They have probably been surpassed by Boston in the Atlantic Division, but the Raptors will still be contenders to reach the Eastern finals. That will only happen, though, if Toronto gets improved play from its stars during the playoffs. In 31 postseason games, DeMar DeRozan has shot 39.3%. That's simply not good enough, especially from a player who signed a five-year, $139 million deal in July. Still, his accuracy is better than that of his backcourtmate, Kyle Lowry, who is a 38.3% shooter in 44 playoff games.
Teams can too often make Toronto's offense disappear, exploiting DeRozan's lack of range—he made just four threes last postseason—and tightening their grip on Lowry in the paint. To reach the conference finals last year the Raptors needed 14 games to advance past the seventh-seeded Pacers and injury-laden Heat.
Improved play from Jonas Valanciunas would help, particularly if he commands more attention in the post. The addition of Jared Sullinger also gives coach Dwane Casey the opportunity to try out some spacier lineups.
Lowry and DeRozan can succeed on a big stage—they both won Olympic gold over the summer. If they want a shot at any NBA hardware, they'll have to step up when it matters most.
PROJECTED LINEUP | 2015--16 stats
COACH DWANE CASEY (6th season with Raptors)
2015--16 RECORD 56--26 (1st in Atlantic)
PG Kyle Lowry
21.2 PPG; 6.4 APG; 42.7 FG%; 38.8 3FG%
SG DEMAR DEROZAN
23.5 PPG; 4.5 RPG; 44.6 FG%; 33.8 3FG%
SF DEMARRE CARROLL
11.0 PPG; 4.7 RPG; 38.9 FG%; 39.0 3FG%
PF JARED SULLINGER*
10.3 PPG; 8.3 RPG; 2.3 APG; 43.5 FG%
C JONAS VALANCIUNAS
12.8 PPG; 9.1 RPG; 1.3 BPG; 56.5 FG%
PF PATRICK PATTERSON
6.9 PPG; 4.3 RPG; 41.4 FG%; 36.2 3FG%
PG CORY JOSEPH
8.5 PPG; 3.1 APG; 2.6 RPG; 43.9 FG%
SG TERRENCE ROSS
9.9 PPG; 2.5 RPG; 43.1 FG%; 38.6 3FG%
TELLING NUMBER 39.3%
A rival scout sizes up Toronto
Remember: They probably should have lost to the Pacers in the first round last year, and they almost lost to the Heat in the second round. Both were seven-game series. They weren't the best when it came to the playoffs.... Losing [center] Bismack Biyombo [to the Magic] will hurt them a little bit, but the addition of Jared Sullinger, alongside Patrick Patterson, allows them to spread the floor and be better offensively.... DeMar DeRozan had a great year and a terrible postseason. It was almost like all season they run sets for him to catch and shoot, then in the playoffs he's trying to go one-on-one. He's a good player, but when you don't shoot well, you're limited. He lost his confidence too.... Kyle Lowry can make big shots. He can shoot the three; he can run a team. I would put him in the second tier of point guards.... It'll help a great deal to have DeMarre Carroll healthy. He makes the most sense for them at the three. Good defender, average shooter but gives them the capability to play small.... Jonas Valanciunas will be a big part of what they do. Each year he gets a little better and last year I thought he was playing really, really well before he got hurt. He's a low-post threat who can step out to 12 feet. He's so strong and he's got good hands.... When they picked up Cory Joseph last summer, I knew they would use him and Lowry together a lot. When it was crunch time or when they were protecting its lead, they went to that backcourt quite a bit. It was strong.... I don't trust Terrence Ross as much as I do Norman Powell. When Ross doesn't shoot well, he doesn't really help you.
A solid core is in place, but the Raptors failed to make a substantial improvement.