Toronto Raptors 2018-19 Team Preview

  • How’d We Get Here?

    The Raptors squandered a great chance in the East, as their great depth meant nothing against LeBron with Serge Ibaka and DeMar DeRozan struggling and Dwane Casey getting out-coached by Ty Lue.

    It was Casey and DeRozan who fell on the sword as the Raptors traded their star guard, young Jakob Poeltl and a first-rounder to the Spurs for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green while firing Casey and replacing him with former assistant Nick Nurse. The Raptors’ culture reset got them pretty far but not far enough, forcing Masai Ujiri to take a home run cut on potentially one year of Kawhi.

    Offseason Moves

    Arrivals: Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Greg Monroe, Chris Boucher, Kay Felder
    Rookie Arrivals: Jordan Lloyd (UDFA)
    Departures: DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, Lucas Nogueira, Malcolm Miller
    Retained: Fred VanVleet, Lorenzo Brown

    Depth Chart and Minutes Per Game

    PG: Kyle Lowry (31-32.5) / Fred VanVleet (23-26) / Kay Felder (0, 5-10)
    SG: Danny Green (24-28) / Norman Powell (0, 13-19) / Malachi Richardson (0, 10-15)
    SF: Kawhi Leonard (32-35) / Delon Wright (22-26) / C.J. Miles (0, 15-19)
    PF: OG Anunoby (23-26) / Pascal Siakam (21-24)
    C: Jonas Valanciunas (24.5-26) / Serge Ibaka (26-28) / Greg Monroe (0, 13-19) / Chris Boucher

    Position Battles

    Point Guard: The Raptors might have the best group of point guards in the league with Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright. There’s a clear hierarchy here but all three will see at least 20 mpg, all three will play both on-and-off ball, and all three are likely to share the court at the same time for at least small stretches of time.

    Lowry’s minutes might continue to fall in the regular season given Toronto’s depth and their need for him to be healthy entering the postseason but there won’t be any depth chart changes here.

    Shooting Guard: There’s a little bit of intrigue at this spot, but for now we’ll guess that Danny Green holds onto the job. If the Raptors don’t want to move OG Anunoby off small forward (or rather keep Serge Ibaka as the starting power forward) then Leonard could start but we’d expect them to use their best player at his best spot. C.J. Miles could even see spot minutes here. Norman Powell and Malachi Richardson are the deep depth options, with Powell likely to make semi-regular appearances.

    Small Forward: Kawhi Leonard is going to dominate the minutes here as long as he’s healthy. Small Forward has been a soft spot for the Raptors for years as Terrence Ross and then a hobbled DeMarre Carroll couldn’t give them what was asked for since the team’s return to relevance.

    OG Anunoby started here last season and should get a few minutes when Leonard needs a breather. Delon Wright’s length will get him minutes here occasionally as well while C.J. Miles will still own his role as a designated 3-point gunner.

    Power Forward: Serge Ibaka was supposed to fix the team’s power forward problems but his game eroded rather quickly and he got run off the floor in the postseason. This would be a nice long-term spot for Anunoby as Ibaka’s more of a five now anyways, so if he’s willing to sacrifice a starting job it’ll be OG at the four with Pascal Siakam playing behind him.

    That would give the Raps two young, versatile defenders at the four spot. Leonard can play the four in super small groups while Ibaka would still get a few minutes at his old spot off the bench.

    Center: Jonas Valanciunas evolved his game nicely last season, thriving as a more active member of the offense and displaying some range to boot. New coach Nick Nurse was the guy who took on the bulk of that development work so it’s safe to say he’s a JV booster. Ibaka will get some minutes as the lone big on the floor, and at this point in his career he’s better served by staying closer to the rim.

    Greg Monroe will provide some scoring punch but he’s going to have trouble defending and might not be as involved as many are expecting him to be. If the Raptors want to get really funky against small groups then we’ll see some Siakam here too.

    Outlook

    The Raptors were an excellent offensive unit with DeMar DeRozan, showing an ability to pile up points via multiple styles over the last several years. Unfortunately they were often too easy to stop in the postseason, and though that wasn’t the case last year their postseason defense got ripped to shreds.

    Armed with an innovative offensive coach who was behind their reformation last year plus an intriguing stable of switchable wing defenders, the Raptors should not be slept on in the Eastern Conference. It’ll be a one-year sales pitch to keep Kawhi in the fold which would likely pivot to a rebuild if Leonard still has his heart set on Los Angeles.

