NBA Season preview: Raptors prepared for life after Kawhi


The Toronto Raptors will begin their NBA title defence against a new look Pelicans team on 23 October and will hope to prove doubters wrong as they begin life without Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.
 
The summer saw superstar Leonard and shooting wing Danny Grean pack their bags for sunny Los Angeles as they signed in free agency for the Clippers and Lakers respectively, much to the despair of the Raptors fans. 
 
Amidst reports of GM Masia Ujiri leaving and the team considering a rebuild the Raptors have actually had a quietly successful off-season considering the circumstances.
 
Marc Gasol won the FIBA World Cup with Spain
 
Toronto added Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, amongst others, to their squad during the summer, both players have somewhat underperformed so far in the NBA but are gifted athletically, defensively, physically and will no doubt fit into the team as Toronto look to lockdown opponents next season. 
 
Much of the Raptors success in the 2019-20 NBA season will rest on the shoulders of the NBA's Most Improved player, Pascal Siakam. The chief transition ball-handler for Toronto has gone from strength-to-strength in his short career and without Kahwi, who often looked to carry the Toronto offense, much of the point-scoring will have to be supplemented by the Senegalese power forward. 

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Coach Nick Nurse will be quietly confident as he sees Marc Gasol return from a FIBA World Cup winning campaign with Spain, capping off the winningest summer in his basketball career. 
 
In addition, he will hope not to see any decline in performances of ageing captain Kyle Lowry and the ever-reliable Serge Ibaka, who will most definitely all play prominent roles in a team that only lost five matches out of 22 without Kawhi Leonard - somewhat proving that they weren't so reliant on the small-forward as it looks at first glance. 
 
Fred van Vleet proved an unlikely hero for the Canadian franchise as they made NBA history
 
Heading into the season not much is expected of the only Canadian side in the NBA, but the team would believe that they are going to continue to compete in the Eastern Conference and potentially have another shot at the Larry O'Brien come June next year. 
 

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Published: 10/01/2019