The Toronto Raptors as you are likely aware will get training camp rolling on October 2nd. Still a few weeks away, but not to far to make some educated guesses on the stories will be talking about. The roster seems set more or less, it may or may not have Jaamal Magloire on it for camp will wait and see. If it does for the first time in a long time the Raptors would enter camp with more bodies than they have spaces to fill. Currently the Raptors roster sits at the maximum number of players (15) with the signing yesterday of Dominic McGuire who played last season with the Warriors.
Here we go with 5 things we should be talking about throughout training camp and the pre-season:
1. Lowry/Calderon: The Raptors will likely shape this into some sort of competition for the starting job. We all are pretty confident this is just semantics as Kyle Lowry will be that starting point guard. So how will this impact on Jose Calderon and how will he take to being a reserve playing with the second unit. How does Kyle Lowry deal with all of this as well. It is a point guard controversy just waiting to happen. If Lowry plays to level he is capable of it will not be. In any case there will be lots of talk of Jose and if he is happy. Lowry and his development with a brand new cast. This will be the main topic of conversation above all others.
2. Ed/Amir: It seems that one of these guys will be unhappy when the music stops playing and the season begins. It seems unlike and improbable that both Ed and Amir can be in the rotation given all the Raptors off-season moves. Ed and Amir both had disappointing 2011-12 seasons by most people's expectations of them and their actual performance. Who bounces back quicker may get the jump on a spot in the rotation. Ed Davis would have the slight edge of being the player with the upside and room to grow. We saw a taste of that in Summer League. Amir Johnson is a guy that has a lot of intangibles that he brings to the floor. He also has a great chemistry with Jose Calderon who will be running the show with the second unit. It should be an interesting battle to watch.
3. Where, oh where is my small forward: The Raptors are a team with no clear cut options at the small forward position. You could take guys like Fields, DeRozan or even Terrence Ross and play them there. However, all would be considered out of position there. The safe bet is you see Fields there to start. Wait what about Linas Kleiza? This is not the Lithuanian national team. McGuire just acquired (Dope Rhymes) will not be considered a starter. In the end you would like to see DeRozan fill this role and shift to the small forward like Vince Carter did in Toronto. If he has added some size he could fit in the roll. The problem would lie in his defense that would need to be much-improved as most teams in this league have highly talented players at that position. Watching how Casey juggles his options at small forward should be fun.
4. Enter Jonas: The hype has ended and the proving shall begin. Time to see what exactly the Raptors have in Jonas Valanciunas. No more highlight films on Youtube or well produced documentaries it is show time. I have a significantly lower bar of expectations from most. I will just be happy if we see him learn how the game is called in the pre-season. Staying on the floor in the NBA will likely be the first hurdle of many for Jonas to climb. What also will be interesting is the patience level of the general fan base who has been told for over a year how good this guy is or could be.
5. Will the REAL Andrea Bargnani please stand up: Was it a 13 game mirage of greatness or was it real? Did Andrea Bargnani really turn a corner to becoming an NBA All-Star? I don't know the answer to that. What I do know is we likely won't find out in training camp. The Raptors after last season will no doubt want to get Andrea Bargnani through training camp with no issues. Coming back from an injury plagued 2011-12 season his health above all others will be most important for the Raptors to start the season. The drop off in terms of scoring for this team and at his position is significant without him. Expect him to be kept from being over extended in the pre-season.
There will be lots of other stories as well, but those five should be the dominant themes as the Raptors get set to embark on a season, where for the first time in awhile this team has expectations from fans and media to do something. That has not happened since Chris Bosh took his talents to South Beach.