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We asked Paul Jones, NBA expert for Sportsnet and Sportsnet 590 The FAN, for the lowdown.

Are you optimistic about the Raptors this season?
I am. They’ve had talent upgrades at every position and [head coach Dwane] Casey’s been working with different player combinations. We’re seeing some great mix-and-match strategy, both back and front court.

This is Casey’s second year as coach, and obviously there’s a lot of pressure on him to produce a winner. What’s his biggest challenge?
He wants to make sure they maintain the defensive integrity they established last year. I think he’s a little leery of the defence falling apart while the offence picks up, because faster offence might lead to poorer defence. It’s very hard to maintain the right defence at high speeds if you don’t have the talent.

There hasn’t been a clear leader since the exit of Chris Bosh, and before him, Vince Carter. Who’s in contention to become the new captain?
Kyle Lowry. I hate to use a hockey analogy, but he’s like a hockey player: he’s tough, he’s strong and might say unpopular things, but he’s truthful. Jonas Valanciunas will also play really hard. DeMar DeRozan is in his fourth year now and he’s been working on his game. He still has to prove that he can be a top shooter.

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