Nobody ever thought that the Toronto Raptors would make the playoffs last season after the team traded away Rudy Gay. But that’s exactly what they did.
There were a number of factors that led to their stunning fourth-seed playoff appearance. First and foremost was the sheer depth of talent on the roster. Second was the fact that DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry emerged as the top back court in the Eastern Conference. And last, but certainly not least, was the fact that the Atlantic Division was just so pathetic.
So now that the 2014-15 season is rapidly approaching, we have to ponder what the Raptors can do to have an encore of their storybook season of a year ago. Or, to be more accurate, can the Raptors repeat the storybook season of 2013-14? The answer is not as clear as you think.
The Raptors do have a nice young core, with DeRozan, Lowry and Terrance Ross leading the way. Ross in particular was a rising talent for Toronto last season. But the only knock on Ross is his complete disappearance in the playoffs, when the Raptors could had used his scoring the most. Not even putting his picture on the back of a milk carton could had helped locate his game.
With Jonas Valanciunas getting better each year and a capable bench, the Raptors could very well be primed for another playoff run. They could even repeat the feat of having home-court advantage in the first round.
People underestimate just how good the Raptors are. And if they can add a few more pieces to the puzzle, then watch out. But as it stands, Toronto still can’t really compete with the likes of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls — yet.
The Raptors are talented enough to win a playoff series but not talented enough to win the East. But after years of futility in the Great White North, Raptor fans are just happy to have a competitive team again.