Defence will define Raptors season, says NBA analyst Leo Rautins

Oct 27, 2015 | Sports

Toronto Raptors forward DeMarre Carroll (5), guard Kyle Lowry (7), centre Jonas Valanciunas (17) and guard DeMar DeRozan (10) during the media day at the Air Canada Centre.(Photo by: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports)

Toronto Raptors forward DeMarre Carroll (5), guard Kyle Lowry (7), centre Jonas Valanciunas (17) and guard DeMar DeRozan (10) during the media day at the Air Canada Centre. (Photo by: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports)

By Domenic Loschiavo

As the NBA season draws near, a new chapter for the Toronto Raptors begins Wednesday night in their season opener against the Indiana Pacers.

After a disappointing and unexpected four-game sweep at the hands of the Washington Wizards in the first round of last year’s playoffs, the Raptors took a whole new approach to this off-season.

NBA analyst Leo Rautins believes the team’s backcourt play will determine their success this year. “They are going to need to defend,” Rautins told Humber News. “They got away from it last year and it hit them, especially in the post season.

“You wanna be tough, you wanna be physical, you wanna be into people,” said Rautins. “That’s something that got away from them last year, whereas the season before, where they made the trade, they kind of burst onto the scene. They were tough, they were physical – that’s got to be the defensive identity of this team.”

With Greivis Vasquez being traded to the Milwaukee Bucks and Lou Williams signing with the L.A. Lakers through free agency, it gave the Raptors flexibility to become a more defensive-minded team. The off-season saw the acquisitions of DeMarre Carroll through free agency, along with the acquisitions of hometown boys Corey Joseph and former first-overall draft pick Anthony Bennett.

Despite the fresh talent, there are questions about where the secondary offence would come from.

“When the team played well early, scoring was coming for everyone. When the team was struggling, they depended on a guy like Lou Williams to put up big numbers. That’s not necessarily the way you wanna play,” said Rautins. “Both Williams and Vasquez were, at times, liabilities defensively.

“I think the guys that they have can get the job done offensively. If they have better movement and create offence from their defense and make the extra pass and don’t stop the ball, I believe they will have great offensive numbers.”

Rautins says the key to success for newcomer Anthony Bennett is to come with a clean slate and start again with this new team.

“He has to be a two-way player,” Rautins said. “It’s going to be really important for him to make an impact on the defensive end and offensively show his versatility, make shots… and rebound. He has to play with confidence like he did this summer and hopefully he gets an opportunity.”

The Raptors finished the preseason with a 5-2 record and hope to capture their second Atlantic title in a row.

Wednesday’s home opener takes place at the Air Canada Centre with tip-off at 7:30 p.m.