NBA Countdown: No. 20 Toronto Raptors

October 11, 2012, 2:26 PM

Note: Sportsnet.ca will unveil a team preview every day from Oct. 1-30 counting down in reverse order where we believe the teams will finish.



The Raptors roll in at No. 20:

2011-12 record: 23-43 (Division: 4th Atlantic; Conference: 11th Eastern).

Key additions

Landry Fields (from Knicks); Kyle Lowry (Acquired from Rockets); John Lucas III (from Bulls); Terrence Ross (Draft); Jonas Valanciunas (Draft — 2011).

Key subtractions

Jerryd Bayless (Signed by Grizzlies); Gary Forbes (Traded to Rockets); James Johnson (Traded to Kings).

Key player: Kyle Lowry

The new floor general is being counted on to provide toughness and personality for a young team. While he is only 26, he is entering his seventh season in the NBA and can provide leadership for this young team.

Outlook

On paper, the current roster of the Toronto Raptors is not a playoff team but there is reason for optimism.

That is because in his one season in charge, Raptors coach Dwane Casey instilled a solid defensive mindset in his charges and will now look to build on that success.

After getting the defence turned around and with a full training camp to work with, Casey can now turn his attention to getting a very poor offensive situation resolved.

Two things will immediately help: A healthy Andrea Bargnani along with not starting the season with Anthony Carter and Rasual Butler on the roster — two players whose best days were behind them.
With a healthy Bargnani this team nearly played .500 basketball a year ago.
The addition of Kyle Lowry, acquired in the offseason from Houston, also represents an upgrade at the point guard spot and he could help find more open looks for the team’s top scorer Bargnani.

The team also picked up Landry Fields, who like Lowry, is the type of player Casey loves. “Glue guy” seems to be the term thrown around every time Fields’ name comes up in conversation.

While Lowry and Fields will help, any move forward in the standings this season may be prevented by the presence of a pair of rookies in the rotation.

The Raptors were one of the youngest teams in the NBA last season and the additions of centre Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross won’t make them any older. What they will do is at least give loyal Raptors fans hope for the future — something the team lacked a year ago.

Of course general manager Bryan Colangelo still has some trade chips available. He has Jose Calderon’s expiring contract as well as a surplus of power forwards to offer up in a deal if he is able to find something to his liking.

In Bargnani, Ed Davis and Amir Johnson there are still one too many bodies hanging around, especially with Valanciunas on board and with the return of Aaron Gray. Someone is going to be left out in the cold.

Of course, those options will still be available next summer as well.

A year ago, the Raptors made a vast improvement on their own end of the floor. Can they keep the momentum going enough to make a playoff run?

Prediction:

40-42 (Division: 5th Atlantic, Conference: 9th Eastern).

Which Raptors rookie will have a bigger impact during the 2012-13 season?

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