NBA Season Preview 2019-20: Every team’s biggest question

Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images /
29 of 31
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Turner Sports
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Turner Sports /

Toronto Raptors: Is Pascal Siakam ready for a starring role?

No matter what happens, the Toronto Raptors will not regret the summer of 2018. Mired in an awkward purgatory between regular season success and postseason failure, the Raptors knew a change had to be made. They dealt a package including longtime guard DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio in exchange for embattled superstar Kawhi Leonard, and from there, the rest was history.

Even as they basked in the glow of their first NBA title, the perceived bottom fell out from under the audacious trade: Leonard, an unrestricted free agent this summer, opted not to return to the team, instead signing with the Los Angeles Clippers. A roster that had the makings of a perennial championship contender will instead go down as beneficiaries of the greatest mercenary season of all time.

That isn’t to say the 2019-20 Raptors will be bad, however. Toronto still fields a deep, experienced roster that should excel against an unstable Eastern Conference. And there’s a catch: These Raptors might have another superstar-in-waiting in the form of the NBA’s reigning Most Improved Player, fourth-year forward Pascal Siakam.

For the Raptors, the good news is there’s a notable sample to suggest that Siakam can excel without Leonard on the court. Last season, Toronto was 17-5 when Leonard did not suit up, and Siakam appeared in 21 of those games. His stat line? About 19 points, eight rebounds and three assists per game. In other words, he was at least as good without Leonard as he was with him, if not arguably better.

This season will be the ultimate litmus test for Siakam’s true ceiling as an NBA player. Franchise stalwart Kyle Lowry is aging, and there likely isn’t anyone else with true star upside on the roster. It’s Siakam’s team now, and their ceiling depends on how he can adjust to the newfound responsibility. Considering what we’ve seen, don’t be surprised if the Raptors exceed your expectations as a result.