ends of the floor.

Sam Holako: Ross: 13pts 3rebs (2 treys, a dunk, and a smile a game). Jonas: 15pts 12rebs (2-3 pump fakes before each shot)

Jonas will have much more opportunity to shine than Ross, who has to share wing duties with a bunch of folks. That said, Ross’ contribution will not all show up on the stat sheet; kid’s going to break out.

Zarar Siddiqi: Ross: Season averages: 11 points, 10 FF attempts, 2.1 assists, 1.1 steals and 41% 3FG. I’m picking him to come second in the three-point contest. Dwane Casey will also be using him to guard tricky point guards in late-game situations.

Valanciunas: Season averages: 14 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 1 assist. There’s a 20% chance that he’ll learn to properly use a pump-fake this year, and a 100% chance that he’ll goaltend every shot taking after the whistle by unassuming guards.

Valanciunas – the length of his legs give him a huge advantage when it comes to the distance covered in a step. Unless we’re counting jumping? Are we? From a basketball point of view, I’m going out on a limb and saying Ross because he has more areas in his game where he’ll have a chance to tangibly improve, e.g., perimeter defense, ball-handling, mid-range shooting, three-point shooting.

Barry Taylor: JV – 12PPG 10RPG 2APG Ross – 12PPG 5RPG 4APG

Devlin was on the FAN 590 the other day saying he expects JV to be a double double guy this year and that seems to be the sentiment among a bunch of Raptor media and fans. It a realistic notion based on his skill development this past summer and the fact that he’ll get the playing time. The FIBA competition he faced was valuable and will probably help him develop a bit more than Ross this year.

Greg Mason: I don’t anticipate huge statistical bumps for either guy. The improvement will come in the details. I think Jonas will post a respectable 12 ppg and 9.5 rpg and Ross will bump his overall field goal percentage up to about 45% by doing a better job of converting on two-point field goal attempts.

Valanciunas. The improvements may not slap you in the face but a better understanding of defensive positioning and physical and emotional maturation will pay dividends for Jonas in his third season. That could be said of either guy but Jonas has the physical tools to be more of a difference maker. We’ll see better defense and rebounding from him this season but he’ll continue to be inhibited by a lack of touches and frustratingly long stretches on the bench.

Garrett Hinchey: I expect improvement from both, obviously, but there aren’t a ton of shots to go around given the Raptors’ guard heavy offence. I’ll say 14/3/2 from Ross and 14/10 from Jonas.

I’d love to say Terrence Ross here, but I just can’t do it. Valanciunas has been working hard all offseason and being the focal point of his team at the FIBA World Cup can only help. I think this is the year he announces himself as a premier center. The biggest improvements will come on defence.

Andrew Thompson: Ross: 12 points, 2 assists and 4 rebounds on 40% from 3 with 10 games where fans overreact and call him a bum on the forums and 3 games where fans massively overreact and annoint him a franchise player.

Valanciunas: 14 points, 11 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 1200 pump fakes and 5 games where the home announcers gush adoringly over his post scoring.

Valanciunas. He’s going to get a better opportunity to. Casey will still have a short rope with Ross given the teams wing depth. Valanciunas will be a much more adept presence near the basket defensively and better able to establish position offensively, where he has already displayed his touch.

Tamberlyn Richardson: Jonas Valanciunas: 14 Points, 9.8 Rebounds, 1.2 Blocks

Terrence Ross: 13.8 Points, 4.3 Rebounds, 3.1 Assists, 1.5 Steals, 2.5 three-pointers and over 40% from three

Terrence Ross – Following a summer dedicated to improvement and feeling the heat of the bench depth Ross takes the bigger step toward becoming a complete (2-way) player and turns some heads. Consistency is his biggest issue, but I believe he breaks through with greater offensive variety and increased playing time.

Tim W.: Ross: 12 ppg with similar other numbers as last year.

Valanciunas: 15 ppg, 9.5 rpg and 1.2 bpg.

Valanciunas. He’s the only real low post threat the Raptors have and is one of their most efficient scorers. In fact, if Valanciunas doesn’t make a jump like this, it’s most likely a coaching problem with Casey not running enough for him.

Ross may make some improvements, but the wing position is even deeper this year, with the addition of Louis Williams and James Johnson, as well as Bruno Caboclo.
johnson

4. What change would you like to see on offense?

Blake Murphy: Most of my complaints on offense are minor: I’d like a few more dual pick-and-rolls to stretch teams horizontally, more creative ETOs, and for it to be less obvious when “it’s DeMar’s time” or “Okay let’s feed Jonas now.” The offense can at times get predictable, and it’d be nice to see each player be able to get theirs without telegraphing whose time it is.

