The Toronto Raptors are raising a championship banner and receiving rings tonight ahead of the first game of the NBA season. They’re doing this, of course, because they won the NBA championship in June. That’s a thing that happened. I swear. I saw it with my own eyes. It happened!
I’d like to say that the reality of last June has set in, but it hasn’t. The Toronto Raptors playing the role of reigning, defending, undisputed NBA champions, still doesn’t feel real to me.
This is a team I’ve watched since they played their games in a baseball stadium. Back then, it didn’t feel like they were eligible for a championship.
They felt like a jobber in professional wrestling – you know, the local wrestler who is brought in to lose a match in 60 seconds (usually less), so their opponent would look really strong.
Even when they were making the playoffs with Vince Carter, and then Chris Bosh, it felt like such an uphill battle. Those successful teams never lasted and it was back to the bottom of the standings.
Hence, the Atlantic Division was called the Titanic Division for a few years.
When things were that bad, the most exciting part of the game (for me) was when the team was down by 20 in the fourth quarter and the coach emptied the bench and put in players who rarely saw the court.
I’ve always enjoyed seeing what they do in their 4 minutes and 32 seconds of meaningless, garbage time.
But for the last six years, I’ve been spoiled with meaningful basketball, which culminated in an NBA championship four months ago.
If I keep typing that, it has to be true, right?
I’m so excited for this season. Yeah, Kawhi Leonard is gone, but his absence actually makes me even more excited. Is that sadistic?
I don’t think the NBA world knows how good this team still is, or that they have so many players who are only going to get better.
The Raptors are the best team in the league at developing their own players. I can’t wait to see the growth of the young players, who seem to be beaming with championship-level confidence.
Pascal Siakam is about to explode into superstardom.
OG Anunoby may just fool around and go win the Most Improved Player award this year.
If preseason is any indication (it might not be, but it probably is) Norman Powell is about to take that next step as an NBA player.
Then there’s everyone’s favourite undrafted player, Fred VanVleet, who will only continue to improve because he is Fred VanVleet and that’s what he does. Don’t question it.
I haven’t even mentioned Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and Marc Gasol as veterans who 1) can still play; and 2) continue to share their wealth of knowledge – in multiple languages, no less.
Am I being biased? Yeah. But I’m also being truthful. There is a lot of talent on this team, and without Kawhi around, they’re going to have a chance to show it. All of it.
The player I’m really looking forward to this season is Terence Davis. He was an undrafted free agent, who played one game for the Denver Nuggets in Summer League, before the Raptors swooped in and signed him to a contract because of how impressive he was.
I watch him play and get Donovan Mitchell vibes. I could be very wrong, seeing as how I’m not an NBA scout, but that’s the player comparison in my head and I’m sticking to it.
I think if you don’t follow this team and just look at the names on the depth chart, you may be underwhelmed. I can understand that. Just know you’re wrong and will soon see how good the Raptors still are.
Will they make it back to the NBA Finals? I have no clue. I’m not blind to the fact that Kawhi put the team on his back on numerous occasions last season and his absence will be felt.
That being said, I’m still not afraid of any other team in the Eastern Conference.
People are talking about the Philadelphia 76ers as if they’re going to win the East. I don’t see it. If this were 2003, maybe. But they lost Jimmy Butler and added Al Horford and Josh Richardson. Fine, but tell me again why I’m supposed to fear them?
I just think people are sleeping on the Raptors (again) and studies show that when you sleep on a dinosaur, you get eaten, so…don’t do that. No sleeping on dinosaurs!
And so begins the 25th season of Raptors basketball.
This time, as defending champions.
Look ma, we made it.