COMMENTARY | The Toronto Raptors are about to finish their sixth consecutive season without a trip to the playoffs and the fan base is openly questioning the future of the team. Instead of daydreaming about "tanking" next season in order to draft Andrew Wiggins, there are still a lot of positives surrounding the team... even if one of those positives is the chance to daydream about drafting the talented Canadian.
Here are five reasons to be excited about the team despite yet another season lacking an appearance in the playoffs.
1. The Emergence of Jonas Valanciunas: Toronto needed to wait a year for Valanciunas to arrive but he appears to be well worth the wait. Dwane Casey has shown a lot of patience is slowly easing Valanciunas into his starting role but it's worked out to perfection. The gritty rookie is averaging 32.9 minutes over his last ten games while shooting 61.9% from the field and averaging 7.2 rebounds and 1.8 swats. He adds a much-needed toughness to the team and his energy is contagious. Fans can expect Valanciunas to take another step forward next season.
2. Rudy Gay Will Break More Hearts: Gay quickly won the hearts of fans after he hit a couple of game winning shots and had Toronto looking poised to make a late push for a playoff spot. However, back issues and struggles with his vision have slowed him and the team down a bit. He has only averaged 29.2 minutes per game over his last nine games and his scoring has dipped to 15.6 per game. Still, Gay is the best wing to throw on a Raptors' jersey since Air Canada was deported and is the kind of scorer the team has lacked for the past few seasons since Chris Bosh took his talents to South Beach. Gay is averaging 18.0 per game this season and has scored sightly higher than that (19.1) during his time in Toronto. Having a healthy Gay combined with the chance to have the benefit of a training camp will be huge.
3. Bryan Colangelo Swinging For the Fences: Say what you want about Bryan Colangelo, but he wants Toronto to become an elite team and won't sit around idly waiting for that to happen. He now has an ownership group in Rogers and TSN that wants to see the team do well and this should be the summer where he moves past the "rebuilding" plan and make big moves to solidify the team as a contender in the Eastern Conference. Colangelo has two big trade chips in Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan and it will be interesting to see what he's able to do with them. The only question mark is if Colangelo will be around to be able to make some bold moves this summer.
4. The Possibility Of Andrew Wiggins: Basketball fans in Toronto are daydreaming about the team having the kind of luck Cleveland had when they won the NBA Draft Lottery and drafted hometown legend LeBron James. Wiggins is looking like the next big thing and since he has roots to Toronto fans are drooling over the chance of him finding his way onto the Raptors' roster just over a year from now.
5. Will The Real Kyle Lowry Please Stand Up?: Lowry burst onto the scene this season by tantalizing fans while averaging 15.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 5.2 dimes in November. However, the combination of multiple injuries and trying to mirror Jose Calderon has resulted in a huge dent in his confidence and impact on the court. This month he is averaging 8.2 assists but his scoring has dipped to 9.8 per game and he doesn't look aggressive on offense. Lowry needs to head back to the lab in Philly this summer and regain the swagger that he teased fans with back in October and November. If he can do that he'll form a great trio with Valanciunas and Gay for Toronto to build around while leading the team back into the playoff mix next season. If not, Lowry will be in for a rude awakening as a free agent next summer and could find his status as a starting point guard in the NBA extinct. I'm banking on Lowry having a monster season next year as he hopes to cash in on a big contract while cementing himself as a starting point guard.
Ryan McNeill lives in Toronto and has been covering the Raptors with media passes since the 2007-08 season.
- Sports & Recreation
- Andrew Wiggins
- Toronto Raptors
- Jonas Valanciunas
- Bryan Colangelo