Each October, fans of the Toronto Raptors are led to believe their team has the potential to seriously contend. And after a couple months, those same fans are watching the Raptors crumble before their eyes.
Coming into the 2012-2013 season, the Raptors are once again a team with playoff potential.
This year, the hype is all about Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas. Both were offseason additions brought in by general manager Bryan Colangelo.
Lowry comes over from the Houston Rockets and is expected to add some flare to Toronto's lineup. Valanciunas was the Raptors' first-round selection in the 2011 NBA draft and played last season in his native country of Lithuania.
While both players will be a tremendous inspiration to a regularly-disappointed Raptors fanbase, the expectation that they'll immediately start winning crucial games is unfair.
By simply examining the roster, it's easy to see that they've made some very nice moves over the summer. Bringing in Landry Fields will add some spark, and at the moment, drafting Terrence Ross appears to have been a well-thought-out choice.
Fields is a player who contributes to the game without scoring. He can rebound effectively and has an ability to distribute the ball across the floor. After an outstanding rookie season with the New York Knicks, Fields was expected to be even better last season. Though injuries created limitations, Colangelo saw enough of Fields to know he wanted to make him a Raptor.
Andrea Bargnani will be looking to prove himself once again this season. It seems that no matter how he performs, the expectations are never met. Then again, it comes with the territory when you're a past No. 1 pick.
It may initially be a challenge for Raptors point guard Jose Calderon. With Lowry coming in and essentially being the No. 1 guy, Calderon will be seen by many as the No. 2. Calderon has the skill to be the starting point guard, but he'll need to step up and show he deserves to be that player.
As always, DeMar DeRozan should produce offensively. And of course, Ed Davis and Amir Johnson are two solid forwards up front.
This season will be filled with highs and lows for Raptors fans. There's potential for a playoff run if Bargnani, Lowry and Valanciunas can show they have the ability to lead the way.
For now, Toronto fans will have to keep their expectations realistic. It's a long season, but with fresh faces and a new look, the Raptors could end up being the league's most surprising team.
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