William Lou: More balance. Someone else has to be able to step up when Lowry and DeRozan are having off nights.

Tim Chisholm: More Valanciunas. The perimeter players need to remember to feed him to help balance out the offence, but he can also create nice give-and-go opportunities that the team doesn’t employ all that much right now. Plus, Valanciunas will only become a better passer when he doesn’t feel he has to shoot lest he not see the ball again for ten-to-fifteen possessions.

Scott Hastie: The ball needs to go deeper into the post. JV pump-fakes have lost comedic value, and he is a good post scorer. There aren’t many players who match-up with our post options, so let’s get our guys the ball in a lethal position.

Ryan McNeill: Far too often the ball “sticks” in the hands of a few players. This results in some players becoming stagnant and not moving off of the ball.

Sam Holako: A little more creativity from Casey when drawing up plays in crunch time situations, but generally the offense was a bright spot last season. Don’t expect it to regress.

Zarar Siddiqi:

Three things:

  1. Leverage Amir Johnson’s passing ability out of the high-post – he’s a smart player than can pick out runs if screens are set properly.
  2. Related to this, a bigger focus on big-to-big passing, especially with guys like Bebe and Valanciunas who look like they can play good hi-los.
  3. Run more double-stack lows to free up Ross and DeRozan.

Barry Taylor: Any kind of low post game would be great. Some pick and roll sets down low would look nice. If JV develops something other than his pump-fake (like a double pump-fake?!) the offence could go the next level.

Greg Mason: Less predictability, i.e. Derozan isos on the final play, less stagnation, more touches for Jonas and more running 20-footers from Chuck Hayes. The Raps had a top ten offense last season, so obviously they had a pretty damn good thing going. The cracks in the system were pretty obvious however during the playoffs where we saw far too many forced shots and one-on-one play.

Garrett Hinchey: It’s very singular, but I’d love to see Terrence Ross add some more variability to his game. He’s become known as a 3 point shooter first and foremost, and mixing in a solid drive game should improve his assist and free throw numbers. He’s certainly got the speed and athleticism to be very effective doing it.

Andrew Thompson: An actual cohesive offense. The last couple seasons have been an improving defence that simply relied on tough DeRozan iso’s and free throws, Lowry bail out jumpers and drives, offensive rebounding and bench buckets. This team has the tools to be a fast break force and a handful in the half court if they put together something organized.

Tamberlyn Richardson: Hopefully preseason’s lack of passing isn’t a harbinger of things to come, so consistency on ball movement tops my wish list. Additionally more fast breaks (resulting from great defense) and better/multiple options to finish games especially close games.

Tim W.: Less isolation, more movement and more touches by Valanciunas.
casey

5. What change would you like to see on defense?

Blake Murphy: I largely trust Casey – especially with the addition of Johnson and expected defensive growth from DeRozan, Ross, and Valanciunas. Valanciunas is the key to the team being functionally better there, but even with current schemes and talent this should be a top-10 unit. Maybe a little more ball pressure high to try and let the transition offense breathe.

William Lou: Less fouling. The Raptors allowed the 7th most free-throws attempted last season. Getting that mark to league average would be nice.

Tim Chisholm: A little more strategic use of trapping on pick-and-roll because the sacrifice it creates is openings in the paint, which the team still isn’t all that good at covering for.

Scott Hastie: Weak-side help. Ross and DeRozan need to improve in coming over when an opponent drives to the basket. It’s possible that this is part of a defensive system – staying home on the corners to prevent threes – but after some preseason viewing, I don’t think so.

Ryan McNeill: None. In Dwane Casey I trust.

Sam Holako: Tighter defensive rotations, especially in the paint. Jonas will need to protect the rim better than he has in the past; he needs to be up over a block a game.

Zarar Siddiqi: Increased ball pressure. Use some variant of the old matchup press by Pitino, where there’s greater ball pressure for a longer duration of the possession. There’s enough athleticism and defensive ability on the roster that we should be a team that forces opposing offenses to pass two or three times before even thinking of initiating a play.

Barry Taylor: Honestly, I want DeMar to be able to cover his man and not have to switch with Ross. This might be asking a lot but with his work ethic anything is possible.

