Over the coming weeks, we at Today’s Fastbreak will be doing a team-by-team breakdown of each NBA franchise’s fantasy prospects for the 2016-17 season. We’ll continue today with the Toronto Raptors.
After making their first-ever appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2015-16, the Toronto Raptors largely brought the band back together for another go-round this coming season. That makes life easy on fantasy basketball owners, as just about every fantasy-relevant Raptor shouldn’t have major spikes or dips in per-game production, barring two notable exceptions.
Toronto’s biggest home run during the draft and free agency was re-signing DeMar DeRozan to a mammoth five-year, $139 million contract that ensures he’ll be a mainstay of the team through his prime. The Raptors made no other notable changes to their backcourt depth chart, save for the signing of a few undrafted rookie free agents who likely won’t even make it through training camp, so the stage is set for DeRozan and Kyle Lowry to dominate touches once again.
In the frontcourt, the Raptors shored up their backup 5 spot by drafting Utah’s Jakob Poeltl ninth overall, giving them a replacement for Bismack Biyombo, who left in free agency to sign with the Orlando Magic. They also nabbed one of the biggest steals in free agency, signing former Boston Celtics big man Jared Sullinger to a one-year deal at the mid-level exception, giving them another scoring presence in the frontcourt alongside incumbent starting center Jonas Valanciunas.
Let’s take a look at which Raptors players you should target with early-, mid- and late-round picks and who you should leave on the waiver wire. We’ll also highlight one breakout pick or a sleeper who’s likely to outperform his draft position, along with one bust who may end up disappointing this season.
Kyle Lowry, PG: When Kyle Lowry entered training camp notably slimmer last season, he began shooting up draft boards, and rightfully so. The 10-year veteran averaged a career-high 21.2 points, 6.4 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 2.8 treys and 2.1 steals in a whopping 37.0 minutes per game last season, finishing as the 12th-ranked player in eight-category leagues. With Lowry now fresh off a stint winning a gold medal in the Olympics, fantasy owners can only hope he follows in the footsteps of his Team USA predecessors, many of whom return to the Association after international play to have monster fantasy campaigns. The Raptors may reduce his playing time slightly to keep him fresher for the playoffs, but he’ll still be a sound investment in the second round of drafts, as top-20 value should be attainable.
DeMar DeRozan, SG/SF: DeMar DeRozan didn’t let the pressure of a contract year affect him in 2015-16, as he averaged a career-best 23.5 points on 44.6 percent shooting, 4.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.0 steals in 35.9 minutes per night to finish as the 32nd-ranked player in eight-category leagues. Seeing as he entered the year as a consensus sixth-round pick, those who invested in him at his draft-day price found themselves a strong mid-round value. His strengths and limitations haven’t changed heading into this year — he’s one of the league’s highest-scoring 2-guards and can contribute in both rebounds and assists, but his three-point shooting leaves much to be desired. If he likewise sees a slight dip in playing time with an eye on the postseason — Norman Powell and Terrence Ross can soak up minutes as the backup 2s — those who reach on him in the fourth round expecting last year’s production could wind up mildly disappointed this season.
Jonas Valanciunas, C: The stage appears set for Jonas Valanciunas to finally have his long-awaited breakout campaign in 2016-17. Last year, the Lithuanian big man averaged 12.8 points on 56.5 percent shooting, 9.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in just 26.0 minutes per night to finish as the 78th-ranked player in eight-category leagues, slightly behind where his expert consensus rank fell heading into the year (70th). With Bismack Biyombo now in Orlando, though, the Raptors only have a rookie (Jakob Poeltl) and a project (Lucas Nogueira) behind Valanciunas on the depth chart. The 7-footer may finally crack the 30-minutes-per-game threshold for the first time in his five-year career, which should enable him to put together a personal-best fantasy season.
DeMarre Carroll, SF: DeMarre Carroll’s first season in Toronto hardly went according to plan, as ongoing knee problems limited him to just 26 regular-season contests. When he was healthy enough to play, though, the seven-year veteran averaged 11.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.8 triples, 1.7 steals and 1.0 assists in just 30.2 minutes a night, finishing as the 124th-best player on a per-game basis in eight-category leagues, according to Basketball Monster. Seeing as he went from shooting north of 45 percent during his two seasons in Atlanta to just 38.9 percent last year, fantasy owners can reasonably expect some positive regression to the mean this season. Carroll is an obvious late-round flier to target, as he won’t cost you much and could recapture the top-75 form he had in 2014-15 so long as he avoids any further injury woes.
Jared Sullinger, PF: Jared Sullinger took a step back from a fantasy perspective last season, as he was unable to stand out in the Boston Celtics’ crowded frontcourt. The Ohio State product played just 23.6 minutes per game in 2015-16, averaging 10.3 points on 43.5 percent shooting, 8.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.6 blocks to finish as the 108th-ranked player in eight-category leagues. He’ll have a chance to bounce back this season, though, as Raptors head coach Dwane Casey plans on entering training camp with him as the team’s starting power forward, according to Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun. He’s also expected to log some minutes behind Valanciunas at the 5, as he told SiriusXM NBA Radio in late July, which makes him a potential sneaky value pick in late in drafts.
Cory Joseph, PG
Delon Wright, PG
Normal Powell, SG
Terrence Ross, SG/SF
Bruno Caboclo, SF
Patrick Patterson, PF
Pascal Siakam, PF
Jakob Poeltl, C
Lucas Nogueira, C
Sleeper: DeMarre Carroll
Bust: DeMar DeRozan
Other team breakdowns
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