The Toronto Raptors get set to open their season with some new additions and hopefully a renewed commitment to getting back on track.
Since winning the NBA title in 2019, the Toronto Raptors have seen the highs and lows of being a championship team and how hard it is to maintain that level of play.
They aren’t making any excuses but the road back to being a team that can contend is not going to be an easy one. It doesn’t help that teams like the Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers have established star players that put them at the top of the Eastern Conference projections.
Just to get you caught up, here were the changes made to the team this past off-season.
Additions: Precious Achiuwa, Dalano Banton (46th overall pick in 2021 NBA Draft), Scottie Barnes (4th overall pick in 2021 NBA Draft), Isaac Bonga, Justin Champagnie, Sam Dekker, Goran Dragic, David Johnson (47th overall pick in 2021 NBA Draft), Svi Mykhailiuk.
Departures: Aron Baynes, DeAndre’ Bembry, Rodney Hood, Kyle Lowry, Paul Watson Jr..
The departure of Lowry will be the biggest storyline to follow going into the season. At the same time, his depature now creates opportunity for another player to grow into the role he vacated and hopefully, the current core learned a thing or two from Lowry.
Here’s a look at what to expect from the team this season and how they can avoid another year where they miss out on the playoffs.
Fred VanVleet takes a step forward as the Toronto Raptors main point guard
When VanVleet earned a contract extension, it was no secret that having his future secured provided an insurance policy for Lowry’s depature.
He went from being a valuable bench player to an important starter to now being the most essential part of the Raptors offence. Not only will he need to be a valuable contributor on the court but off the court, he needs to be assume a bigger leadership role, something he acknowledges.
"“Yeah, you’ve gotta learn how to be a pro,” VanVleet said via the Toronto Sun. “And this year for me I’m seeing it more than ever because we’ve got a lot of 20, 21-year-olds who have no idea. I was pretty mature at 20, but I don’t know if I was ready for this. It’s a long day, there’s a lot that goes into it, but it can be a short day, you could come 10 minutes before practice and leave 10 minutes after practice.”"
The standard VanVleet will look to set is going to be crucial as the Raptors will be a team most will underestimate. No one knows how to overcome those odds better than the player who went from being an undrafted project, to one of the Raptors’ most valuavle core players.
Hopefully, that mentality leads to a big improvement from the 27-year-old offensively as he will be counted on to be a primary scorer at least at the start of the season.