    Kyle Lowry

    Total Value: 18/18 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 26/30 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 78

    2017-18 Review: After years of running him into the ground, the Raptors finally pumped the brakes on Lowry’s minutes. The trade off of some statistical declines in lower minutes was that Lowry was able to play during the fantasy playoffs, which is one that owners will make any day of the week considering he was still a mid-third round asset and pretty much right at his ADP.

    Lowry’s scoring fell as he spent some time in the beginning of the year leading by example and looking for the best shots, even if they weren’t his own good looks, but he was still a strong source of assists and triples with added rebounds.

    This Year: The fact that Lowry didn’t crumble in the postseason speaks to the good that those extra minutes on the bench did, so between that, his age and the team’s depth we’re expecting him to stay in the low-thirties going forward. The only real request from us is that his steal rate jumps back up a bit, but everything else in his profile looks both solid and sustainable.

    Injury History: Lowry looked like he was headed for a lengthy stint on the sidelines after a nasty fall right on his back/tailbone in Brooklyn but he ended up missing only three games. The year before he missed 21 games after undergoing surgery to remove “loose bodies” in his shooting wrist and then sprained his ankle in the playoffs.

    There was an elbow injury in the postseason prior to that as well but Lowry’s done well to improve his conditioning and is becoming less of an injury risk as his minutes dwindle.

    Outlook: There might be a feeling out period with Lowry no longer attached to his best bud, but we’re more worried about how that will mess with him mentally than it will on the court. He’s one of the safer players available in the third round.

    Kawhi Leonard

    Total Value: 363/356 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 32/24 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 9

    2017-18 Review: Leonard’s season was a total wash, as a preseason quad injury had him week-to-week before that stretched on and on and on. Eventually Kawhi left the team to rehab with his own set of medical staff, prompting the Spurs to declare that they had cleared him but his own staff had not.

    Discomfort in the quad turned to discomfort with the organization and Leonard forced his way out with threats of playing out the final year of his deal and bolting to L.A. He’ll go down as one of the worst fantasy first-rounders in a long, long time.

    This Year: San Antonio’s loss is Toronto’s gain, as the Raptors were able to acquire a top-5 player – when healthy. Initial reports of him not reporting were foolish at best, and he’ll slot in as the potential best player in the East as the Raptors look to finally break through their glass ceiling in a post-LeBron world.

    Some ball-stopping tendencies emerged in his last full season but it’s something the Raptors will gladly accept. They now have a premier defensive stopper on the wings, and Kawhi will unlock a ton of things for the Raptors as they’ve increased their defensive versatility one hundred times over.

    Injury History: Leonard has a career-high of 74 games played through seven seasons. Before last season’s debacle he spent time on the sidelines in 2016-17 with a concussion, a sore hand, a quad contusion and the Zaza-induced ankle injury in the playoffs. The year before that he missed time with a calf injury and another quad contusion.

    As for last season, Leonard hit the injury report in September with a quad injury that was allegedly connected to the ailment from the previous campaign. He was never given a firm timetable but was expected back in the first few weeks of the year after being ruled out for the entire preseason.

    Kawhi was then given a mid-December target date. He eventually returned about a third of the way through the year and played with heavy restrictions, getting his nine games in over a 17-game stretch.

    Leonard missed three games with a partial tear in his left shoulder, returning for his final game of the year before hitting the sidelines with right quad tendinopathy and ultimately getting shut down. Kawhi left the team to rehab in New York and there was a players-only meeting to try and get him to return to the court, but he cited lingering discomfort and ultimately the rift between him and the organization grew further after public comments from players and coaches. That’s a lot to say that he’s a serious injury risk since we have no idea how his recovery is going.

    Outlook: There’s going to be a ton of risk associated with Leonard, assuming he goes early in drafts. We’ll be keeping an eye on him in camp but the fact that he’s away from San Antonio should help him, as will the fact that he’s got a ton to play for.

    In a relatively weak East Kawhi could conceivably put together a monster year, put up a run at MVP and cash in with a super-max. If he still wants to join the Lakers, a mediocre or injury-plagued season wouldn’t exactly help his leverage considering he’s basically erased all but one suitor, especially with some of the other free agents that will be available.

