NBA Atlantic Division Preview: Shake Up At The Top

3 of 6

2. Toronto Raptors

May 2, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry (7) controls the ball against the Brooklyn Nets during the first quarter of game six of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

While they are the defending champs, there is a little bit of “good team in a terrible division” feeling about Toronto.

Kyle Lowry was unstoppable for a while last year. Of course in a contract year he decided to have his best season by far. With that in mind, will he be able to repeat it, or was it simply his motivation to play well?

The emergence of DeMar DeRozan last year creates a dynamic duo with Lowry. However, DeRozan is a pure volume scorer, shooting just 42% from the field, while making just 30% of his three-point attempts. There may not be enough shots to go around with the development of big man Jonas Valanciunas. In only his second year in the league, the Lithuanian center averaged 11.3 points and 8.8 rebounds on 53% shooting. As he continues to develop and gets more minutes (only played 28 mpg last year), Valanciunas will be taking shots away from DeRozan which could make him less effective.

Obviously, it’s better to have too much talent than too little. Valanciunas has the potential to be one of the best big men in the NBA, but we will have to wait and see how he develops in his third year. Where the Toronto Raptors will run into problems is stopping good perimeter players. DeRozan and Terrence Ross are not great defenders, and with a division loaded with perimeter talent (Melo, J.R. Smith, Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green, Michael Carter-Williams, etc.), they could find themselves not being able to get a stop in crunch time. The Knicks split with them last year, and in their two losses, they were without Carmelo, which made the Knicks useless last year.

If Toronto can find some contributors off the bench, then they have a shot at repeating as division champs. I just don’t feel they have enough talent throughout their roster to compete against a healthy New York squad.

Key Acquisitions: Lou Williams, Kyle Lowry (re-signed)

Key Losses: John Salmons