The Toronto Raptors tip off their 2020-2021 season in Tampa, Florida tonight against the New Orleans Pelicans. It’s a unique start for Toronto, who’s temporary home is south of the border.
It was a short and busy off-season for the Raptors, who extended long-term contracts to Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby; this, following the 2019 contract extension of Pascal Siakam. With these signings, Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster have locked in the Raptors young core, showing more than ever their belief in the young trio.
So what does this mean for Toronto this season?
Despite his struggles in the NBA Bubble, Pascal Siakam has had career seasons every year since 2016. He averaged 22.9 points on 45% shooting before the Bubble, was a 1st time All-Star and had become one of Toronto’s go-to playmakers following his Most Improved Player award in 2019. Look for him to bounce back and help lead Toronto this season.
Fresh off signing a 4 year, $85 million extension, Fred VanVleet is also coming off a career season. VanVleet was one of Toronto’s best players in the 2019-2020 playoffs, averaging 20 points and 6 assists in 11 games. He is an elite defender, leading the league in steals (1.9) and deflections (4.2 per game) last season, while the Raptors led in fewest points allowed per game. Look for VanVleet to continue locking down guards and stifling their opponents offense this season.
With a new $72 million extension, the expectations for OG Anunoby are high. Nick Nurse has said there is a growing opportunity for Anunoby to establish himself as a premier defender in the league. He has proven he can guard any position, and the Raptors will need that, following the departure of former defensive player of the year, Marc Gasol. Barring any injuries, the forward is poised for a breakout season.
In his final contract year with Toronto, Kyle Lowry will continue build and lead the team. It’s no coincidence that players who have played with Kyle have all had career years. DeMar DeRozan had some of his best seasons in Toronto. Kawhi Leonard and Serge Ibaka had career numbers before signing with the Los Angeles Clippers. Lowry continues to do what is needed for the team to win. In 2019-2020 he led the league with 34 drawn charges. Look for Lowry to continue getting back on both ends of the court to give the team the lift they need.
In their first game of the season, the Raptors face Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans. In 24 games, the 19 year old rookie averaged 22.5 points on 58% shooting. Despite those numbers, the Pelicans just managed to win 50% of those games (12 of 24). Shooting alongside Williamson, is Brandon Ingram, who is fresh off his Most Improved Player Award. Ingram, is coming off career bests in points, 3 point %, rebounds, assists and steals.
The Raptor’s priority this season is defense. They led the league with 18.2 points on fast break opportunities last year. Toronto will need to lock down on Williamson, as he is entering his sophomore season healthy and with no minutes restrictions. In the Pelicans 2 pre-season wins, he averaged 28.5 points in wins against the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks. Toronto went 2-1 in pre-season, with both wins against the Charlotte Hornets.
New-Look Roster: DeAndre’ Bemry, Terrence Davis, Malachi Flynn, Jalen Harris, Kyle Lowry, Norman Powell (GTD), Matt Thomas, Fred VanVleet, Yuta Watanabe, Paul Watson, OG Anunoby, Chris Boucher, Patrick McCaw (Knee), Pascal Siakam, Aron Baynes, Alex Len.
Tip off is 7:30pm ET at Amalie Arena.