    If Leonard comes out healthy and motivated he’ll be right back into the first round of all fantasy formats, but not everyone will have the stomach for him where his ADP will be.

    OG Anunoby

    Total Value: 244/233 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 304/283 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 74

    2017-18 Review: Anunoby fell to the Raptors at pick 23 and ended up emerging as a big part of their present, starting 62 games and holding up well in the postseason. He showed a decent amount of confidence in his first year, often shooting without hesitation even after an air ball or two. A timely cutter with good feel for the game, it’s easy to see why the Raptors were so high on him and why he cemented himself as an important player right from the jump.

    This Year: If the Raptors get their way Anunoby should be the team’s starting power forward, and it’d be the better move for his long-term development. All the new personnel and movement might make it tough for OG to eclipse last season’s playing time, however, and the Raptors will still lean on him for defense more than anything.

    Injury History: OG suffered a torn ACL in college that messed with his draft stock but he blew past all the recovery timetables and was ready for opening night. He missed eight games with an ankle sprain in March but that’s it. He’s not a no-risk player, but he’s doing as well as you can for someone who’s less than two years removed from a torn ACL.

    Outlook: Anunoby’s offensive game has a long way to go but there’s long-term triple-one upside. He’ll remain a low-usage player this year so he’s going to be a 20-team guy at best.

    Serge Ibaka

    Total Value: 66/55(8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 89/73 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 76

    2017-18 Review: Ibaka had a rough season and his decline was tough to watch in the postseason. Ibaka played the fourth-fewest minutes of his career while tying career-lows in blocks and posting the worst rebounding numbers since he was a rookie. He seemed to have the hardest time with the new offense and the Raptors have to be regretting his re-signing given the quick development of their other power forward options.

    This Year: It’s certainly possible that they can talk Ibaka into a bench role as he’d be able to log more minutes at the center position where he’s said he’ll be more comfortable. The extra time on the sidelines in that role would also help him keep him fresh, so it’s a pretty easy call as long as his ego isn’t too damaged. His minutes will be coming down either way.

    Injury History: Ibaka’s knees look really bad over the course of a full season, and the difference between a packed-schedule Serge and a well-rested Serge is stark. He only missed three games with knee soreness and had played in two full seasons since undergoing his knee scope. He’s not so much an injury risk as he is a performance one.

    Outlook: Ibaka’s rebound and block rates continue to fall, and while he’ll still swat enough to be an asset there the rest of his numbers might not be able to support middle-round value. He’s more of a top-100 player at this point in his career, and while the Raptors can scheme to put him in spots for maximum effectiveness he’s still going to have to deliver the counting numbers.

    Jonas Valanciunas

    Total Value: 57/50(8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 77/72 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 77

    2017-18 Review: Valanciunas was perhaps the most-improved Raptor last season, making a committed effort to stretch the floor, move the ball and get active on defense. His physical limitations are still present on the defensive end but he gets tons of credit for the effort after it looked like he could fall out of favor.

    The new offense was huge, as giving him more touches as an initiator up top kept him engaged and forced teams to play him as more than a post-up threat. Despite all that, Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam both ate away at his minutes by virtue of being more versatile defenders and Valaciunas got just 22.4 mpg.

    This Year: Nurse is a big JV backer, having handled a lot of his offensive development last summer. As such, he’s going to get more chances to play than he did under Casey, and coming off a top-75 year in reserve-type minutes it’s easy to see how he might start to tap into that fantasy upside.

    Injury History: Valanciunas missed four games with a left ankle sprain early in the year but was healthy thereafter. In 2016-17 he missed two games with knee soreness and was kept out of 22 games the year prior with a broken hand. Considering how fluky that is JV is about as low-risk as prominent big men get.

    Outlook: Valanciunas is one of our favorite mid-round targets this season, coming off a campaign where he scored more, blocked more and shot better with a decrease in playing time while also posting an improved per-minute rebound rate and incorporating the long ball into his game. Big Science turns in top-80 seasons with ease and the stars look like they’ll be aligned for him to take that next step. Try to get a round ahead of his ADP.

