The Toronto Raptors entered the 2011-12 season with zero expectations and became a bit of a surprise by becoming a hard-playing team who played good defense. Now with cap space, improving young players and two lottery picks joining the team next season, they should be able to make the playoffs if they build on what they started this year.
Not only do the Raptors have their 2012 lottery pick coming in this year, but they also have their Lithuanian center they picked fifth overall in last year’s draft. Valanciunas should have a considerable advantage over other rookies because he’s played against grown men while the majority of other first year’s have only played against players their age. Expect JV to help right away as Dwane Casey will give him ample playing time due to his interior defense and rebounding ability.
No matter how the draft lottery turns out, the Raptors will still be able to get a quality pick. Fortunately, there are four or five small forwards in the draft that are considered to be top 10 prospects. The small forward position is clearly a big hole for Toronto currently and the addition of a player such as Harrison Barnes would really help this ball club moving forward.
With Andrea Bargnani out for more than half the season this year, the Raptors were arguably the least talented team without him (although Bobcats fans would argue otherwise). However, Dwane Casey coached a team that played hard defense and didn’t let opponents blow them out.
The Raptors finished seventh in opponents' field goal percentage and ninth in opponents' points per game. If the Raptors can find more scoring/better shooting this offseason they will be well on their way to reaching the postseason.
Bryan Colangelo was smart last summer by not signing any free agents to long-term deals. The Raptors have less than $40 million tied to players for next year and they still can use their amnesty clause to create even more space. While they will probably want to give Bayless a new deal, there is still plenty of room to sign key depth players and a quality scorer or two.
Not only will the Raptors have two quality rookies coming in this year, but they still have young talented players who haven’t reached their potential yet. Ed Davis really showed he has the ability to be a quality power forward late in the season, averaging over 8.0 ppg and 8.0 rpg in the month of April.
Jerryd Bayless showed flashes of brilliance before being lost for the season, averaging 17.8 ppg and 5.3 apg as a starter. If both of those two continue to improve, the Raptors will have one of the most talented young teams in the league.