Didn’t Win it All, But they Won Big
I went a day late with this, but I’ve been grinding away on some articles that I’m writing for Hockey’s Future. That’s right, this dip shit is now writing for Hockey’s Future. No, not posting on the message boards, actually writing on the Canadiens prospects. So become a Habs fan and check that shit out!
Speaking of the Habs, P.K. Subban is a pretty big Raptors fan. Nice transition, don’t you think?!
Well the Raptors won their NBA title in game 4. Down 2-1 in the series, at home and with the Cavs coming on strong, the Raptors managed to go toe to toe with a Cavs team that I believe is about to win the NBA title. If you’re realistic about it, that was the Raptors championship. I said it before the series that if they got it to a game 6 it would be a massive win, and they did.
Is that loser talk? No, it’s realistic. Nobody wins in the NBA without a major superstar and most of the time you need 2 superstars. The only exception to that rule might be the 3 titles the Pistons have won, though Isiah Thomas was definitely an all time great, and Rasheed Wallace was a superstar when he felt like being one.
But this whole playoff run was massive for the Raptors. You could see them grow as the playoffs went on. After game 1 against the Pacers it looked as though they were going to get their ass kicked once again by a more veteran squad who had been to the East finals just 2 years previous. But they grinded it out and pulled the series out in 7. Unimpressively, but they did it.
Going into the Miami series, despite the Heat not having Chris Bosh I felt the Heat were going to win. Still felt that way after game 1, still felt that way after game 2. Game 3 was where everything changed for the Raptors. A close game down the stretch and Kyle Lowry took over. THAT was the game. If this squad ever wins anything, Raptors fans can look back at that game as the turning point. Because Lowry finally realized he can hang with the best in the game, and the Raptors realized they can win tight playoff games. Even though it went 7 as well, it felt and looked like a much more confident Raptors squad and in game 7 they pulled away to blow out the much more experienced Heat.
The first 2 games in Cleveland were ugly and you started to think “maybe they didn’t turn the corner, maybe they just played an awful Heat squad”. Game 3 was fun, but it had an asterisk next to it. Rumour was that the Cavs were out partying all night in Toronto on the Friday prior to game 3, and so they weren’t taking it seriously. Game 4 though, that was cool. That was the Cavs getting it going, and the Raptors went shot for shot with them and managed to tie the series. That kind of experience is going to serve this team very well moving forward.
But does moving forward include DeMar DeRozan?
Yesterday he really sounded like a guy who has no plan of leaving Toronto, and why would he? Where is he going to go? The Lakers? They’re a mess right now. The Sixers? They’re the biggest mess in all of sports. In Toronto he is “the guy” along with Kyle Lowry who he has a tremendous relationship with, and they are the clear cut 2nd best team in the conference.
But my question has been, are the Raptors better or worse committing the kind of money DeRozen will cost? It is a dangerous road to go down for GM Masai Ujiri, but he may have to. The fact of the matter is that the NBA has become a shooters league, and DeRozen can’t shoot. He can score, but his jumper is weak and from 3 he’s awful. Do you dare consider letting him walk and going after a guy like Harrison Barnes who is a stretch 4? Terrance Ross could step into the starters role in place of DeRozen and Barnes (still only 23) not only would improve them at the 4 but is a much better shooter than DeRozen (although in fairness he would get a lot more attention from D’s in Toronto than he does as the 4th option in Golden State).
There also is the 9th pick overall. What a steal this turned out to be as this pick is the result of the Andrea Bargnani trade. So for a completely useless player, they got the 9th pick. But you have to make it count. Do they simply sit back and pick? If so, I got my eyes on a few kids. I think it’s POSSIBLE that a kid like Jamal Murray falls to them, but it isn’t probable. Chad Ford of ESPN likes Marquese Chriss out of Washington as their pick and I like that. He’s a lot like Barnes in that he’s a stretch 4 with a unique skill set. If not him, Furkan Korkmaz is the kid that peaks my interest. He’s a 2 who is a great shooter. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s this type of player would be a mid to late 1st round pick. But with the way the game is played now, you need guys who can really shoot and Korkmaz can really shoot.
One thing I love about Ujiri is that he sees the value in the D league. The NBA seemingly has yet to figure out how to use the D league. Most executives seem to be worried about getting the draft age moved to 20 from 19, yet none of them seem to realize that they can give these kids an extra year or two to develop in the D league. Ujiri does, so taking either of the kids like the ones mentioned above could and likely would see most of next season playing for Raptors 905.
But the other end of this is that maybe they don’t simply just pick. Maybe they look to package the pick to land that stretch 4 who I’ve been talking about that they need. Who that is, I really don’t know.
This really should be the start of an awesome stretch for the Raptors. They have an elite GM, solid coach, a deep roster, and now have real experience. I would say they have about a 2-3 year window. Kyle Lowry is in his prime, but he may only have a season left before he starts to decline, and of course he is the straw that stirs this drink.
Getting past the Cavs will be a heck of a challenge, but all this playoff run did was prepare them for that challenge. You can’t expect them to get over that hump, they don’t have the superstar who can get them there. But enjoy the ride as the Raptors become one of the elite teams in the NBA.
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