The Toronto Raptors will kick off their 25th season with lots of questions surrounding their title defence.
The defending NBA champions will meet with the media on Saturday before heading to Quebec City for training camp, marking the first time the team has held it in the province of Quebec.
However, the team will find itself with more questions than answers after losing Kawhi Leonard, the player who was responsible for their impressive championship run, in the off-season.
The team’s starting lineup is still unknown with the departures of Leonard and Danny Green this past summer.
While it’s expected that Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol will be in the starting five, fans will have to wait to find out who head coach Nick Nurse will use to fill the void left by Leonard and Green.
Likely candidates could include Serge Ibaka, OG Anunoby, Norman Powell, Fred VanVleet — or newcomers Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson who were signed over the summer. Nurse could likely rotate his starters based on matchups as he has done in the past, but consistency will be the key.
With fans experiencing a major championship in one of the top four major leagues for the first time in decades, many will be wondering if the Raptors have what it takes to repeat as champions.
With the current roster, oddsmakers have the team in the middle of the pack. Some have gone as far as predicting that the team’s win total for the season will be less than the prior 2018-2019 season. However, this doesn’t take into account what President Masai Ujiri has in store ahead of the NBA trade deadline which could be significant with Lowry, Gasol and Ibaka in the final year of their contracts.
ALso with the team not making any big signings in the off-season, some fans may wonder who will emerge as the next star with Leonard opting to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Last season, Siakam came off the bench and became a key player in the team’s championship run. Many are hopeful that we see other players such as Anunoby who was plagued by injuries last year and Powell step up to the plate
What remains to be seen is whether anyone currently on the roster can become the feature player that Leonard was.
Fans will likely get a better sense when the preseason gets underway. The team is scheduled to play four games, two of which will be against the Houston Rockets in Japan. The team will receive their championship rings at the home-opener on Oct. 22 when they face the New Orleans Pelicans at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
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