Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green may have left the team last summer, but the Toronto Raptors didn’t skip a beat during the 2019-20 season before games were suspended in March. The defending NBA champions actually had the second-best record in the Eastern Conference and looked well on their way to contending for the Finals spot.
With that said, it’s no wonder why they are one of the favorites to win the 2020 NBA title once the “bubble” games start in sunny Orlando, Florida.
Rust will clearly be a factor for all 22 teams partaking in the “bubble” games since players haven’t played since March. Along with rust, the Raptors also have three other question marks heading into the NBA restart.
3. Can Kyle Lowry still perform at an All-Star level?
Kyle Lowry has a lot of miles on his body and he’s not getting any younger. While the hiatus provided him with the opportunity to rest his legs and sharpen his mind for the postseason, the six-time All-Star is already 34 years old and could be prone to injury at Walt Disney World since he hasn’t been able to train and play since March.
Before games were suspended, Lowry was averaging 19.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 7.7 assists for the Raptors in 52 games. Those are numbers Toronto is hoping Lowry can put up in the playoffs.
However, it’s not a guarantee that he will since we don’t know how the hiatus affected Lowry.
2. Does Marc Gasol have anything left in the tank?
Marc Gasol missed 28 games for the Raptors due to hamstring issues, though he returned just before the league’s hiatus. The Spaniard was averaging 7.6 points and 6.3 rebounds before Rudy Gobert’s positive COVID-19 test forced commissioner Adam Silver to suspend games.
Like Lowry, Gasol is getting up there in age. He’s 35 and not as mobile as he used to be, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. The Raptors knew when they traded for Gasol last season that they weren’t getting the 2013 version who won the Defensive Player of the Year Award.
It will be interesting to see if Gasol is effective in the 2020 playoffs for the Raptors. The long layoff provided the three-time All-Star an opportunity to get back in shape, though, with Toronto head coach Nick Nurse telling reporters that Gasol’s face has “looked slim” on Zoom calls.
1. Can Pascal Siakam channel his inner Kawhi Leonard?
The new franchise player for the Raptors, Pascal Siakam will be the number one player on the opponents’ scouting report once the playoffs start. Since Leonard is gone, Siakam will be seeing double-teams and traps at every turn in the half-court, something he didn’t see in the 2019 postseason.
Siakam is clearly a talented player. He was averaging 23.6 points, 7.5 boards and 3.6 assists on the season before games were put to a halt. However, playoff basketball is different. The game slows down and half-court execution is at a premium.
We’ll see if Siakam is able to handle the offensive burden for an entire playoff series without Leonard. It’s a lot easier said than done.