Brace yourselves basketball fans, the NBA season is coming soon! Tomorrow will mark the first set of pre-season games, with the Toronto Raptors tipping things off against the powerhouse Golden State Warriors. This will also give the former Grizzlies fans of Vancouver a taste of NBA action. Ya Ya, it’s only pre-season, the games don’t count, the best players probably won’t play long, and coaches certainly won’t reveal their defensive schemes. However, it’s always entertaining to see some basketball action and most importantly, it means the season is coming.
The Toronto Raptors are looking to build off their most successful season in franchise history. After setting a franchise record with 56 wins, the Raptors made it to the Eastern Conference Finals before losing in 6 games to the eventual Champion Cleveland Cavaliers. With most teams in the Eastern Conference making some serious roster moves, it will be a challenge for the Raptors to surpass last season’s success. After drafting a few big men and signing some free agents, here is a look at the projected 10 man rotation for the Raptors heading into the season:
PG- Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph
SG- DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell
SF- DeMarre Carroll, Terrence Ross
PF- Jared Sullinger, Patrick Patterson
C- Jonas Valancuinas, Lucas Nogeira
-Delon Wright, Bruno Caboclo, Pascal Siakam, and Jakob Poeltl will likely be 3rd string players who spend much of the season with the D-League Raptors 905.
-EJ Singler, Brady Heslip, Yanick Moreira, Fred VanVleet, and Drew Crawford will also be fighting for a spot on the roster prior to the regular season.
Depending on the health of the roster, particularly DeMarre Carroll and the front court, Head Coach Dwane Casey will likely play small with both point guards on the floor at once. It was effective last season, especially with Cory Joseph able to take the ball handling pressure off Kyle Lowry. The only significant change in the line-up is replacing veteran Luis Scola with Jared Sullinger. If Raptor fans need more optimism, Sullinger has reportedly trimmed down to 260 pounds over the off-season after concerns over his weight. However, DeMarre Carroll remains the X-Factor in the line-up, who is ready to start a clean state after missing 56 games last season.
For the Golden State Warriors, they are also coming off their most successful regular season in franchise AND league history, accumulating a record of 73 wins. However, 73-9 just didn’t have the same “ring” to it after falling to the Cleveland Cavaliers despite holding a 3-1 lead. How did they solve this issue? Let’s add a 4x scoring champion and former-MVP named Kevin Durant. The Warriors also made some big changes in the front court after signing multiple veteran free agents. Let’s take a look at the projected 10 man rotaton:
PG- Steph Curry, Shaun Livingston
SG- Klay Thompson, Ian Clark
SF- Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala
PF- Draymond Green, David West
C- Zaza Pachulia, Anderson Varajao
-Rookie Damian Jones and veteran JaVale McGee will likely provide extra depth
-Elgin Cook, Cameron Jones, Kevon Looney, James McAdoo, Phil Pressey, Elliot Williams, and Scott Wood will be fighting for a roster spot (and a good chance at a 2017 Championship Ring)
The Warriors have plenty of offensive options capable of putting up big numbers and completely taking over games. Head Coach Steve Kerr will have to come up with game plans focused on effectively sharing the ball. After all, there is only one ball in the game and there will be 4 All-NBA players in the line-up. While Iguodala is used to coming off the bench, the 2015 Finals MVP will likely play alongside Kevin Durant when the Warriors elect to go small and move Green to the Center. There are zero concerns over the Warriors having trouble scoring, so the concerns remain shot blocking and rebounding. However, if the purpose of basketball is out-scoring the other team, the Warriors certainly have that advantage.
Okay even though it’s pre-season, let’s have some fun and outline the keys for the Raptors beating the Warriors:
1.) Go Kyrie Irving on Steph Curry
2x MVP Curry is the best rated point guard in the NBA. Kyrie Irving is his kryptonite in the playoffs so scoring 25 points including a go ahead 3 pointer is key to beating the Warriors. If Delon Wright can mimic Kyrie’s Finals performance, the Raptors have a good chance at winning.
2.) Force Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant to play HORSE
If Thompson and Durant fool around, maybe there is chance the Raptors can stop this deadly wing duo. If the two effectively share the ball and take quality shots, the Raptors have zero chance at winning. Then again, Durant and Thompson appear to not miss shots even when they are fooling around.
3.) Hurt Draymond Green’s Feelings
Draymond is a man whose emotion is his biggest weakness and strength. He is expecting to hear the boos and is ready to laugh when everyone has to shut up. So if you hurt his feelings, maybe he’ll kick you in the nuts and get kicked out of the game.
4.) Score More than the Other Team
For Blue Jays fans that listen to Gregg Zaun, apparently scoring more than the other team wins games. Thanks Gregg!
Tune in at 7:30 pm Eastern. For the complete Raptors pre-season schedule, check out NBA.com: