We are roughly about a month away from the Raptors and NBA opening up training camp. So let's press the fast forward button and speculate on what we will be talking about when training camp and the pre-season are underway.
1. PG Guard Battle: I can tell you right now this is not a battle at all. If Kyle Lowry is not the starting PG at the end of the day, I would be both shocked and disappointed. You don't make the trade the Raptors did for him to be a back up. He is a much better fit with Casey and his philosophy on how the game is played. Now obviously the Raptors are going to declare this a competition for the starting position, but in reality it is not. If you accept that as fact the question becomes how Jose Calderon will adapt to his roll as a back-up. It seems safe to assume at this point he is not being traded anytime soon. Can he accept it and take advantage playing primary against teams reserves. If he can keep his head screwed on straight and perform the Raptors could have a great one...two punch. Much like what they had with Ford and Calderon before he emerged to take the starting role. John Lucas III gives the Raptors some excellent depth should problems arise be they through injury or other factors that could occur.
2. Hype Meets Reality: I have been careful not to allow myself to become part of the hype machine. Let me make something clear though I am not against Jonas Valanciunas. In fact it is quite the opposite. What I am against is this year long hype campaign that has created some rather unrealistic expectation. I am not a euro basher when I bring up the fact that, for any big man regardless of nationality, it is generally a longer process than at any other position. I am only pointing out the obvious, when I say that Jonas has never played a single game in life under NBA Rules. While the NCAA has different rules as well, the differences are far more subtle. All that said, Jonas will finally have his opportunity to make his own case for what he will be and how fast he will get there. I would be happy if he lived up to all the hype and build up he has, but I just don't expect that as I feel it is not fair to him. I will tell you this, get prepared for all those people that were hyping him up to be the same people screaming to preach patience. I won't be the guy saying I told you so. Jonas is going to take time and he might never meet the lofty hype and buzz that has been created. If you were willing to give Andrea Bargnani as long as some have Jonas deserves at least that.
3. Landry Fields vs His Contract: I like Landry Fields from all I have seen of him. It is not his fault he became part of some grand scheme to land Steve Nash. It is not his fault that he was happy to benefit from that financially. He seems like a very likely young man that I personally look forward to talking with. What he can ultimately produce for the Raptors is a big question mark. He will most likely find himself as the starting three when the smoke clears. He had a very encouraging rookie season with the Knicks and he became a causality of the Carmelo Anthony trade ultimately. Will he be able to bounce back to the form he showed as a rookie with a more secure role with the Raptors, in which he will have ample opportunity to succeed? One thing is for sure having dealt with the New York media the rather large Toronto media should not be much of a challenge. Still he is always going to face the reality of his contract and if he ultimately can ever live up to it. The odds are he can't, but still could be a good player for the Raptors. Time will tell on this.
4. DeRozan and Bargnani: The two main stars from last year suddenly have a cast of others around them to compete for that spotlight. How both respond will be interesting. It is obviously more vital in the case of DeRozan because the Raptors will have some decisions to make on his long term future with the team sooner than Bargnani. Although Bargnani should ultimately not feel safe either. If he does not perform like the All-Star level guy he did for a short part of last season it should not take long for the natives to get restless. Although the Raptors have remained loyal almost to a fault with their only number one pick in franchise history.Some feel that Colangelo would never trade him. Both have a lot to prove and it will be interesting if either can take the ultimate control as the man to lead this franchise. Something neither has been able to establish.
5. The Other Rookies: The Raptors raised a lot of eyebrows taking Terrance Ross. Coming off what we saw at Summer League, you can make both an argument for why the Raptors took him so high, and why others felt they took him to high. We are all guilty of being focused on numbers and status symbols like being a lottery pick. At the end of the day when the ball goes up no one is asking where you got drafted. They are asking if you belong in this league or not. In that sense Ross may ultimately prove he does. He seems to have all the skills and potential that the Raptors would want. It also will be a daily challenge to push Demar DeRozan to live up to his ultimate potential. Quincy Acy might just find a way in a sea of bigs to get on the floor. He is hustle and heart and will get rebounds. If someone is slipping make no mistake that Casey would have a energizer to throw in to send a message. Acy could be a guy that has a chance to be around for the long haul and become a fan favorite the likes of guys like Jerome Williams, Matt Bonner and others including the guy who looks like his older brother Reggie Evans. The development of these guys should be on display in the pre-season and through training camp. Expect Ross to see time in the rotation. Acy likely will not and could even bounce back and forth with D-League at times if they can't find minutes for him. Acy however is far more than some mascot like Solomon Alabi kind of became.
There will likely be other stories and we are always one injury from having an unexpected story. Still, heading into the season and camp these 5 stories should all be front and center. I now return you to you waiting for the season and training camp to get here.