Taking the temperature
A hypothetical conversation between someone who is still experiencing post-championship euphoria and someone who isn’t
Optimistic fan: The Toronto Raptors are NBA champions. The TORONTO RAPTORS are NBA CHAMPIONS. Kyle Lowry is going to get an enormous championship ring. Hubie Brown voted Fred VanVleet for Finals MVP. Patrick McCaw has never lost a playoff series. Life is beautiful.
Skeptical fan: Uhhh, what about the offseason?
Optimistic fan: Yeah, yeah, Kawhi left, whatever. The trade was still obviously worth it. I’m happy with what they did this summer — they basically went after long and athletic dudes and Matt Thomas, who has never missed a jump shot. Also: Did you see how jacked Siakam is now?
Skeptical fan: In the afterglow of the title, I guess the stakes don’t feel that high for next season. But I feel weird about the roster. They have a bunch of proven players from the title team, and then they have a bunch of guys who might not be in the league in a couple of years. That’s a strange dynamic! Half the team just played at the absolute highest level and want to get back there, but they’re going to share the court with players who don’t think the game the same way they do and have obvious flaws.
Optimistic fan: Weird? Strange? I love this! It’s a little like the Raptors of a few years ago, with the “shadow team” of developing talent that turned into the best second unit in the league and eventually produced the Most Improved Player and Hubie’s Finals MVP. I’m not one to whine about the “losing culture” that comes with tanking, but I do think it’s good for young guys to actually have to earn their playing time. This is a good environment for the new guys, as the ones who contribute to winning will get the minutes. Also, I can’t wait to see Siakam hit somebody with a spin move in the All-Star Game.
Skeptical fan: What you described sounds great, as long as the team is actually winning. But what if they’re not? What if Lowry gets hurt or they just don’t have enough shooting? No one expects the Raptors to be what they were last year, but there is pressure on them that reminds me a little of Ujiri’s first season running the show. If they don’t jell, the front office could break them up. Hell, even if they do jell, the front office could break them up, provided that the trade offers are enticing enough. Ujiri has already shown that he is more practical than sentimental.
Adams: Does the fact that the Raptors couldn’t have done it without him automatically clinch it, though? History is littered with really good players and at times indispensable players that helped teams win titles. Jason Terry on the 2011 Mavericks, Boris Diaw on the 2014 Spurs, etc.
I’m just not sure the rest of his resume screams “Hall of Famer!” to make the title the swing vote.
Rafferty: It certainly helps. I mean, Terry and Diaw never made an All-Star or All-NBA team. They’re not the same calibre of players.
Adams: That’s fair. Lowry is on a different level than those guys. Five All-Star teams is nothing to scoff at.
McGregor: I’d say it’s what puts him over the top.
Add him being an integral part of a championship team – and leading scorer in a title clincher – to the All-Star appearances and All-NBA nods Scott mentioned, and you’ve got your case.
I’m sure being a gold medalist helps, too.
The league just watched the Raptors complete an improbable championship run with something like a Big One structure — one top-five (at worst) superstar surrounded by seven starter-quality players. The 2019 Raptors have drawn a lot of comparisons to the 2011 Mavericks — with Dirk Nowitzki in the Leonard role. The 2004 Pistons are perhaps the most famous outlier champion.
A few executives suggested that classifying the Raptors as a pure Big One underrates their star power. Kyle Lowry has made the past five All-Star Games. (I am a card-carrying member of the Kyle Lowry Is A Real Star, Damn It! club.) Marc Gasol is a three-time All-Star who made the team as recently as 2017. Pascal Siakam almost made it last season. Fine. They are hard to categorize. But they are not a Big Three team.
Giants of Africa is committed to making a difference, not only in camps but also in the communities our campers are a part of. During our journey through Africa each summer, GOA Staff visits various underserved areas and charitable foundations in Nigeria, Kenya, Mali, Cameroon, Ghana and Rwanda. Our visits include similar services offered at our camps, including inspirational and educational talks, life lessons, product giveaways and impromptu basketball games.
Send me any Raptors-related stuff: [email protected]