    Fred VanVleet

    Total Value: 146/130 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 180/158 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 76

    2017-18 Review: VanVleet’s meteoric rise was crucial to Toronto’s big season. While the team’s player development staff always liked him and fought hard to get him signed after he went undrafted, FVV blew away all expectations with 8.6 points, 1.4 3-pointers, 3.2 assists and 0.9 steals in 20.0 mpg. Despite being the shortest and stockiest guy on the court more often than not, he held up incredibly well on defense and was a fixture in Toronto’s lethal two-guard groups.

    This Year: After signing a well-deserved two-year, $18 million deal in free agency VanVleet returns to the Raptors as their sixth man and should see an uptick in playing time. It’ll be hard to climb too high with Toronto’s guard depth but he’s proven himself serviceable in modest minutes and will be one of the team’s most important players beyond the top-tier guys.

    Injury History: VanVleet spent time on the sidelines due to a right hand contusion, a tight back and a right knee contusion. Additionally, he sustained a shoulder injury in the last game of the regular season that kept him out of early playoff action and affected him upon returning. Assuming that’s cleared up he’s not an injury risk.

    Outlook: Keep VanVleet in mind at the tail-end of 9-cat drafts, especially if you need a boost in threes, assists or steals. He’ll be a must-add player if Kyle Lowry goes down but should have enough juice to hang right around the 12-team fringes anyway.

    Danny Green

    Total Value: 139/122 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 146/126 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 70

    2017-18 Review: Green did his usual thing, delivering solid cash counters and carving out late-round value while doing so in maddening fashion. His efficiency wasn’t great but he was at least a slightly above average shooter from deep. His playing time fell but Green was still good for 1.7 triples, 1.1 steals and 0.9 blocks. It’s not exciting and he doesn’t register many truly big nights, but it gets the job done.

    This Year: Green might be Toronto’s new starting shooting guard but even if he ends up coming off the bench we’d expect him to inch towards 30 mpg. While all the talk is on Leonard, a defensive group featuring Green, Kawhi, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam could give the Raptors some crazy switchability. Green’s versatile abilities figure to make him the sixth or seventh man at worst.

    Injury History: Green has dealt with a few nagging injuries over the past two seasons. Most recently he was sidelined by groin strains and tightness for 10 games while the year prior he missed 14 games with two quad issues. He had a pretty good run before that and has had his minutes dialed back so we’re not calling Green anything more than a moderate injury risk, if that.

    Outlook: Green’s lengthy lulls make him tough to deal with in head-to-head formats but roto owners know the deal by now. He’ll be good for the typical late-round numbers.

    Delon Wright

    Total Value: 150/135 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 157/142 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 69

    2017-18 Review: Wright saw VanVleet take the bulk of pure backup point guard minutes but his unique skillset left him plenty of time to do damage. He saw time at small forward beside the other two point guards and his length makes him a tough nut to crack on the perimeter.

    His funky jumper was good enough for .366 behind the arc and his playstyle makes him look like a human changeup, stopping and starting and weaving his way to the rim where he’ll use his length to make athletic finishes or swing kickouts to open shooters.

    This Year: More of the same, though Wright might be forced into more of a typical guard role considering the Raptors acquired two defensive wings. His offense could still use a little work but he’ll always be carried by his defense and vision.

    Injury History: Wright missed 12 games with a right shoulder dislocation and another with a right big toe sprain. The shoulder is concerning since he suffered a torn labrum and underwent arthroscopic surgery for stabilization purposes in 2016-17, limiting him to just 27 games. That’s two pretty serious issues in the last two seasons so Wright should be treated as at least a moderate risk even if the dislocation was pretty fluky.

    Outlook: Wright is an excellent fantasy point guard if you’re looking for defensive stats. 1.0 steals and 0.5 blocks in 20.8 mpg is nothing to scoff at and if his minutes can go up he’ll have a really good shot at approaching the top-125. He’s on the board as a late-round flier but it might depend on your roster’s foundation.

    C.J. Miles

    Total Value: 212/185 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 240/210 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 70

    2017-18 Review: Miles couldn’t win the starting small forward job in camp and ended up playing Bench Dad to all of the team’s young guns in the second unit. He came in and shot without hesitation, which is what the Raptors needed, but his efficiency falling was a mild disappointment.

    He dealt with some nagging injuries, medical procedures and family things and openly admitted that he was pretty fatigued after welcoming a daughter into the world so perhaps that attributed to his streaky play. Miles set a new personal best with 2.3 triples a night but the rest of his numbers falling left him with only specialist appeal.

