When the Raptors started the season, or about the same time Rasual Butler’s sneakers first squeaked on the ACC court, it was clear that this team was not playoff bound. Now that the Raptors have finished up the unofficial first half of the season with a 10-23 record, it is pretty clear that the only place this team is going is the NBA draft lottery at the end of the year.
But that doesn’t mean Raptor fans aren’t looking for a little bit of positivity in the second half.
There are certainly things this fan base want to see from the team so that they feel hope exists for next season.
Development of young players is high on the agenda. As is trading assets for picks and youth. For some finishing as low as possible is the desired result.
So what do you wanna see from the Raps in the second half?
Here’s our list:
1) A Strong Return for Andrea Bargnani
Bargnani has been out for a while and his health has to be on the minds of fans and team officials. Before he went out Bargnani was putting together one hell of a season. He finally seemed to be putting his skills together to become a dominant force for the Raptors. He was scoring outside the paint with his beautiful jumper, but for the first time he was consistently getting to the rim as well.
Andrea also seemed to be fitting in well on the defensive side of the ball as he was steady in the paint and his rebounding numbers were gradually picking up.
An injury can certainly alter the way you play. Going inside becomes a second thought. Taking a charge or fighting for a rebound aren’t as easy as they were before. Let us hope the injury doesn’t mess with Andrea’s head. Let’s hope that when he comes back, he comes back with the same fight he had before he was injured.
His ascention as a superstar is key to the success of the Toronto Raptors, this year and next.
2) Demar Puts it all Together
No Raptor has been criticized nearly as much as Derozan. He is not having the type of year that basketball fans in this city were hoping. I’m not here to rip him anymore, but in the second half Raptor fans will be looking for him to step up his game.
This is a player Raptor fans not only wanna see play well they want to see him play like a star. Coming into this season fans were looking to Bargnani and Derozan to form the nucleus of the young core moving forward. So far Bargnani looks like he is part of that nucleus, Derozan does not.
He still has half a season to show us all that he is an elite player in this league. It’s one of the stories that everyone will be following in the second half. Let’s hope he turns on the jets and makes us all forget his first half.
Who Stays and Who Goes?
Jose Calderon, Leandro Barbosa, Rasual Butler, pretty much any veteran we have will be the subject of trade chatter and their names will be floated out there. The Raptors have the benefit of having a lot of pieces that a playoff bound team could be looking for to solidify their run. Not only that but all of these veterans have contracts that make them more attractive to prospective trade partners with only one or two years remaining on their deals.
Not every veteran will be traded and nor should they all, but certainly the value coming back will be of interest to the Raptors and their faithful. It’ll be hard to turn down a nice young player or a 1st round draft pick for a contract of a player that doesn’t fit into the teams long-term. With lots of capspace coming this summer, having a little bit more might just be what the doctor ordered to expedite this rebuilding process.
Lots of chatter will be had.
Who Steps Up?
While Derozan and Andrea will be the focus of many, the Raptors are still going to need someone from their supporting cast to emerge as part of this teams young core in the long-term. Amir Johnson, James Johnson Jarryd Bayless and Ed Davis need to show they belong here. The Raptors didn’t have an player compete in the Rising Stars Challenge game this weekend, but one of these four players need to become one for us.
All have shown positive flashes this year and need to continue doing so. Their continued development let this fan base know that next years team has a solid supporting cast. It gives the team a stronger foundation to build around.
Keeping it interesting
This team is not going to playoffs. That much is clear, but we don’t want to watch a team that gets killed every night. How painful for the fan base to have to watch the team become the Washington Generals every night, especially against teams it should compete against. The fans need to know the effort is there and that the feeling of rebirth is close.
The Raptors might have to pull an upset victory or two and need to keep it close in as many games as they can. This will be Dwane Casey’s biggest Challenge as the year goes on. How to keep “pounding the rock” even when hope is lost.
Which leads me to my last point…
How Low Can They Go?
There will be many fans calling for “Tank Nation” to ensure the highest chance at a top three pick. Fans will be watching the standings fiercely to see if we are still in the Anthony Davis Sweepstakes. I will not be one of them, but certainly a lower position would give us a better shot at a higher pick.
Regardless of where we finish, rest assured that Raptor fans will be watching the NCAA tournament with vested interest. One of those stars (likely a top five or six pick) will be coming to Toronto next year. Fans will be watching and hoping a little more losing leads to a little more talent in the NBA draft.
So there will be plenty to watch for Raptor fans in the second half. Let’s hope what we see leads us to believe that next years version of the Raptors will be a little more involved in All Star festivities than they were this year.
The Zan Tabak Herald