Toronto Raptors: Predicting the Upcoming Season's Starting Lineup
The NBA is currently in a lockout, and if there were no NBA season (and it seems like there will not be one), the Raptors will benefit greatly. Despite not playing professional basketball, the players have a chance to improve what they are not good at individually.
DeMar DeRozan will have a chance to improve his shooting, which could make him the NBA's next premier scorer, James Johnson can work on his offensive game and Jerryd Bayless can become a better passer.
This also benefits the Raptors because this means that the team will get the third overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft, which is stacked with small forwards.
This slideshow will showcase who I personally believe will be in the Raptor's starting spots.
PG: Jerryd Bayless
If Dwayne Casey is as smart as I predict him to be (and he is a very smart person), he will start Jerryd Bayless over Jose Calderon.
Calderon may be one of the premier passers in the league, but Bayless' potential and explosiveness make him the number one choice for starter.
Near the end of the season, when Calderon was hurt, Bayless became the starting point guard and definitely proved to be worthwhile. He averaged about 18 points and 5 assists per game as a starter, and if he can keep it up, it will be a huge plus for the Raptors.
SG: DeMar DeRozan
Labeled as the Raptor's franchise player, DeRozan definitely has some shoes to fill when he gets compared to players such as Vince Carter and Chris Bosh in terms of being a player with a great overall game.
If DeRozan is to improve his jump shot, he will be able to become one of the best slashers in the league, and if he cannot drive to the basket, he will be able to pull up and make the jumper over his defender.
DeRozan is considered to have one of the biggest work ethics in NBA history, almost to the extent of Kobe Bryant. This means that DeMar works very hard on and off the court to improve every part of his game.
His jumpshot has improved from his rookie season, and there is no doubt that DeRozan can become the player that many consider him to become soon.
SF: James Johnson or Whoever Gets Drafted
This all depends on whether or not the Raptors make the smart move and draft a small forward, which is what they need. This is not saying that Johnson is a bad player because Johnson showed huge flashes of brilliance and defensive ability playing for the Raptors.
Since being traded to the Raptors from the Bulls, Johnson started every game for the Raptors and he proved to be a defensive monster. He averaged 1.2 steals and 1.4 blocks per game. If he were to get the playing time he did last season, those numbers could easily be increased, along with his offensive numbers.
There is also Linas Kleiza, who is currently out for at least half of the 2011-12 season (if there is one). If there is no season and the first time we see some NBA action is during 2012-13, then Kleiza can easily be the Raptors backup if the team is not to pick another SF.
Let us go with the scenario that the lockout continues, then during the NBA draft, the Raptors can pick someone such as Harrison Barnes or James McAdoo. Depending on how other players play during the college season, the choices may vary.
For now, James Johnson will start for the team and be the main defensive player.
PF: Andrea Bargnani
Despite the hate that he gets from fans, Andrea Bargnani will live the dream playing the PF position. If he is to get his head into the game, and he becomes determined to play some defense and grab rebounds, then Bargnani will easily become an All-Star.
Bargnani is an offensive monster, being capable of scoring from almost anywhere on the court, but his defense and rebounding are stopping him from becoming an All-Star in this league. He has shown flashes of brilliance when it comes to rebounding and defense, grabbing 7-9 rebounds during stretches of games.
With the recent drafting of Jonas Valanciunas, Bargnani will be able to play his natural position of power forward, and hopefully excel. if not, expect Amir Johnson or Ed Davis to take over this spot.
C: Jonas Valanciunas
Jonas will be the future in terms of the Raptors frontcourt. He has a great leaping ability which allows him to get more blocks. It also allows him to jump over his defender on offense to grab the ball and make the play.
His only flaw is his shooting, and it is not all that bad. But where there are flaws, there are even more positives. He has great footwork for a man of his size, and also has a great motor, which allows him to run up and down the court with little trouble in terms of breathing.
He will be a defensive monster, and with the time he has to bulk up and add some much-needed weight in preparation for the NBA, he can be a much better offensive player than people project him to be.
Many consider him to be a European version of Dwight Howard, and if he can live up to that potential, it will be a huge steal for the Raptors
Thanks for reading.