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Vegas Win Total Projection: 47.5 (VegasInsider.com)
2014 Record: 49-33
"Started from the Bottom and now were here?". That's storyline that has been in Toronto. A team that overachieved a couple seasons ago, this past season they played great in the regular season and then faded in the playoffs versus the Wizards. This offseason they've added DeMarre Carroll, a right-handed, versatile, offensive and defensive presence, which should help with depth and team defense. The outlook for 2015 is bright, with a young nucleus of players including DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas, and Terrence Ross, they have plenty of talent. For the Raptors, it's not a question of depth or talent, but how they "gel" and how the role players like DeMarre Carroll and Terrence Ross play.
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DeMar DeRozan was a great fantasy play last season. He scores, get assists, and continues to get rebounds at a decent rate for shooting guard. Last season, he averaged 20.1 points per game, playing less minutes than the previous seasons. If Toronto increases his minutes from 35 to 38 or 39 minutes (like he averaged in 2013-2014 seasons) then we can expect to see his numbers higher. I expect to see that, because Toronto relies on him as a scorer and capable defender in the shooting guard position. With the additions of DeMarre Carroll, I think it'll open up more space for a guy like DeMar and he could end up with a higher shooting percentage, making more than he ever has. This is arguably the best team DeMar has been on and that can only help his stock.
DeMarre Carroll, while being the huge addition this offseason, can be a good role player on this Raptors team. I think because of his contract, he's expected to do more then what he can. A great defender, Carroll doesn't and hasn't filled up the stat sheet. Averaging 12.6 points per game, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists per game last season, where that was statistically his best. None of those numbers stuck out to me as a great fantasy player. Unless DeRozan or Ross is hurt, I don't see him as a good fantasy play.
My first pick is a guy who's underachieved thus far in the NBA. A dunk-contest contestant a couple years ago, Terrence Ross is someone I see as breaking out. Ross is a player who's shown glimpses of his talent and ability, but with his contract year coming up, he's got to put it all together. Historically, players in contract years have done outstanding,the most recent example? Jimmy Butler. He knows he's got to play well, it's just the matter of whether he can prove it. Coming off ankle surgery, Ross has a lot to prove and usually guys who are hungry like Terrence end up proving their worth.
Jonas Valanciunas, the big man with a big contract, is another guy to watch out for. The only real option as a starting center for this team, Jonas is going to improve. Only 23, Valanciunas is a double-double machine. Averaged close to 13 and 9, with a player efficiency rating of 20.60, he certainly is a decent stat category. If his minutes go up from his 26 minutes a game, he's bound to increase those numbers. Another guy who's minutes went down from a season ago, going from 28 to 26, Jonas has a lot to offer this small roster. The 7-foot big man can attack the rim and certainly gets his fair share of blocks at 1.2 per game. Another great part about Jonas is his free throw percentage, he shoots almost 80% from the free throw line, which is impressive considering his size. I expect to see him have an exceedingly good year and improve on his defensive flaws.
The Toronto Raptors will have a better time with depth and rotation, but from most people's eyes they overachieved last season. With that being said, I expect this team to improve and grow. I think they will improve in defense and probably take a step back in total offense. Last season they ranked 4th in overall points scored, 19th in points allowed. I'd expect to see that 4th spot go back to 6th to 8th, while the 19th in points allowed go down to 12th to 14th. Toronto is a team that can consistently play as a top 4 team in the Eastern Conference, but I don't know if they have the talent to exceed that. I project them to finish 4th or 5th in the east, while getting close to 50 wins.
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