1st in the East, 1st in the North

toronto-raptors-2014-nba-oddsIt is truly pathetic on my part that I’m just getting to this piece now, but it isn’t as though I have been ignoring the Raptors this season.  I’ve been watching maybe the most I have since the 99-2000 season when Vince Carter took the step from rookie of the year to superstar and they were the most fun team to watch in the league.  This squad is entirely different from that team, but just as fun to watch.

 

This team is about depth.  This team is all about sharing the ball.  Last night in Atlanta where they won their 6th straight and moved to 13-2, 7 guys were in double digits.  This team doesn’t have that diva who needs the ball all the time.  They don’t have anyone trying to do it on their own.

 

A lot of people around the NBA mocked the Raptors for the deal they gave Kyle Lowry in the offseason, but while he isn’t a superstar he is such a key cog to this team or any other team with the way he plays.  He’s a true point guard and a leader.  It took him a while to grow up, and I frankly wasn’t a fan of the trade Bryan Colangelo made to land him.  But it has worked about amazingly, unfortunately for Colangelo after he was let go by MLSE.

 

Actually Colangelo deserves a ton of credit for this squad.  The entire starting 5 were his gets, including Jonas Valanciunas whom he took a lot of heat over drafting.  Colangelo also was the man who hired coach Dwayne Casey.  For whatever reason things never popped for this group with Colangelo running things, yet they have for Masai Ujiri.

 

But Ujiri hasn’t just sat back on what Colangelo had.  It was no coincidence that this team really took off after the Rudy Gay trade.  It’s unreal how much of a steal that was for the Raptors.  Get Gay out of there who didn’t fit with what they wanted to do at all, and bring in 2 perfect fits for the bench in Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez.  Total game changer last season.

 

Of course this offseason Ujiri made a move that at least for the moment has taken this squad to an even higher level when he landed Lou Williams from the Hawks for John Salmons who was basically a nothing piece to the Raptors puzzle.  Williams is just a perfect 6th man off the bench and has done nothing but impress in his first 15 games in Raptor gear.  As was pointed out during last night’s broadcast, you knew he could score, but his D and ball movement have been really impressive.

 

And while talking about great Ujiri moves, let’s not forget about the Andrea Bargnani trade that has a 2016 1st from the Knicks coming the Raps way.  Now that pick might belong to a really good team by next season, it remains to be seen who Phil Jackson can bring in as free agents.  He’ll have a ton of cap space to work with, but it is a mess and not many guys want to play with Carmelo Anthony so it will be really intriguing to see what happens.  It has POTENTIAL to be a lottery pick.

 

I’m not naive enough to believe this team is a title contender, they aren’t.  Even if this roll keeps up and they end up with the top seed in the East.  It has been proven too many times in NBA history that if you don’t have a superstar, you won’t go far in the NBA playoffs.  But don’t worry about that if you’re a Raptors fan.  This time last year many fans (including myself) were hoping they would tank to attempt to land Andrew Wiggins.  Wow what a difference a year makes!

 

Bottom line is that this is far and away the best sports franchise in Canada right now.  I know a lot of people I know aren’t big NBA fans, but give this team a chance.  They play basketball the right way.  They don’t have Carter, they don’t have McGrady, but this is a TEAM and this TEAM is just as great to watch.

 

Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups

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