Here’s an attempt to break down the Raptors upcoming season into the classical three acts.
Act 1: The Beginning
Setup: New season, new GM, new enthusiasm. Let’s go do this.
Inciting Incident: Huge road win which instils belief in fans and players, perhaps even a win in Miami.
This is where the Raptors will keenly observe what they have on the current roster. There will be a tactical approach to every game with the aim of winning it. The goal of the season at this point will be the playoffs and nothing less. This is likely to be the most entertaining part of the season where the desire to win will be high and so will the fan enthusiasm.
I don’t care what you see in training camp or in pre-season, no GM ever makes a decision based on just those games. It’s this part of the regular season which Masai Ujiri will use to evaluate his roster and his coach. If things go well, continue on, if not, Part 2 brings changes.
Act 2: The Middle
Midpoint: A .500 team, which is more than you could say for teams past. This will be good enough for Ujiri to give the green light for the playoffs.
Depending on Part 1, this is where the team will either make a push to improve or in the case if Part 1 goes south, do some realigning. This is where clubs make course corrections to their season, alter their goals for the sake of the future, and sow the seeds which they hope to harvest in the summer or beyond. For example, this is when the Rudy Gay trade happened. Beware this period because this is where GMs stop thinking with their minds and start taking chances.
Ujiri strikes me as a patient man and not prone to pulling trades for the sake of change, so he may just absorb the blow if Part 1 yields negative results. Having short-term non-guaranteed contracts helps his cause here, and if the team is not performing at all, he might explore a Rudy Gay trade scenario much more seriously. My take here is that the team, based on the .500 record, will continue to march on with a positive mindset.
Act 3: The End
Climax: Tight race down the stretch with the likes of Detroit and Milwaukee for a playoff spot.
Resolution: A four-game win streak to end the season seals the deal for the Raptors – they make the playoffs.
This is the part of the season I’ve come to dread because in the past it has yielded nothing but meaningless wins that cost draft positioning while planting seeds of lies. For next year, this period will either see the Raptors making a push for the final playoff spots, or seeing a tanking effort so subtle that Ujiri may just win Executive of the Year. My money is on the Raptors pushing for the playoffs, and even perhaps a seventh seed. Of course, this is largely dependent on Part 1 and 2, but I’ll go ahead on a limb and say the Raptors will be hovering around .500 which should be sufficient for a playoff entry.
Nope, first round exit. Lose to Chicago in five games.