After trading for Kawhi Leonard, the Toronto Raptors dethroned the defending champs, Golden State Warriors, en route to their first ever title. However, he bolted for the Los Angeles Clippers this offseason and Toronto will have to look internally to replace their MVP. The rest of their lineup will remain the same as they still retain two very solid veterans along with two role players. Don’t forget about the most improved player of last year’s season, Pascal Siakam either as he looks to ascend into stardom.
After being known as the point guard who couldn’t clutch it out in the playoffs or chokes in the big moments, Kyle Lowry finally proved his doubters wrong as he finally earned his first ring in 13 years. Statistically speaking, Lowry had one of his worst seasons in recent memory as he only scored 14.2 points and grabbed 4.8 rebounds per game. However, he set a career high with 8.7 assists as he deferred to Leonard for scoring. With fewer shot attempts each game, Lowry actually became worse as he only converted 41.1% of his field goals. In comparison, he had been shooting 43.2% in his past four seasons as an All Star. With Leonard now gone, expect Lowry to once again carry the burden of scoring and his assist numbers to possibly go down.
Norman Powell will step in as the starting shooting guard though he’s had relatively little experience as a starter. In fact, the most starts he’s ever had were in his rookie season four years ago. Nevertheless, the Raptors need someone to replace Danny Green and found an internal option in Powell who averaged 8.6 points 1.5 assists, and 2.3 rebounds last year. Those certainly aren’t anything to be excited about and we can’t expect too much of him. Even with limited minutes as a bench player, Powell has yet to show any signs of greatness and won’t be expected to do too much in the offense. He’s a far cry from the production that Green gave on both sides of the ball but will have to suffice for the time being.
With even greater shoes to fill is OG Anunoby who will step into the starting lineup in place of Leonard. He’s certainly not capable of replicating the same level of production though he did play a key role off the bench last year. The 7 point average doesn’t exactly seem exciting though he did shoot efficiently in the season prior. He received 62 starts as a rookie and will certainly have the skills needed to be the starter. If he can play the same way as his rookie year and improve like he did last year, Anunoby has the potential to be a very solid forward for Toronto.
Possibly the most likely to replace Leonard’s lost production is Pascal Siakam who was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player of the 2018-19 season. After mainly playing off the bench, Siakam was given the starting power forward role last year and ran with it. He broke out for 16.9 points, 3.1 assists, and 6.9 rebounds per game. With leonard now out of the picture, Siakam will have the lanes to drive in by himself and will be given the ball to become Toronto’s next star. He efficiently converted 54.9% of shots and looks to become even better after almost doubling his shot attempts per game. That number will likely see another increase this season and Siakam could blossom into a 20 point scorer and become a useful three category player.
A long time staple of the Memphis Grizzlies franchise, Marc Gasol was brought over in a midseason trade to the Raptors that had huge dividends. He started only 19 games in the regular season but his physicality and presence in the playoffs was crucial. He’ll look to continue using that same skill set that’s made him so successful in the past to help defend Toronto’s crown. With the Raptors, his averages fell to 9.1 points, 3.9 assists, and 6.6 rebounds. That’s a far cry from the stats he was putting up in Memphis though a full season’s worth of starts should change that. Like some of the others, he’ll carry a heavier scoring burden with Leonard gone and will likely be the second or third option for the Raptors.