The Toronto Raptors hit a road block last year – the NBA Playoffs. Everything was going according to plan, but thanks to a rough home stretch through the final few months and a horrific sweep, thanks Paul Pierce (again) by the Washington Wizards, the Raps were again forced to sit on the sidelines after the first round (again) and watch.
The team lacked depth to replace its struggling starters. Kyle Lowry had a playoffs to forget averaging 12.3 ppg and shooting a rough .316 from the field. Demar Derozan played well for the team but even his 20.3 ppg couldn’t save them from the brooms. After some much needed additions and some unfortunate subtractions, the Raps looked primed for their new campaign.
On the way out are Amir Johnson, Greivis Vasquez and reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year Louis Williams. Filling their shoes and then some though are DeMarre Carroll, Cory Joseph, Bismack Biyombo and Luis Scola. At press, NBA Futures at TopBet have the Raptors at +2500 to win the East, and +5000 to lift the Larry O’Brien trophy. Which is actually pretty appropriate for this team. Not too strong, not too weak.
The team struggled last year after coming out of the gates flying. It looked like they couldn’t cope at times with being the favorites on the court night in and night out. After January, the team went 16-18 finally securing their second straight Atlantic division title on March 27. A division title that could’ve been locked up weeks before and was done in a very week division, let alone conference.
At 49-33, the Raptors were the only team above .500 in their div and were one of only five teams above .500 to make the playoffs in the Eastern conference. In other words, three teams made the playoffs with below .500 averages!
The new season should be a much stronger one defensively for Toronto with their new additions on the back end. Their needed depth is a welcome sight and their fire should be lit again. They’re no longer a favorite. They’re no longer coming off a heartbreaking game 7 loss. They’re entering the year after an embarrassing playoff performance and the loss of some key marquee players.
Much like in 2013, the world is against them and this team again has something to prove. Expect We The North to stand strong.