The greatest season of Raptors history has now come to a close in a rather disappointing fashion. Emotions are running high in Raptors fans everywhere. A team we believed in, one where we thought things but be different. All coming to a devastating and disappointing end. Where do the Raptors go from here?
Many Raptors fans are chanting for a blow up. Is that what Masai should do? He inherited a team with pieces set in place to be successful. He has made the correct adjustments to the roster over the last 5 seasons, with some luck. Like James Dolan not approving the Kyle Lowry trade to New York. Masai has conducted his tenure in Toronto with patience and so far the results have been great. The Raptors have enjoyed their best 5 season run in franchise history. With another season lost by the hands of the Cavaliers and LeBron James, is it time to end it?
Blow it up?
Its easy to say blow it up, the core is not getting it done. Demar and Kyle are not elite of the elite. Dwane Casey is probably not the coach to take them to the promise land. Jonas is too slow. The bench as always cracks at some point. Our ‘major’ addition Serge Ibaka from last year’s deadline already looks to be in delcline. The playoffs never go our way especially not for our stars. Demar at some point always shrinks and disappears in games and you never know which Kyle you are going to get. Not to mention the King of the East LeBron James standing in our way the last three years.
These last two years has made us believe that this is the year we can beat him. We try to push the boulder up mount LeBron. Each time he just sends the boulder back down on us to crush our sprits. If thats the case then, lets blow it up.
This fan base has had its hearts ripped out. The Raptors are a walking meme. Almost all of the NBA world do not believe the Raptors have or will ever have a chance at LeBron. Well if Masai wants to quit we can surely go with the blow it up scenario. We can hope to repeat our success now and grow upon it in the next five years. Hope to get a once in a generation player. Hope that somehow we build a better roster than what we have now. These are all hopes but not guaranteed. Or we could end up like the Sacramento Kings, Orlando Magic or Brooklyn Nets. Teams stuck for years without any improvement and always rebuilding. Thats why the Raptors should not blow it up.
Stay Together and Grow Internally
This option seems to be the one most Raptors fans disagree with. I can definitely understand this. Consider the alternative, hope that were so bad we land a great player in the draft. If that happens we still need to form a team around him. How many years will it take to reach the success that we have right now. Lets also not forget that we had the number one overall pick and drafted Andrea Bargnani and we all know how that turned out. Theres no guarantee that will find luck in tanking. As a Raptors fan we have gone through some tough years. A LOT of tough years with bad teams that featured some really bad players. Now we have a chance to retool and find something that works. I’d rather keep it going see if we can get it done. If not then yes lets tank.
I say we keep it going until Demar, Kyle, and Serge are free agents in two summers. We can keep it going and see if we can be the team to finally make it the finals. Demar has grown a lot over the course of the last year. With the reduced minutes and injury free season, Kyle looked pretty good in the playoffs. Jonas really took a step forward this year. Our bench has grown to be one of the best in the league. We also have two really exciting prospects in OG and Siakiam. Finally, Dwane Casey and our coaching staff have made adjustments to their philosophy and coaching styles that has helped grow our young players. There is definitely room for improvement starting with Serge Ibaka, the decision to keep Fred this summer, and Demar’s overall impact on the game.
Serge has been great at times this year and really awful at others. You look at the first two games of the playoffs against Washington and Serge had a massive impact in us winning those games. In game one he came out and got 23 points, 12 rebounds, and 2 blocks. Game 2 he shot poorly but his impact defensively with 3 blocks and 9 rebounds gave us the edge to hold on to win the game. Then you look at every playoff game after and get extremely frustrated. I would give Serge a month to two months into the next season to see if he improves his game. While taking a look at Siakiam to see if he can truly be our starting power forward for the future. If Siakiam plays well and his three point shot improves to around 30% then Serge should be traded.
Fred is a restricted free agent this year and will post likely be offered a much deserved raise by other teams. His impact on the court as a playmaker and three point shooter helped create opportunities for the bench unit. Fred was hampered by a shoulder injury throughout the playoffs. Besides game 6 in Washington, he really did not have any impact in Cavs series. Yes he was apart of the game 3 comeback but besides stretching the floor and drawing his defender he really did not do too much. If the price is too steep for the Raptors to retain Fred I think we should let him go.
This would open the opportunity for Delon to grow as a playmaker. Delon really struggled as a primary playmaker all season. With one season under his belt as a full time back up he should be able to improve in that area. Another reason to let Fred go would be to open minutes for Norm and hope he returns to old Norm. Our bench would be a little bit taller in the backcourt with Delon at 6 foot 5 and Norm at 6 foot 4. If Masai wants to trade Norm to get his contract off the books, his trade value will increase with consistent minutes.
Kyle and Demar gave some inspiring answers during their exit interviews. They both are now at the point where its championship or bust. They both understand what it will take to win. Will they do it? I guess will see. The main area where Demar needs to improve his game is his overall impact while playing. To win the playoffs your stars need to be able to sustain their level of production and not struggle under the pressure.
Against the Cavs, Demar only played well in game 1. Other than that he was a no show in every other game. That can not happen. No matter what defences throw at him, he needs to do something on the court to keep his team in the game. If teams are able to neutralize him offensively, the Raptors have no chance. He does not need to score 30 plus a game for the Raptors to win. Certainly he can’t score only 8 points in a must win game 3 and hope to win. When he’s on the court the opposing team must be worried at all times of what he might do. Until he reaches that point in his game the Raptors will not be able to elevate their ceiling.
Keeping the core together for the next few years is the best course of action. I would rather loss every year to LeBron than back down and call it quits. Obviously this core has its roadblocks that hinder its chances at winning a champioship. The Raptors achieved some remarkable success this season. They improved this year mainly on internal development. Many doubted if it were possible but they were proven wrong. The Raptors were able to win 59 games with an inexperienced bench and overhauled their playing style. This was only year one of the ‘culture rest’. Lets wait and see what happens next year before we think about blowing it up.