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Five burning questions before the Toronto Raptors season begins



The 201-20 season in the Toronto Raptors is Just this near the official start.

As defending NBA champions, the Raptors will surely be hungry this season to prove that what they did last season is not just a single-season, Kawhi Leonard's fuel, a feverish dream, a flash-in-the-pan kind of year.

But the desire to repeat is horribly different from the really capable, which begs the question: How good will the Raptors team be this season?

Sportsnet has brought together a group of its basketball experts to answer five burning questions about the Raptors ahead of the new season.

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Q: Where will the Raptors end up in the rankings this season? If you believe the team will make it to the postseason, how far will the playoffs go?

Donnovan Bennett, Staff Writer and Digital Host:
Fourth at the Eastern Conference.

Dokling Ashley, Host of Sports Network 590 Fan Off:
I think the Raptors will be good. It may start slowly, but it will understand. I put them as the No. 4 or 5 seed in the East and I think they will lose in the second round.

Brad Fay, TV shows hosted by Sportsnet Raptors:
Third in the East with about 52 wins. He will lose a long second round to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Michael Grange, Senior Basketball Insider:
Third in the East; the second round.

Steven Loung, Section Editor:
I see the Raptors finishing as No. 4 in the East, coming out of the postseason in the second round in a tough series with the Sixers or Milwaukee Bucks.

Arden Zwelling, Senior Writer:
Provided that everyone stays healthy, the Raptors finish fourth in the conference, win the hard-fought series and break away from the second round playoffs.

Q: How many all-stars will the Raptors have? Who are they?

Bennett:
Two. Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam.

Docking:
The Raps will receive one all-star but two players in celebration. Clearly, Siakam is the champion. His nomination will depend on his ability to create his own goal, while being the focal point of the defense. As for the other all-star weekend heads-up, Matt Thomas will be in the three-point competition – and win. He's a killer.

Fay:
Lowry and Siakam.

Grange:
One. Siak.

Loung:
Toronto will only have one all-star star this season: Siakam. Lowry, however big he is for this club, is a fading star and if the Raptors remain relevant, he will need to see the emergence of a new one to take his place.

Zwelling:
I would bet Siakam is Toronto's only star. Lowry will be the usual Raptors major player, as usual, but he is stopping and could have a slow start – both in terms of games and production – which will lead voters to second place.

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Q: The Raptors have a lot of new faces. Who from this group of newcomers will make the biggest impact this season (can you include Boucher if you like)?

Bennett:
Terence Davis II.

Docking:
I want to cheat and choose OG Anunoby. Hard Year for a Child 2018-19-19. Injuries and family tragedy drove him away from the court and he was never able to find progress. This year, the Raptors not only need him, but he has the opportunity to live up to the hippie he created two years ago.

Fay:
Chris Boucher and Davis.

Grange:
Matt Thomas.

Loung:
I will go with Thomas as he is almost guaranteed to get a large amount of burns this season in a multitude of lineups. These days you can never have too many shots on the floor and Thomas provides a lot.

Zwelling:
We probably won't see anything too influential from newcomers. Davis might be a fun cover story, Thomas should have some hot night shoots, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson could put together some good performances, but nothing distracts you.

Q: Will the Raptors trade a key rotational player this season? If so, who would it be and why?

Bennett:
Yes, Marc Gasol. He can do as a contender for what he did for the Raptors last season.

Docking:
If in Toronto he takes the plunge and decides to sell this group, the two things competitors always strive for in terms of size and scoring. As such, Gasol will be attractive for his passing, occasional offensive outbursts and his CV in which he simply dominated the opposing bigs. Because of that, the Raps brought him halfway last season.

Fay:
I cancel, but it depends on where they are at. Masai Ujiri could just as easily introduce a big name.

Grange:
Only if they get injured and end up in the middle pack in the East. If so, it could be anyone but Siakam and Anunoby.

Loung:
I don’t believe this season the team will sell any of the key pieces of rotation. Serge Ibaka and Gasol are most likely to be traded given the fact that veterans are on big expiring contracts, but you can use that same argument as to why they won’t arrange a deal. The more money you make on a contract, the harder you can make it in the store. The team can also let contracts expire and have great flexibility over the summer.

Zwelling:
It depends entirely on the results. If Toronto is the top four teams in the East, I expect they will be retained by all by the deadline. If they are not, I bet they are trying to cast one or both of Gasol and Ibaka – provided they are healthy – to the candidate.

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Q: Who, other than Siakam, is the most likely player to make a jump similar to Siakam this season?

Bennett:
Anunoby.

Docking:
I hope this is Norman Powell, as he has proven he can change batches in the past. He is a player who can make an impact – not just the way generic energy is often sold. The problem with Powell is that he needs to build a floor. There is too much difference between his best and worst. A little more consistency and the three remaining years of his contract will prove to be well spent money.

Fay:
Powell or Anunoby.

Grange:
Anunoby has the opportunity to make the kind of jump Siakam made between his rookie year and his sophomore season.

Loung:
I'll go outside the board a little and tell Boucher. He is a 10-foot, 6-foot center with guard skills and provides the Reptors with a much-needed presence in stopping shots. Obviously, it will take a lot for Boucher to take the leap Siakam did, but he has the raw physical tools to potentially do it. So why not him?

Zwelling:
No one goes as far as Siakam last season. What he achieved was rare and extraordinary. Accordingly, Anunoby should significantly improve on his disappointing second-grade season and be on the floor late in tight games keeping one of the main opposition threats. And with increased usage, Fred VanVleet should post more numbers than he has during the first three seasons.


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