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Q&A with Raptors HQ: How good can the Toronto Raptors be in 2014-15?

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The Toronto Raptors are a team that's on the rise, not unlike the Washington Wizards. We asked Raptors HQ's Alex Wong for some of his thoughts on what they're looking forward to this season.

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Here in D.C., there are certainly high expectations for the Washington Wizards. After all, they may be a Top-3 team in the Eastern Conference this season. However, the Toronto Raptors were the #3 seed in the East this past season and are an up-and-coming team in their own right.

We had the chance to do a Q&A with SB Nation's Raptors HQ on each other's teams. I answered some questions for them which was published Thursday.

And today, here are our questions with Alex Wong, a/k/a steven_lebron.

Bullets Forever: The Raptors have kept the bulk of their roster together for the 2014-15 season. How much of an advantage does this give them?

Yes, I think the continuity and chemistry will be a huge thing for the team. The Cavaliers and Bulls are obviously the more talented teams, and by season's end, will likely be the two teams competing for the Eastern Conference title. But teams like Toronto -- especially with a home heavy schedule early -- might get a head start in the standings because of their familiarity.

Home court advantage and such will be important in the playoffs for Toronto, who obviously showed last season how great of a home court they have especially in the post-season.

BF: Do you believe that Kyle Lowry will become an All-Star this season? I personally thought he deserved it over some others in the Eastern Conference.

It depends. Year to year, point guards seem to step up and emerge and there are only so many spots on the All-Star team that I can easily see Lowry having another superb season but being squeezed out. I do think he'll put up similar numbers to last season, and if the team is successful, he will be rewarded with an All-Star selection this season.

BF:DeMar DeRozan played for Team USA in the FIBA World Cup. How do you think he can use that experience this year in Toronto?

DeMar talked a bit about this at media day and essentially I think being around an elite group of players will help him, in terms of taking pieces of what he saw from other players and mimicking them in terms of things they do on the court, or preparation habits before games. The experience should give DeRozan the feeling that he belongs in that elite group, and that confidence may propel him even further this season.

BF: Jonas Valanciunas has been a solid low post presence and he's only 22. Just how good can he be?

How good can Valanciunas be?

I highly recommend a piece that Ian Levy wrote at our site examining the potential development of Valanciunas. I do think that he can develop into a 20-10 guy, but he'll need to develop a better offensive game and be more consistent on the defensive end. In Levy's piece, one specific area of concern with Valanciunas' offensivegame is his lack of a consistent midrange jump shot,

I'm not sure this is the year when it all comes together, but if he takes another step towards that ceiling, it'll be huge for the team.

BF: The Raptors' bench is one of the deepest in the league. Players like Greivis Vasquez, Lou Williams and Patrick Patterson can make an impact any game. What sets Toronto's bench from others in the NBA?

I think it's their ability to play alongside the starters, and also to seamlessly take over if a starter is injured or gets in trouble. Greivis played well next to Kyle Lowry last season, but was also fine running the show while Lowry took a breather. I think Lou Williams, if healthy, is going to be huge as an additional perimeter scoring option for the Raptors. Lowry and DeRozan keeps the engine running, but their shot selection isn't always the best. If Lou can be an efficient scoring option especially in the fourth, it's going to help a lot. And I love Patterson, who plays a role on this team and played it very well last season.

BF: Toronto is underestimated as an NBA market. Many stereotypes of the city are just plain misinformation. Do you consider the Raptors as a large market team, when you consider that this is the one non-American NBA team, at least right now?

Raptors HQ's Q&A on the Wizards

I've always viewed Toronto, in any sport -- be it basketball, hockey, baseball -- as a big market. Of course, being in Canada it doesn't get the national media coverage that other teams might, but then again, the media attention will come if your team is successful. Look at Oklahoma City, who are the perfect example. The Raptors simply haven't been very good, and even now, they don't have that national star power that makes them interesting on that stage. But if we keep winning and make noise in the playoffs, I think it'll be very easy to market this team.

BF: If the NBA expands soon, should there be more Canadian teams? We think Vancouver should get another team, and Montreal is another major market worth exploring.

While I would love to see more teams in Canada, I think there are a lot more markets in the U.S. that probably deserve to and will get a team before the NBA even considers more teams in Canada. Seattle is one that comes to mind, Las Vegas has always been interesting. I still think basketball can work in Vancouver.

As for Montreal, there are pre-season games held there and I'm not sure if the city would be interested in supporting a basketball team long-term. But it's still definitely an interesting city to think about.