Greg Mason: (Insert line about doing a better job of defending big wings here) I generally loved the defensive effort across the board last season even if the individual ability was sometimes lacking.

Garrett Hinchey: From a team standpoint, the answer to this is clearly finding the answer to guarding bigger wings, as we saw with Joe Johnson in last year’s playoffs. I really hope Ross can fill the void, though James Johnson is a much better insurance policy than we had last season.

Andrew Thompson: A healthy Amir Johnson. Keeping Valanciunas closer to the paint on pick and rolls and eliminating bad habits of unnecessarily gambling to double team on the perimeter in search of a turnover. The turnovers did not materialize in those scenarios nearly as much as wide open shots did.

Tamberlyn Richardson: With 3-years under Casey’s system the Raptors should aim for a top-5 defense. Obviously team commitment to rebounding is crucial however the intangibles of increased blocks and steals should be a focus given the youth and athleticism of the squad. Note to Casey: you have depth now – use it.

Tim W.: Less help defense, which should help their three point defense and leave fewer opponents open.

It’s finally time for the 2014-15 Toronto Raptors season. That means it’s roundtable time. You can check out part one here – part two starts now.

The participants (in order of when they sent me answers, for fairness): Blake Murphy, William Lou, Tim Chisholm,Scott Hastie, Ryan McNeill, Sam Holako, Zarar Siddiqi, Barry Taylor, Greg Mason, Garrett Hinchey, Andrew Thompson, Tamberlyn Richardson, Tim W.

6. How many minutes does Lou Williams get?

Blake Murphy: His fewest since 2006-07, that’s for sure. I really like Williams, but he wasn’t brought in to fill an obvious need, and he’s a little superfluous given how effective Lowry-Vasquez lineups are. I’d be surprised if they can find more than 16 minutes a night.

William Lou: 23 minutes per game to match his number.

Tim Chisholm: 18 minutes per game. It would be a seven-year low for him, but Vasquez pushes for minutes, too. That remains a minutes battle that it will be interesting to watch; both players are going to have to sacrifice.

Scott Hastie: 21 per game. This is tough, because our depth is as strong as it ever has been. The average number of minutes won’t really represent Casey’s rotation though. I think he will play with match-ups and whatever player between Vasquez/Ross/Williams is having the best game.

Ryan McNeill: 18-22 minutes per game.

Sam Holako: He should get all of Landry’s minutes; ALL OF THEM!

Zarar Siddiqi: 15 – all behind DeRozan at shooting guard. Dwane Casey will manage DeRozan’s minutes better, and if Williams produces, there’s no reason to think he couldn’t play even more.

Barry Taylor: Lou Williams is one of the best insurance policies the Raptors have had in recent years. When the team is healthy it’d be nice to see him for 8-10 minutes a game. But when someone goes down he’ll be a great replacement to hold everything together.

Greg Mason: 26 a night feels about right. No one can question Derozan’s work ethic but he’s sort of like that dog who will play Frisbee until he passes out because he loves it so much. Casey needs to allocate some of Demar’s minutes to Lou.

Garrett Hinchey: 20-25, similar to Greivis Vasquez. I can’t wait to see how Casey mixes and matches what may be the deepest backcourt in the entire league. All four players expected to play significant minutes are real scoring threats, and that’s exciting stuff.

Andrew Thompson: 8-10 a game. Casey’s penchant for veteran guards will be tested by his intolerance for being a defensive seive. Williams will be a valuable bench scorer and ball handler, but there a ton of bodies to compete with. Regardless, he isn’t John Salmons, and that’s neat.

Tamberlyn Richardson: With one of the deepest benches in the Association Raptors should produce early leads allowing for an even distribution of minutes. Williams is in a contract year and historically is a fourth-quarter sniper, so he’s likely to aim to repeat his sixth-man award. If he’s rolling he’ll get minutes, so I predict 20 minutes per game.

Tim W.: 17 mpg.

7. Do we ever see Landry Fields again?

Blake Murphy: Sigh. Probably not beyond garbage time scraps.

William Lou: We’ll probably see Landry cover Nikki Minaj’s Anaconda, before our minds explode.

Tim Chisholm: In spot minutes maybe, but James Johnson pushes him further down the depth chart.

Scott Hastie: He will be the glue guy when Bruno and Bebe get extended run at the end of blowouts.

Ryan McNeill: Only on a missing poster…

Sam Holako: Hopefully we will only see him on the bench; his Instagram account is interesting…errr…yea…

Zarar Siddiqi: Yes. At the airport checking his luggage in for a flight to Russia to play for CSKA Moscow.