    This Year: The added wing depth will make it tough for Miles to carve out a bigger role, especially considering his defensive showing in the postseason. He’s going to be used as a serious floor-spacer but his activity should fluctuate from night to night based on matchups and flow.

    Injury History: Miles has a number of smaller injuries throughout his history, with calf and knee problems making up the bulk of his absences in his last two years with the Pacers. Last season he missed three with a sore knee and one with a sore shoulder but was also sidelined for three games by illnesses, three more following a dental procedure and two games for personal reasons as he became a father. He’ll miss some time but shouldn’t have any extended stretches in street clothes.

    Outlook: Miles has 3-point specialist appeal and might make it onto the 16-team radar if his efficiency rebounds.

    Pascal Siakam

    Total Value: 157/136 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 215/192 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 81

    2017-18 Review: Siakam emerged as a key defensive cog for the Raptors and thrived in the frenetic pace of the second unit, often getting easy buckets by out-sprinting opponents down the floor off of rebounds or turnovers. The Raptors encouraged him to take threes and while he shot just 22 percent they’re clearly set on expanding his game. There were even stretches where Siakam was tasked with bringing the ball up the floor and playing as a distributor.

    This Year: Those things didn’t do a ton to Siakam’s fantasy value last season but they bode quite well for his long-term future. We’d expect him to surpass last season’s 20.4 mpg and he’ll have an increased set of responsibilities to boot.

    Injury History: Siakam isn’t an injury risk as his only absence was a surprising DNP-CD on opening night.

    Outlook: While he’s unlikely to be consistent enough to hold down a wire-to-wire spot on a roster outside of 16-team formats, Siakam’s potential to pick up rebounds, steals and blocks with the occasional 3-pointer and quiet assists make him a fine guy to look at week-to-week if you’re ever in need of a fill-in and a flier candidate in 14-team leagues.

    Greg Monroe

    Total Value: 192/202 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 115/134 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 51

    2017-18 Review: Monroe had his worst campaign since his rookie season, though it’s tough to blame him for it. The Bucks gave him just 15.9 mpg over five games before he strained his calf and then traded him to the Suns while he was on the mend. Phoenix then opted to use a ridiculous three-center DNP rotation with Moose, Tyson Chandler and Alex Len. Monroe was waived and latched on with the Celtics and ended up with reserve minutes and a few big games before his defense kept him off the floor in the playoffs.

    This Year: Monroe heads from one Eastern Conference contender to another, joining the Raptors on a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum. He’ll be the backup center but will need to share his time at the five with Serge Ibaka and maybe even Pascal Siakam behind Jonas Valanciunas.

    His skillset is a nice fit for a team that could use a good passer out of the post as well as some scoring punch and rebounding. He is the 13th man however, so serious playing time isn’t guaranteed.

    Injury History: Monroe’s only blips on the radar come in the form of some knee issues but they’re multiple years in the rearview by now. He hit the injury report with a left calf strain and spent the next eight games on the sidelines though it’s tough to say how many were injury-related given that he was traded during that stretch.

    Outlook: Monroe would offer late-round potential in 20 minutes a night (much like he did this year) and while he will definitely see more consistent action, it’s not a lock that he’ll play true backup center minutes given the Raptors’ alternatives. He’s not a bad pick for the very end of drafts but you’ll need to watch out for his minutes in the early going.

    Norman Powell

    Total Value: 274/283(8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 351/367 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 70

    2017-18 Review: Powell began the season as the starting small forward but was mediocre in 12 games before sustaining a hip injury and losing his job to Anunoby. His confidence was shot, as he was hesitant to shoot and rarely had intentions of passing out of drives, meaning defenses always knew what was coming while picking up easy stops that hurt his confidence even further. Not a great way to kick off a big contract extension.

    This Year: The Raptors seemed to put Powell on the market for salary relief but he’s shown enough as a two-way wing that they won’t just give him away. It might be tough for him to be in the rotation on most nights unless he improves his 3-point shot but the year will be mostly about Norm getting back to his typical self.

    Injury History: Powell missed four games with a hip pointer and was in and out of the rotation over the final few months. He’s been healthy through his first two seasons so there’s minimal injury risk at play.

    Outlook: If Norm made the rotation he’d only be a 20-team flier.

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