Raise your hand if you’ve been hopeful about a strong finish to a Raptors season in the past?
I know I have.
The Raptors, over the years, have had a knack for missing the playoffs with months of excruciating play, only to finish the year strong and make you think that next year might be different.
Call it a season ticket drive to the finish, call it finally living up to expectations, call it playing well against lesser opponents. It creates a confusion in the fan base.
Is this the real Toronto Raptors? or ar they the team that has been outplayed, outmuscled, and out manned all season long?
I don’t want to have to pull out the definition of insanity here, but this is beginning to become a bit of recurring theme.
The Raptors have played well this past week. Another impressive victory on Sunday against a hungry Nets team. It is true, the pressure has been off, the opponents have largely been weaker and the results have been better. Is this recent run of good play an indication of what this team is truly made of? Or are they getting our hopes up again, like they do every year?
Fans could be forgiven for thinking this might be a sign of what this team will look like next year. The fan base is looking for any sign of hope and winning a number of games over this last week of the season is certainly a way to provide that hope. Kyle Lowry is finally looking like the player he was advertised to be, Rudy Gay is hitting big shots, DeRozan is looking like a star and the team is playing better defensive basketball than they have all season.
I know the Raptors are selling us all on the 17 reasons to renew our season seats for next year, but is this really what we are going to get? Or is this just a young team taking advantage of playoff teams resting their stars and teams playing out the schedule?
Jonas Valanciunas is, in my opinion, the big reason one should consider renewing season tickets, if you’re looking for another, the Raptors are starting to provide it with their recent play.
One needs to be wary of putting too much emphasis on success in such a small sample size. I mean, Bargnani had that great stretch last year and some Raptor fans (myself included) expected that level of play this year. Of course, we know how that played out.
It’s been five years since the Raptors reached the promised land of the playoffs, is this run enough to make fans start forking over their loonies and toonies to watch again next year? Is it enough to believe that the front office can make a couple of tweaks to the roster and get this team into the playoffs?
The Raptors acquired Rudy Gay ( a bona-fide star), they have some nice young pieces with reasonable contracts, but they haven’t been able to put it all together. Though I have a hard time believing that this team isn’t better than the current Milwaukee Bucks.
A full season of Jonas Valanciunas as the starting centre is going to make a difference next year as will a full season of Rudy Gay, but it remains unclear whether that is going to be enough to get this team back into the playoffs. On the surface it would appear that this young team is finally figuring each other out, that they are finally clicking.
Lowry is running the point well, Rudy Gay and DeRozan have finally found a nice balance and the rest of the team is playing their role well. This run of games seems to indicate that the Raps have finally figured themselves out.
Kyle Lowry (the big off-season acquisition last summer) hasn’t really come as advertised this season. He has had trouble figuring out when to drive, shoot or pass. His leadership on the court hasn’t led to great decisions and much of the year Casey deferred to Jose Calderon. Though over the last week or so, he seems to have found a nice balance while running the team. Which Kyle Lowry do we expect to see next year?
DeMar DeRozan has had a decent season and should be applauded for playing every single game, but is he a player to build around? The same could be said for Amir Johnson, another solid member of the team, but one that might be expendable.
Who do the Raptors keep going into next year? Where do they look for an upgrade?
Is the team, as it is right now, good enough to compete like this next season in an Eastern Conference that is sure to see upgrades?
A lot of what happens going forward is going to depend on whether Bryan Colangelo and Dwane Casey keep their jobs, but a change might be in order for this club. This young core, one that looked great on paper at the beginning of the year, hasn’t delivered the way it was supposed to. They have been better this final week, but how much can be made of this finish to the season? The Raptors have looked much better the last 5 games. Getting to the line, driving the ball and not settling for jump shots. Their defensive energy has increased as well. They’ve returned to their “pound the rock” effort on defense from last season.
With no draft pick in this years entry draft and very little money to spend in free agency, the team is going to have to be creative when adding pieces to the club next year. The team possesses many tradeable contracts and will need to make smart moves to improve the team for next year. They re still a solid defensive player and a strong veteran reserve presence short of being competitive.
While the front office will continue to tout the 17 reasons to tune into the Raptors next year, the team is going to have to do a lot of work this off-season to legitimately prove they are a contender next season.
It has been five long years without playoff basketball in this city. It is time to take the next step.
The Raptors of 2013-14 are going to have to channel the Raptors of this past week in order to slip into the playoff picture next year. Let’s hope the Raptors of the past 6 games can bring it for all 82 next year.
The Zan Tabak Herald