Barry Taylor: On a basketball court, probably not. On a crappy summer reality series, definitely. Based on his contract and affinity for bad TV Landry is a natural Laker. Send the man west for a pair of the new Kobes and make everything right in the universe.

Greg Mason: No. Sad story. I’ll spare the snark.

Garrett Hinchey: In a suit, on the end of the bench, unless there are injuries. His expiring deal could be attractive to teams looking to make a splash in free agency next year. Hopefully, he’ll be part of a trade during the season. #BelieveinMasai

Andrew Thompson: Who is Landry Fields? Is this a person, because if so, I don’t remember ever seeing or hearing from him. Or is Landry Fields maybe a place? I don’t understand the question. Regardless, it clearly has nothing to do with the Toronto Raptors basketball team.

Tamberlyn Richardson: 5-games or less. Fields would rather pass to a referee than shoot!

Caveats:

  • Injury to key player(s)
  • Multiple blow-outs by Raptors
  • Ujiri decides to showcase him just prior to trade deadline in an effort to dump his salary early in favor of a playoff contributor or draft picks.

Tim W.: Yes. He’ll still struggle at the beginning of the season, but slowly get his form back and by the All Star game will start taking time away from James Johnson.

8. What are you most looking forward to this season?

Blake Murphy: It’s basketball season, what the hell is there NOT to look forward to? The team’s going to be good, maybe very good, they’re going to play playoff basketball, and they’re going to be a likeable group getting there. And seriously, Bruno. Bruno. 100 times Bruno. Every time he hits the floor, it’s going to be must-watch. Garbage time will have never felt so good.

William Lou: BRUNOOOOOO!!! Seriously, garbage time has never been more fun. Winning games would be nice too.

Tim Chisholm: Watching the team work to improve upon a successful season without having to try and integrate a major, head-shaking acquisition (Hakeem, Kapono, Jermaine). They get to just grow organically, which may or may not work but it will be fun to watch.

Scott Hastie: Success. For once in our fandom, we are not talking about all the new faces on the roster and selling hope. Analyzing a team where the weaknesses are the difference between third place and fifth place in the conference is way more enjoyable than talking about a team that is intentionally trying to get into the lottery.

Ryan McNeill: Having a buzz at the Air Canada Centre for every game. Also, having a season where the team is playing for something and high expectations are placed on the team.

Sam Holako: The four games we play the Nets; fuck I hate them…

Zarar Siddiqi: DeRozan’s quest to become the best shooting guard in the league. Very interested to see what he’ll do to elevate his game to the next level. You know he’s got the hunger to be the best, and it’ll be interesting to see what his coach and he himself will try to do to get there.

Barry Taylor: Watching good basketball on a regular basis. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a team worthy of being excited for. It’ll be great to watch the established chemistry develop and see where it can go. Really curious to see how Lowry and Demar co-exist and work on taking their games to yet another level.

Greg Mason: I look forward to seeing 15-feet of Brazilian arms laying waste to all who approach the rim in garbage time… and the purple ‘Dino’ throwback jerseys.

Garrett Hinchey: BRUNO. How can you not say Bruno? The kid is a freak of nature, and it’ll be fun watching him get his feet wet in limited minutes. Bebe Nogeuira is a close second, and Chuck Hayes runners are obviously third.

Andrew Thompson: Optimism. Remember spending all of last preseason arguing about the case for tanking? Rudy Gay wasn’t exactly a topic for calm agreement and joy either. But this year, there is reason for promise. The last time I felt that way, I hadn’t heard the name Lebron James before.

Tamberlyn Richardson: SUCCESS!!!!!!

After years of lamenting the Raptors’ misfortunes I feel like I won the lottery:

  • I joined the Republic gang
  • 95% success on predictions
  • It was a delight to see the TDot return (and possibly exceed) the basketball frenzy absent since the cousins exited the building.

Tim W.: Seeing how Valanciunas develops into a borderline All Star this season.

9. What are you least looking forward to this season?

Blake Murphy: People mismanaging expectations. Last year was great, but it was out of nowhere and unexpected. One good season does not beget a great one, development isn’t linear, and so on. I’m a little worried all the new fans and the buzz around the team could waver if the team doesn’t go gangbusters.

William Lou: Whenever Valanciunas and Amir Johnson aren’t in the game. Form your layup lines single-file, please.

