It seems like there might be a lot left that separates the Toronto Raptors from a championship-caliber squads. Masai Ujiri might have hinted at that during his post-season press conference. The Raptors are young and malleable, and they reached the playoffs, made us believe in miracles, and generally acquitted themselves well before lowing to a more talented team.
But what is it that’s required to close the gap? The most optimistic answer possible is that it’s time. The Raptors are exceptionally young with plenty of possible future stars — Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby, Precious Achiuwa, and Gary Trent jr. come to mind. Time and seasoning, experience and improvement will do wonders for this team. It’s not linear of course, and the odds are slim that all four reach improve as much as they can in concert, but this is the Raptors we’re talking about, so it’s more possible than we have any right to expect.
Or maybe, slightly less optimistically, the Raptors just need to tweak around the edges. Add a guard or two, perhaps a big, and definitely some shooting and rim pressure. That sounds like a lot, but it can be found in one or two players. Perhaps the Raptors draft for potential, or they chase a second-draft candidate in free agency. Malik Monk would solve a few problems. Richaun Holmes remains the solution to many of Toronto’s offensive problems.
Or, much less optimistically, the Raptors need to change the core. I doubt this is true considering what we watched this season, and the Raptors have proven that they have four players who, when healthy, offer star-level impact. All of Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Barnes, and Anunoby remain either in the very early stages of their primes or are yet to enter them. All have possible improvement to make. VanVleet especially was unbelievably impactful when healthy last year, which unfortunately we got to see precious little of. But if even considering improvement and health, the team decides this core doesn’t do it and won’t do it, the trade values have to be assessed, the market tested, and perhaps some blockbusters made. Maybe the team needs another star, a different star, and the price requires one or more of the above four. The Utah Jazz have some unhappy stars in Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. There will always be incredible players looking for new homes in the NBA. The Raptors might strike, as they did with Kawhi Leonard.
Fortunately, it’s the start of the offseason. We’ll have answers, in one way or another, to most of those questions. At least for the time being. They’ll continue to be posed as we go forward, but we’ll start to answer them as the months drag on. Welcome to the offseason, where things move slow until they absolutely don’t. Try to enjoy it.