Are the 2018-19 Toronto Raptors Good?

Dwane Casey couldn’t win for trying last year.

Curing his case of Scott/Hollins Syndrome (well, except for DeMar DeRozan, but you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken…something else…beyond the arc), leading the Toronto Raptors to a 59-23 record, the best regular season in franchise history…

…and getting his butt kicked by LeBron James, meekly surrendering in four games in the second round…

Anyway, longtime assistant Nick Nurse is now the head coach, a man whose coaching experience includes 11 years in Britain, seven in the G-League, and six as Casey’s errand boy.

On the bright side, Nurse is said to be nearly legendary at player development and was one of the best coaches the G-League has ever seen during his time in Iowa and at Rio Grande Valley.

Does that mean the Raptors are about to get a huge leap out of their young talent to go along with recently-acquired Kawhi Leonard and the seemingly ageless Kyle Lowry?

2017-18 record: 59-23
2018-19 over/under: 54.5

Mike, Lu, and OG

OG Anunoby might be the linchpin of Toronto’s surge in Year 2 of his career.

As a rookie, he had good-but-not-great advanced stats, but then again, so do most rookies. Anunoby’s PER (10.0) was terrible, but his WS/48 was nearly legitimate starter-level (.098), he’s a positive BPM and VORP guy, and for a rookie forward, he’s remarkably adept at taking care of the ball, with more assists than turnovers.

And while mainstream NBA media has a nasty habit of forgetting that Toronto exists, Anunoby posted a 47.1/37.1 FG/3PT shooting split last year, a clear sign that there is some mind-blowing talent there.

He was also a plus defender. He now has Kawhi Leonard as a teammate.

Mark my words; Anunoby is going to be one of the biggest revelations in basketball this season.

Whither Leonard?

Kawhi Leonard is a complete wild card when it comes to the Raptors’ fortunes. If he’s truly back from the injury that made last year so strange in San Antonio, Toronto is in position to be just as good, if not better (regular readers of this publication know my disdain for DeRozan; I think the Raptors pantsed the Spurs in the trade), than they were last year.

On the other hand, if the injury was more of a kind that indicates a career derailed and gets into “he was never the same” territory, Leonard’s going to be an expensive mistake whose main role is going to be to make Casey look like he had the right time chosen for him to depart, and he’ll duck the worst of the fallout from that decision.

This is the kind of thing that makes over/unders so hard to pick, especially since Boston (as we covered yesterday) is so much better this year than last.

Seriously, does anyone at all know what’s going on with Kawhi? Do the Raptors?

And All That Other Stuff

Everyone focuses on Kawhi, but how much better can Toronto be with Danny Green, assuming Green didn’t completely forget how to shoot a basketball last season?

Green’s 38.7/36.3 shooting split came with just a 57.0 three-point attempt rate, so it’s hard to look at him and say he’s one of those guys whose FG% is held down artificially.

Certainly, he shoots a ton of threes, but he didn’t post a .545 eFG%. He posted a .509 True Shooting and a .490 eFG.

Ben Simmons, who never shoots a three even when he’s open by ten miles, shot 54.5 percent, and he did it with a lower standard deviation of result.

Now granted, now is not the time for a defense of the two-pointer (that’s coming later, as the season approaches), but for a team that yakked on itself at the worst possible time, is more streaky variance really the answer right now?

Lowry’s coming off one of his best three-point seasons, hitting just under 40 percent. They have Human Crapshoot C.J. Miles again. Pascal Siakam is a year older and continues to develop as a defender, emerging as a rebounder as he gets more minutes. Jonas Valanciunas is Jonas Valanciunas.

But every time a question gets raised about the Raptors, the only answer is another question.

THE VERDICT!

Toronto’s win totals, since 2014: 48, 49, 56, 51, 59.

It seems like when the Raptors have even a semi-competent East to contend with, it knocks their win total down a notch. And with the surging Sixers, the likely-to-be-dominant Celtics, and a better-by-the-year Pacers team (more on them later) looking to be your top three, it’s hard to see where Toronto’s getting that 55th win to take the over.

So instead I’m going to peg them for 50-32, the 4 seed in the East, and a good-but-not-great season that ends in a second-round exit in Boston when the playoffs come around.

Anunoby could be an All-Star. Kawhi could be his old self. Danny Green could stop being feast-or-famine for the first time in his career. I am betting on zero of those results.

Are they good? It’s Plausible…but I’m taking the under.