Toronto Raptors: Media Day and season predictions

Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
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NBA Toronto Raptors Nick Nurse (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

Media Day unofficially kicked off the Toronto Raptors’ season a few days ago. We’re going to discuss best and worst-case scenarios for the season, look at some takeaways from Media Day and make some season predictions

It certainly is an interesting time to be a Toronto Raptors fan for any number of reasons. There’s the fact that for the first time in franchise history, the team and their fans get to enjoy a regular season as the defending NBA champions.

The Raptors became the third NBA franchise this decade to win their first-ever NBA championship following the 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks and the 2015-16 Cleveland Cavaliers.

But the similarities really end there. In fact, the Raptors’ win and what followed is unique in the history of the NBA. Never before has a player won Finals MVP only to be suiting up for a different team the following season. And this more than anything is what makes being a Raptors fan so confusing right now.

Actually, let me qualify that statement. Being a casual Raptors’ fan is confusing right now. I think it’s safe to say that more serious Raptors’ fans have a bit of a different view of the upcoming season. I know I certainly do.

For the casual fan, it seems a bit like there’s nothing to look forward to after the 2018-19 season which can only be described as epic. Weekend fans or those who followed the Raptors just during their playoff run seem fixated the fact that Kawhi Leonard came, won, and left. To them, it seems like the only possibilities for the coming season is a return to the perennial playoff fodder that many Raptors fans had resigned themselves to before the DeMar DeRozan trade.

For those of us who have been watching the Raptors more seriously, as in, every game for multiple seasons, the future isn’t looking quite as bleak. Sure, the celebration of capturing the Larry O.B. seemed to have been much too short-lived as the tension of Kawhi-watch took over pretty much immediately after the Finals ended. And not surprisingly, the Raptors don’t seem to be getting the respect that championship teams before them have enjoyed.

But let’s be real here. Even if having Kawhi leave to play for the Los Angeles Clippers instead of staying in Toronto means a return to the Raptors of 2017-18, that’s still not too shabby. We are, after all, still talking about a 59-win season and going to the second round of the playoffs. It’s not like the specter of LeBron James has not returned to cast its shadow over the Raptors’ playoff hopes.

The idea that the Raptors are no longer a playoff team has been circulating from the moment Kawhi announced his decision, followed quickly by Danny Green announcing that he too would be taking his talents to the west coast. It’s a narrative that I find to be utterly ridiculous.

One person who I had this conversation with made the argument that the Raptors are now without both DeMar Derozan and Kawhi Leonard as if that were the be-all and end-all of the conversation.

My answer? Pascal Siakam will be a better player than DeMar DeRozan. It’s only a matter of time. And I don’t think it unreasonable to say that the time could very well be the 2019-20 season.

Of course, it will take time for Pascal to build up the numbers and legacy that DeRozan has as a Raptor but the fact of the matter is, Siakam’s ceiling is higher than DeRozan’s ever was. And now, he has professional experience that DeRozan doesn’t have. That of being a major contributor to a championship team.

I’m not in the least worried about the Raptors this season and there are plenty of reasons why.