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NBA: Toronto Raptors season preview

The Toronto Raptors enjoyed an incredible return to Toronto last season after their temporary relocation to Tampa, returning to the play-offs after a surprise fifth-place finish in the Eastern Conference.

While rebuilds are part and parcel of the NBA, what the Raptors have done is outstanding. The 2019 champions had just two players involved in that triumph on the roster just two years later.

The Raptors are blazing their own path, playing a position-less style without traditional bigs. Instead, they have amassed athletic talents with huge wingspans, helping them build a unique style which will be tested in an improved Eastern Conference this year.

WhatNBA Season 2022/23
WhereUSA and Canada
When18th October 2022 - June 2023
How to watchSky Sports, NBA Pass, bet365's Sports Live Streaming
OddsGS Warriors 6/1, MIL Bucks 13/2, BOS Celtics 7/1, LA Clippers 7/1, BKN Nets 7/1

Raptors finally have some depth

Raptors coach Nick Nurse almost ran his top players into the ground last season, trying to get by with a seven-man rotation through most of the campaign. They have added depth in the offseason, with Otto Porter Jr. and Juancho Hernangomez arriving in free agency.

The Raptors brought back Chris Boucher and Thad Young to keep that depth, while they also drafted Christian Koloko – adding a traditional big to their mostly 6ft 9 roster of switchable defenders.

More options mean the Raptors' top stars should be in better shape by the play-offs, while they were stretched to the limit with an injury or two last term.

Both Porter Jr and Hustle star Hernangomez are great three-point threats too, something any team is happy to have more of.

Toronto need to mix up their offence

The downside of the Raptors assembling last season's roster was that it ended up with too many similar players on the court at the same time.

Their only straight-up playmaker was Fred VanVleet, who was also carrying the team as the standout scorer early on, earning him a first All-Star appearance.

Having guys who can conjure their own opportunities and take the playmaking burden off VanVleet is key this season.

One man who could use a real step up in that department is Gary Trent Jr, who will be looking to extend his game beyond his great three-point shooting in a contract year.

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Trent Jr had a career-high two assists per game last season, but that's an area where he could really improve this term.

Pascal Siakam too can step up creatively, having increased his average assists year-on-year in the league, reaching 5.3 per game last season.

Having set himself the goal of being a top-five player in the league, playmaking is a clear route for him to get better.

Will Scottie Barnes make a leap?

The reigning Rookie of the Year is already a huge hit in Toronto with his infectious optimism.

There were questions and concerns about the Raptors taking him with the fourth pick in 2021, but he silenced those with a stunning debut year in the NBA.

Barnes has the potential to be a star in the NBA, having worked to improve his shooting over the last year.

He is defensively excellent and has a huge physical presence at 6ft 9 with a 7ft wingspan. Having been a point guard in college, he has also got a high ceiling as a playmaker and lead ball-handler.

Barnes has already built out physically in the offseason and he improved game-to-game last season, so it's hard to even imagine where he will be by the end of the regular season.

He is on course to become the Raptors' star man and that could happen sooner rather than later.

How the season starts

The Raptors will get an early taste of how tough the Eastern Conference will be this year given their diffficult opening.

They start at home to a Cleveland Cavaliers side who have arguably overtaken them in the offseason.

Next up is a visit to the Brooklyn Nets, before a double-header away to the Miami Heat. That is followed by another double-header, this time at home to last season's play-off opponents, the Philadelphia 76ers.

Toronto Raptors 2022-23 expectations

On one hand, the Raptors have added depth to a 48-win team from last season.

Many key contributors to that team will continue to improve across the regular season, making the Raptors a threat in next year's play-offs.

However, the road there is the concerning aspect.

They squeezed everything possible out of their key names in order to finish fifth and, since then, their Eastern rivals have improved.

The Raptors now seventh-favourites in the Conference at 14/1, which suggests they have fallen behind.

Given that, Toronto could well enter next season's play-offs looking stronger, despite slipping a few places from last season.

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