K.J. McDaniels , OG Anunoby (1st Round , #23) , Alfonzo McKinnie , Kennedy Meeks , Kyle Wiltjer
DeMarre Carroll , Cory Joseph , Patrick Patterson , P.J. Tucker
When President of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri arrived in Toronto in the summer of 2013, the Raptors had never won more than 47 games in a season and had waived goodbye to future Hall Of Famers Tracey McGrady, Vince Carter & Chris Bosh, before or during the prime of their careers. Win totals in the seasons since Ujiri’s arrival ? 48 , 49 , 56 , 51.
There were arguments for not giving lucrative new deals to Demar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry & Serge Ibaka that will pay them handsomely heading into their 30’s (Lowry is 31), but were the Raptors top brass really going to green light a tear down and rebuild after the most successful period in franchise history?. The good vibes generated amongst a rabid local fan base & league wide after hosting last years All-Star weekend have once again made the Raptors a relevant NBA franchise, something they haven’t enjoyed since the days of Vinsanity.
Despite the teams chequered play off record over the past few years , it’s a sensible approach in the weak Eastern Conference. A Lebron James injury or his flit to the Western Conference next season and they have a legit chance of making the finals. But have they done enough to take a step forward this offseason ?
P.J. Tuckers decision to snub the Raptors in favour of the Rockets has left the team with a whole to fill at forward and without a body capable of matching up with Lebron & Gordon Hayward come play off time. C.J. Miles & Normal Powell should see extended wing minutes alongside DeRozan, but the team still lack a single lock down wing defender or anybody you would consider a stopper. For all his scoring prowess, DeRozan is still a minus defender who brings inconsistent effort & Serge Ibaka is not the interior defender he once was. The Raptors were 8th in team defence last season , but look likely to slip closer to the middle of the pack this season.
Centre Jonas Valanciunas remains a very large individual in a league that’s increasing moving away from ground bound big men. He could find himself on the bench in crunch time when the Raptors decide to go small with Ibaka. Beyond him there is an interesting mix of young players yet to reach their potential. Pascal Siakam was thrust into a starting role early last season due to injuries and could be an effective defender with a little more control. Draft guru Fran Fraschilla once joked that Bruno Caboclo was “Two years away from being two years away” and if he can’t start putting the ball in the hoop soon he’s about one year away from playing in China.
If the Raptors can stay healthy and not burden their starters with big minutes they will be in the mix again in the East. Just don’t bank on them winning 50+ games again this year.