The Toronto Raptors had a difficult 2020/21 season, but this time around they could surprise many in the NBA thanks to their young core.
After playing in Tampa last season, the Toronto Raptors returned home and opened the 2021/22 campaign with a disappointing 98-83 loss to the Washington Wizards, but their very next game provided a glimpse into what the team could achieve.
A dominating 115-83 score against the Boston Celtics ensured Nick Nurse’s side picked up their first win of the season early on, with the team’s young players stepping forward into the limelight and showing what the team could be all about this year.
The Raptors no longer have Kyle Lowry, arguably the greatest player in team history, but by removing #7 it will force players that have already been key contributors to step up and show their true qualities.
Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby are the guys the team is set to work around, and all three have a real opportunity to show what kind of leaders they can be with Lowry now in Miami with the Heat.
Those three players are known commodities in the NBA, and it will be their job to ensure the promising young guys on the roster can flourish and grow into the types of players needed for the team to get back to being a regular fixture in the post-season.
The game in Boston allowed that to come to the forefront, with rookie forward Scottie Barnes and centre Precious Achiuwa, who is only in his second season after being taken 20th overall by the Heat in the 2020 Draft, putting on a show that will have fans reinvigorated.
Barnes, the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft class, picked up 25 points and 13 rebounds against the Celtics, demonstrating his defensive attributes while also proving early on that he can be an offensive leader on this team.
Achiuwa, who joined the Raptors as part of the Lowry trade, complimented the rookie’s game well with 15 rebounds of his own going along with a further 15 points, while Gary Trent Jr, who himself is just 22 years old, put up 20 points while lining up alongside VanVleet at guard.
The Raptors have six or more guys that they can feel confident in playing within their rotation, once everyone is fully healthy and able to play, and the three young guys look set to push the team forward after a disappointing, and unusual, season down in Florida.
It is still early, with just two games played so far, but with the young players hungry to make an impact on the team and the experienced players that are still around from the 2019 Championship run, there could be a lot to be excited about with this Raptors team this season.
They are not expected to be a legitimate championship contender, but the belief should be that last season was an oddity and that this time around the push towards the playoffs will be far more assured.
No one truly knows what this Toronto Raptors team is capable of at this early stage, but the signs from the Celtics game indicate plenty to feel positive about and it mainly comes down to the young core already showing chemistry and a determination to impress on the court.