Tim Chisholm: People clamouring for minutes for Bruno during the season. This isn’t like the bad years when the club had tons of on-court minutes to devote to developing rookies, those minutes aren’t there when you’re trying to win, and people are either gonna freak out at Casey for not playing him or at Ujiri for drafting a bust and neither reaction will be appropriate.

Scott Hastie: The by-product of success. With success comes blowout wins and there will be a string of non-descript games where we handle opponents and learn very little. 82-game seasons are a slog, but watching Toronto thrash teams like Philadelphia, Orlando and Minnesota further mars it.

Ryan McNeill: Trying to figure out where to find the game on TV or the radio. TSN? Sportsnet? NBA TV Canada? Or, even better, when games aren’t televised during the preseason.

Sam Holako: The four games we play the Nets; fuck I hate them…fuck, them…

Zarar Siddiqi: 7:30pm starts instead of 7:00. I cannot begin to tell you how seriously that time change has messed with my ability to watch basketball.

Barry Taylor: Lockout talk. God willing it won’t happen but there’s so much money at stake that it could get ugly in two years.

Greg Mason: Tyler Hansbrough doing awkward, flaily things that piss me off on principle alone.

Garrett Hinchey: *Knocks on wood.* The injury bug. The Raptors were unbelievably lucky last year when it came to their core players, and history suggests that that luck won’t continue for another full year. God, I hope I’m wrong. *Knocks on wood again.*

Andrew Thompson: I get the impression that Jack Armstrong is a very nice man. There are people out there who enjoy his commentary, perhaps you are one. I don’t get it, and I doubt it, but I acknowledge the possibilty that you exist.

Tamberlyn Richardson: I’ll turn a negative into a positive: Raptors will be in a lot of games late utilizing the core plus bench members Williams, Patterson, Vasquez and Johnson to secure wins. This saddens me as it means we won’t get to see much of Air B&B (specifically Bruno) and his untapped potential.

Tim W.: Seeing Valanciunas get ignored in the post again and again this season.

10. What’s your own personal goal for the season?

Blake Murphy: It’s an impossible goal, but I’d like to average six-plus hours of sleep. There is so much evidence out there that sleep is crucial to health and performance, I’d like to fit in a bit more.

William Lou: It’s my sophomore season here on Raptors Republic, so I’m hoping to sleep even less and write even more. I’m coming for you, Zach Lowe!

Tim Chisholm: Can the club avoid slow starts or getting huge leads and immediately giving them up? It’ll happen sometimes because it’s an 82-game season, but the club has to be able to avoid putting themselves against the wall like that early.

Scott Hastie: I’d love for the Raptors to sign a player with a similar name as mine. William Lou got it last year, so all I’m asking is for Toronto to poach Scott Hastings from the Nuggets broadcast crew. (Please do not do this. He is terrible.)

Ryan McNeill: I want to step up my game night blogging and tweeting. I want to give fans more insight into the team and locker room than I have in previous seasons.

Sam Holako: This needs to be the season we don’t regress. Some guys got paid, some guys are new, some have big paydays coming up, but everyone needs to be focused, and pick-up where they left off from from last year.

Zarar Siddiqi: Not accidentally delete a podcast.

Barry Taylor: Avoid a massive gut increase from all the beer consumed while watching this team.

Greg Mason: I’m living in Budapest this season, so my modest goal is to convert the entire country of Hungary into Raptors fans.

Garrett Hinchey: Lose 10 pounds, get back into squash. Why are you asking about us?

Seriously, though, I’d love to see this team improve on last year’s results. In my mind, that means the second round of the playoffs. If you put yourself in that situation, you’re a great series or an injury away from the conference finals. After that, who knows?

Andrew Thompson: Everybody is waiting to hear whether that 15th roster spot goes to Steimsma, Cherry or Hamilton. Personally, I still think I have an outside shot at grabbing it myself. Hey, until Masai sits me down and tells me it definitely isn’t me, it technically isn’t definitely not me. Hit me with a 10 day Masai; I got this.

Tamberlyn Richardson:

Tough one to answer”

  • Keep my prediction success rate high
  • Make a concerted effort to not complain about the zebras on Twitter
  • Get in less debates with my male friends at social gatherings; I know the stats so it’s an unfair advantage
  • Represent women who love the NBA; hey we’re out here!

Tim W.: To get more readers to hate me and to be able to get through a podcast without Zarar having to heavily edit out all my ums and ahs.

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