NBA Preview: Can Lithuanian project boost Toronto Raptors?

Toronto Raptors 2

Will Jonas Valanciunas be able to help the Raptors be surprise contenders for a play-off berth in the East?

Toronto Raptors

Placing last season: 23-43 (11th in Eastern Conference)

Key moves: Toronto’s biggest splash in the offseason was a trade for Kyle Lowry, the former Houston Rockets point guard, which some might consider quite surprising given their highest earner, Jose Calderon, also plays the point, but with Calderon set for free agency at the end of the year the Lowry signing could prove to be astute.

Toronto also drafted big guard Terrence Ross who could play small forward if required. He offers a good scoring option with decent range from three.

Challenges ahead: The team is still in transition and has no truly great players and probably needs another good draft before they are looking at qualifying for the postseason. Trading away a future first round pick will be an issue for a team looking to build organically.

Reason to be positive: The Raptors have got a nice core based around Calderon, Bargnani and Lowry, who are all above average players. If they can maximise their ability then the Raptors could find themselves in the hunt for a playoff berth only to fall away late.

Whether they get that far is also dependent on a solid showing from Jonas Valanciunas, who spent last year playing in Lithuania having been drafted in 2011. Valanciunas demonstrated all the skills needed in the Euroleague but whether he can do that in the NBA is a different matter altogether.

Prediction: 34-48 (10th in Eastern Conference)

image: © lukes