The Toronto Raptors kept their core intact over the summer and plan to make another run at an Eastern Conference crown behind DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. The Chicago Bulls, who visit the Raptors in the season opener on Thursday, have an entirely new look after waving goodbye to veterans Jimmy Butler, Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade.

Toronto lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs in each of the last two seasons and made an effort to make the offense more free-flowing and less predictable during the preseason. "It's a fun way to play," Raptors coach Dwane Casey told the Toronto Star. "That's the way the game is going, it's harder to scout. The game is so sophisticated now that teams scout you so well they know exactly what you're going to do before you even get the rest of the sentence out of your mouth as a coach. They're prepared because of video, internet, whatever it is." The Bulls committed fully to a youth movement over the summer and are predicted by some to be the worst team in the East. Chicago got a pair of promising young backcourt talents back in the Butler trade, bringing in Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine, and plan to play at a quicker pace as well.

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, NBCS Chicago, Sportsnet One (Toronto)

ABOUT THE BULLS (2016-17: 41-41): Chicago does not have a player 30 or older on the roster and will have to wait to give LaVine his team debut with the former NBA dunk champion recovering from surgery to repair a torn ACL. "I'm feeling great," LaVine told the team's website. "I'm working every day getting closer and closer. I'm at eight months right now (following ACL surgery). As soon as they clear me to start practicing it's all from there. I'm pretty much back to where I need to be at. I need to keep it going." The Bulls could also be without power forward Nikola Mirotic for an extended period after he was hospitalized on Tuesday following a practice altercation with teammate Bobby Portis that left him with a broken jaw.

ABOUT THE RAPTORS (2016-17: 51-31): Lowry agreed to a three-year, $100 million extension with Toronto over the summer, ending any speculation that the team would break up the Lowry-DeRozan dynamic. Instead, the Raptors went out and added another perimeter threat in swingman C.J. Miles and got set for a full year of power forward Serge Ibaka while installing an offense that encourages more 3-point attempts and more passing. "We were kind of at our best when we played that way, being able to get stops and just go play off one another," DeRozan, who averaged 27.3 points last season, told the Toronto Star. "We excelled at a high level once we did that. Kinda just doing that more and make it an unconscious thing."


1. The Raptors signed SG Norman Powell to a four-year, $42 million extension earlier this month.

2. Dunn (finger) will miss at least the first week of the season.

3. Toronto beat the Bulls 125-104 in the preseason finale but dropped two of three meetings in 2016-17, with both losses coming at Chicago.

PREDICTION: Raptors 120, Bulls 99