Roster Reloads: Charlotte Bobcats | Chicago Bulls | Houston Rockets | Atlanta Hawks | Memphis Grizzlies | Golden State Warriors | Toronto Raptors
For Toronto, the season began with low expectations.
Everyone was still scratching their heads at the DeMar DeRozan-Rudy Gay wing combination, and with perceived malcontent Kyle Lowry entering a contract year, how would promising center Jonas Valanciunas ever see the ball? The ESPN Summer Forecast pegged the Raptors for 33 wins and a 10th-place finish in the East. New general manager Masai Ujiri was taking stock of all of this, and it figured he'd eventually reset the roster around Valanciunas. Ujiri had already begun that process when he sent former No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani to New York in July for a first-round pick and a bundle of trade filler. Predictably, Toronto floundered to a 6-12 start.
A funny thing happened on the way to the lottery, however. Three days after the Raptors' season reached its nadir, Gay was shipped to Sacramento for what seemed to be more stopgap trade filler. Instead, Chuck Hayes, Patrick Patterson, John Salmons and Greivis Vasquez stepped into meaningful roles in Dwane Casey's rotation, Terrence Ross moved into the starting lineup and Toronto went 42-22 to finish the season. What seemed like a transitional season saw Casey establish a core of Valanciunas, Lowry and DeRozan, and finish in the top 10 in efficiency on both ends of the floor. The grueling, seven-game loss to the Nets in the first round was a disappointment, but all in all, it was perhaps the best season in Raptors history. Now, with Lowry and other key parts hitting free agency, what does Ujiri do for an encore?