Longtime fans will know that the Toronto Raptors of old always seemed to give off the hopeful idea that they were always on the horizon of turning the corner. Unfortunately, as anyone within the Raptors fan base can attest to, not only has that corner never been turned, they’ve managed to drive the car right into the Atlantic Ocean over the past 10 seasons.
Save for a bright 47-win season that saw the team win the division title in 2006-07 season, Toronto has had about as much success as Alexander Radojevic, Lamond Murray and Rafer Alston had in a Raptors uniform.
With a team like the Raptors and a city like Toronto, one thing is certain: it will never be a destination that can attract talent with the presence of bright lights and gorgeous celebrities alone.
Personally, I believe that the collective fan bases of the Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks are almost kindred spirits, each destined to struggle in unattractive markets whether because of a stereotypical cold winter and higher tax rate, or the small-town feel that the state of Wisconsin gives off.
In order to have success, the teams build through the draft, retain the gems and shed the fat. Whether it was the impatience of developing another young post player alongside Jonas Valanciunas which led to the drafting of Terrence Ross over Andre Drummond, or the dealing of Roy Hibbert for Jermaine O’Neal, that strategy simply has not been followed.
The upcoming season sees familiar questions resting on the outlook of the Raptors for the foreseeable future. Although Demar Derozan, Amir Johnson and Valanciunas establish a good young core of talent, decisions will have to be made by Ujiri Masai and Raptors management on how to proceed in the next 12 months.
In the recent past, we’ve seen teams such as the Atlanta Hawks, Washington Wizards and Phoenix Suns collect cream-of-the-crop talent, but still not serve as more than a doormat to the elite teams of the league. With a core that is built around Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas, are any fans struck with comparisons to Nash-Stoudemire-Marion, Arenas-Butler-Jamison or Horford-Smith-Johnson?
Does the team accept the inevitable shortcomings of the roster as currently constructed and sink the ship by trading at least Gay and Lowry over the early part of the season, hoping that luck eventually turns in their favor?
It is a tough pill to swallow, but the days must sometimes become their darkest before one can truly find light, something which the Raptors have always been avoided. The darkness has yet to come, but the firewood for that light is already partially in place. The question is this: will Ujiri choose to turn off the lights long enough to ignite a bright future for this franchise?