2015-16 NBA Preseason Power Rankings: No. 9 Toronto Raptors

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The Toronto Raptors finished with back-to-back Atlantic Division titles last season, and they also ran into a team with Paul Pierce in the playoffs for a second time. Unfortunately, Paul Pierce has turned into the Raptors-“killer,” and the Wizards sent them home after a 4-0 series sweep.

This offseason, not many changes took place in the North, but they are confident about returning to the same spot as last season. They may have taken a small step backwards with the loss of Lou Williams, but bringing in DeMarre Carroll bolstered an already solid starting lineup.

What should fans look forward to this season?

Raptor fans have a very nice starting five to look forward to this year. Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, DeMarre Carroll, and Jonas Valanciunas are all on the upswing of their careers and when they click, they can be a very dangerous unit. Lowry dropped 40 points in one of their preseason games, and dropped a whole lot of weight which could suggest he’ll have more stamina for the season. Carroll helps a lot on the defensive end, and DeRozan looks to prove himself after a sub-par season last year.

Toronto is looking to make a serious playoff run. The only team that looks like a lock to make the Eastern Conference Finals is Cleveland, so that means it’s a true toss up for the rest of the East, and there’s no reason to count out the Raptors if they are healthy.

What is their projected starting lineup?

PG: Kyle Lowry

SG: DeMar DeRozan

SF: DeMarre Carroll

PF: Patrick Patterson

C: Jonas Valanciunas

Who can emerge as a star?

Jonas Valanciunas has the chance to make himself a dominant big man in this league. He has a great offensive game in the post, but he has yet to be recognized as a defensive anchor. He’s not near the top tier in rim protectors and that’s what Toronto desperately needs. If Valanciunas can take the role as defensive leader and protect the rim, he could be one of the top big men in the East, and even the league.

What will be their final record?

48-34

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