Updated: Mar 1, 2020
Wow. Unbelievable. NBA CHAMPIONS! To be quite honest with you sports fans, and being from the surrounding Toronto area, I would’ve never imagined that the Toronto Raptors would be responsible for the unbelievable excitement and pride that comes with winning a championship. I want to apologize on behalf of the Eh! Team as we have definitely not done our part in covering this still impressive team, as well as the length of this first article. But fear no more, cause I am here to make up for lost time and provide you with only the best content I truly can while sitting in a Starbucks; reminiscing on what was and believing in what could be.
Before looking deeper into what has brought this team to a 15-4 record; here are the teams stats and where these defending champion Raptors rank amongst some of the best teams in the league. After 19 games the Raps sit comfortably across some important NBA categories. 10th in points per game, 5th in opponents points per game and 7th assists per game, while rounding out with 11th for rebounds per game.. They sit a top a packed division minus the Knicks (the Knicks suck) and that leaves them in the top three of the conference. I've thrown some stats at you and you're still not impressed…
In case it didn't register fully the Raptors are 15-4 in an era where the popular trend is for every superstar to find the buddy system, and make their push together for an NBA title. Fortunately for these Toronto Raptors a majority of the decisions they've made, or one could argue decided not to make; have been the reason this team has found the most consistent success in the league. This success could most definitely be attributed to many more things than I’ll list in this article, but for me the true core of it stems from three specific factors. Some the Raptors had and have absolutely no influence in, but more importantly what they have done this season to sustain championship like success.
Its no secret the theme of the offseason was for superstars to pair up with another lonely superstar best friend in seemingly which ever city they damn well felt. The Lakers paired the King with the Brow. Clippers matched with the Claw and PG13. While Houston landed Russell Westbrook to accompany his old time friend James Harden. I haven't even mentioned the pairing of Kyrie and KD; mostly do to the fact it wont work and KD still hasn't seen the floor. The Raptors actually did this as well, just much more subtle than the above mentioned names. Signing Rondae Hollis-Jerfferson and Stanley Johnson reunited two college teammates from Arizona. The only thing superstar about these two may be their ability to defend multiple positions, and that’s do to length and work ethic. In all honesty though, that was the perfect decision to replace the defensive presence Kawhi Leonard had. Neither of these two are afraid to guard the other teams superstar at any moment in the game.
Speaking of guarding superstars, guess what the Raptors are doing better than most. GUARDING SUPERSTARS. Lebron James 13pts 5-15fg, Kawhi Leonard 12pts 2-11 fg, Damian Lillard 9pts 2-12fg, Joel Embiid 0 FREAKING POINTS 0-11FG. And a partridge in a pear tree. The partridge is the only thing that the Raptors are giving away easily this season obviously. The Raps are forcing teams to earn every single bucket, every single possession down the floor. They force bad looks and tough shots through grinding defensive looks. As i mentioned prior they are ranked 5th in opponents points per game(104.2 per game), considering they lost arguably the best defensive player in the game to free agency; those numbers for me are astounding. It certainly helps when Fred VanVleet is sprinkling in a 7 steal performance against the Orlando Magic, but it has certainly been a team mentality of defence leads to offence.
Fred VanVleet is not the only name however that the Raptors had the confidence to bet on themselves. Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry both saw some green this offseason; Lowry for a year chance at a repeat, Pascal for the future. Siakam has been an absolute diamond in the rough, and is now shining whenever brought to the light. Worth every penny. And Lowry’s potential curtain call season has been nothing short of a Kyle Lowry showing. Heart, grit, smile. The year could prove to be Lowry’s final in a Raptors uniform, as VanVleet continues to prove his progression and solidify himself as an every game starter. The patience the Raps have shown with OG Anunoby working through prior injuries and the adjustment period from college to NBA are helping him shape to be a tenacious defender and reliable body on the floor. For every single successful team there is, a just as successful leader is in front of them leading the charge. That “jurassic like” leader is Nick Nurse. In his first 100 NBA games as head coach Nurse has earned himself a 71-29 record. Without a doubt I mean earned.
If you truly believe this team isn't good enough, they’ve got you right where they want you. Underestimate them, its happened to most of them their whole life. Under appreciate their talents, thats how most of them ended up a Raptor from their beginning. Please go ahead underplay the importance defence is over having elite superstars. Whatever you do though, don't undersell the fact that this team can compete with some of the leagues top dogs, and it’s still the Toronto Raptors yard.