As the 2013-14 NBA regular season fast approaches, many teams around the league are starting to think about putting a starting lineup together once more. With a string of departures and arrivals since the start of the offseason, the Toronto Raptors have a far stronger starting five than they did last season.
Kyle Lowry looks almost certain to retain his place as starting point guard and Demar DeRozan will join him in the back court. Lowry will start this season with a few more critics to prove wrong than a year ago, after a frustrating season saw inconsistency become the most consistent element of his game.
The first addition to the new lineup will be Rudy Gay, who is set to be the small forward and talisman of the team. Gay will earn over $17 million this season, thus meaning he will have the most pressure on his shoulders and critics to silence. Next season he is set to earn $19 million, meaning unless he becomes an All-Star and the Raptors hone in on a playoff berth, Gay will likely be subject to trade rumors all season long.
Jonas Valanciunas will retain his starting role as center for his sophomore season, even though he was in and out of the starting five throughout last season. With 67 games under his belt, he is expected to break out and fulfill his high ceiling.
Then comes the trickiest decision of all. The power forward position will be a great battle not only in preseason, but throughout the year as the spot sees two different mannered players go toe-to-toe for the same starting role.
Amir Johnson has become somewhat of a mainstay in Toronto over the last four years. Having started 135 out of his last 217 games for the Raptors, Johnson has built a reputation around the league for his constant energy and non-stop competitiveness. He managed to put together his most successful season to date in 2012-13, posting double figures in points scored per game as well as career highs in minutes, rebounds and steals.
Now enter the newest addition to the Raptors roster: Tyler Hansbrough. If anyone thought Amir had a competitive spirit and high-end energy, wait till you see Hansbrough in action.
Hansbrough has garnered a reputation of his own. If he is not defending his own brother, Ben Hansbrough, from an elbow or two, he’s getting into the face of the ‘Birdman’ Chris Andersen.
However this one plays out, coach Dwayne Casey has got a great dilemma on his hands, something he didn’t have the fortune of last season. The Raptors will play with more depth and flat out talent this season, as they push for their first playoff berth since 2008.