It’s been another slow week on the Toronto Raptors front. A quick review:
Draft workouts: The Raptors held what may be their final session, pushing the total number of players worked out to 51. This one was headlined by Sindarius Thornwell.
Free-agent mini-camp: Looking ahead to Summer League, training camp, and the Raptors 905 season, the Raptors brought in 24 free agents of varying degrees of intrigue to check in on their progress and see if they may be able to unearth a diamond in the rough. There were three sessions over two days, and you can catch up on them here and here.
Podcast: Will continued doing his thing.
Like I said, slow-ish week. But things will start heating up soon. With the NBA Finals now in the books, attention turns to Thursday’s draft, and the start of free agency will follow hot on the heels of that, with Las Vegas Summer League. There are major, franchise-altering questions facing the Raptors this summer, and there will finally be some semblance of clarity of direction in the coming weeks.
Of course, the result of the NBA Finals calls into question how much the near-term matters. The Eastern Conference fought tooth and nail for the right to challenge an apparently faltering Cleveland Cavaliers team, and the Cavaliers proved a sleeping giant, ultimately steamrolling the rest of the field. But hey, maybe LeBron James slows down with age, a trade doesn’t work out, injury strikes, or whatever – keeping the window open to take advantage of any Cavaliers slippage is a worthwhile endeavor. And just making the finals is a huge step for many, many franchises.
But then you run into the Golden State Warriors, who never looked particularly vulnerable, swept a superior Western Conference, and dispatched of the Cavaliers in five games. It was a competitive series, sure, especially over the last few games, and James and company can never be counted out. In the grand scheme, though, it would seem the title window for a team in a position like the Raptors is quite firmly closed for the immediate term, barring a substantial change in the NBA landscape. The Cavaliers will probably somehow come back even better (despite Paul George downplaying certain rumors), and the Warriors are in a position where they should at least be able to maintain their “probably the best team ever assembled” level, even if free agency costs them a piece.
Maybe this sounds defeatist, but the market agrees. Go to place a bet at an online casino, and the message is pretty clear: It’s the Warriors, and then everyone else. They’re currently favored versus the field, which is insane for this time of year. They may be the biggest preseason favorite of all time when the season opens. That presents an air of inevitability to the season, or, if you’re of a different perspective (or riskier portfolio), an opportunity to put your money where your mouth is and cash in in a serious way on a team like the Raptors, going off at anywhere from +8000 to +15000 right now.
Regardless of odds, the contrasting ideals about how the Raptors should approach the summer remain the same. There’s value in remaining just good for a while longer, but the diametric preference to kick the can down the line with better odds at an eventual championship sometime later is justifiable, too. We’ve covered all of this in depth. The nice thing is, next week will finally start providing some answers rather than seeing us just ruminate on the same questions.