Raptors Fever

Jan 30, 2014 by

Raptors Fever

Trading Rudy Gay in December was a wonderful symbolic gesture for Toronto Raptors fans.  It said to the fans that the organization recognised the Raptors are too talented to have an opportunity to draft among the elite class of talent and not good enough to seriously contend.  The team needed direction and the trade marked the desire to overhaul the squad. General Manger, Masai Ujiri understood how far away this franchise was from contention and that a potential franchise player is available in this year’s draft.   He then tried trading Kyle Lowry to the New York Knicks only to have the deal nixed at the last-minute by meddlesome Knicks owner James Dolan.   Although the trade didn’t materialize the general consensus among pundits and basketball fans were that a Lowry trade would unfold elsewhere and that Ujiri was doing the right thing in moving tradable commodities that had no future with the franchise.   The Raptors were being rebuilt and I for one was hoping for a cataclysmic fall, as stated in an earlier article, in order for the franchise to have a chance at drafting Toronto born phenom Andrew Wiggins.  Boy was I wrong…

Something strange and unexpected has unfolded since Gay was traded and the Lowry deal fell apart.  The Raptors have become an entertaining and fun squad to watch and have emerged as a good young up and coming team.  Mind you their playing in a god-awful conference, where the last playoff seed belongs to a team eight games below .500, but they continue to impress in ways previous Raptors incarnations have not.  They not only beat the bottom feeders, but they consistently and legitimately compete with the leagues very best.  This season they have already beaten the teams with the best records in each conference, (and the NBA for that matter) – a feat I cannot recall ever occurring in the history of this franchise. Beating teams like Oklahoma and Indiana are absolutely stunning results.  Efforts such as these are reshaping how the Raptors present and future is being viewed and it’s exciting to bear witness.  Somewhere in Arizona I’m sure Bryan Colangelo is wishing he had the foresight to trade Gay earlier; or at the very least, be given one more year to witness the maturing of some of his drafted players.

Under Ujiri’s watch, this team has clearly found a cohesiveness that hasn’t existed in Toronto since the Vince Carter days.  The difference being there is no one like Carter leading the way, instead you have a collection of young players who are growing together and appear to have developed a winning chemistry with the absence of star power.  There have been impressive individual performances, like Terrence Ross’ 51 point game, but it seems like every night a handful of players are significantly contributing. Ironically, Lowry has emerged to become a leader at point guard and DeMar DeRozan has taken his game to another level becoming a top ten scorer.  Jonas Valanciunas and Ross are showing more consistency and this team is suddenly one of the young up and coming teams in the league.   This is an incredible turn around that must give teams like the Toronto Blue Jays hope for the coming season.

The Raptors have become compelling theatre to watch this year and it appears the franchise is heading in the right direction.  For the fans who hoped this team would tank the disappointment of not having a chance to get Wiggins in this year’s draft is now starting to fade.    Their young prospects are finally emerging and the team is playing like one even without a bona-fide star leading the way.    Sure the competition in the Eastern Conference isn’t nearly as credible as the teams in the West, but every team has to build success over time and regardless of the quality of the competition this is a necessary step.

The Raptors may not get Wiggins this year, but this team is bringing excitement and hope to a franchise that has been an embarrassment to the league for much of its tenure.  Besides who says Wiggins won’t come here as a free agent after his rookie contract expires?  Maybe I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, but this year’s Raptors are beginning to give me hope that good things are finally heading Toronto’s way.

Barring an unforeseeable catastrophe the Raptors will not only make the playoffs, but they have a legitimate chance to win the first round and would likely face the Miami Heat in the second round.  Wouldn’t that be a compelling matchup? With an oft injured Dwayne Wade who knows, the Raptors might even be capable of doing the unthinkable.  I might sound crazy for even implying an upset of that magnitude could occur, but Raptors fever is sweeping the city and for now it’s claimed another sports fan.


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