In John Schuhmann's mid-summer power rankings on NBA.com, the Toronto Raptors find themselves in the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference behind the Boston Celtics.
Whereas the Celtics are running it back with the same team as last season, plus a healthy Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, the Raptors acquired an MVP candidate this summer in Kawhi Leonard. Trading DeMar DeRozan for the two-time All-Star raises Toronto's ceiling and gives the Raptors the makings of a dynamic defensive team - assuming, Schuhmann notes, that they're getting a "healthy and full-engaged" Leonard.
We don't know how healthy Leonard is or how engaged he'll be with a team that he didn't want to be traded to. But the Raptors have raised their ceiling and have the ability to put together some really good defensive lineups, featuring Leonard and OG Anunoby at the forward spots. (Note that it was on defense where the Raptors collapsed in the playoffs this time.)
Anunoby and the other young guys should be better and the offense should continue to evolve under coach Nick Nurse, though it must be noted that DeRozan had a higher assist rate last season (assisting on 18.8 percent of his possessions) than Leonard (career high of 14.6 percent) has ever had.
That they haven't replaced Poeltl (or re-signed Lucas Nogueira) is a sign that they'll be playing plenty of small ball, with Serge Ibaka or Pascal Siakam at center.
Rounding out Schuhmann's top-5 in the Eastern Conference are the Philadelphia 76ers, Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks. Following them are the Washington Wizards, Detroit Pistons and Miami Heat, leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers and Charlotte Hornets on the outside looking in on the playoffs.