DeMar DeRozan and the San Antonio Spurs may have kicked in the teeth of the Toronto Raptors, but halfway through the NBA season the Raps are right where they want to be in the Eastern Conference. Even with another soul-crushing playoff loss to LeBron James, 2018 was the best year in franchise history and if Toronto wants to surpass it they have a couple areas to focus on.
The team’s depth has been tested throughout the season due to injuries but that trend seems to be coming to an end. Kyle Lowry has returned after missing 10 of 11 games and Jonas Valanciunas is slowly but surely recovering from his left thumb injury. Toronto even seems to be considering playing Kawhi Leonard in back to back games. Kawhi is 100 per cent and the best player in the conference so he needs to play in those situations sooner or later but there really is no urgency to rush the former finals MVP. It also has to be mentioned that Norman Powell has got his swagger back after returning to the lineup.
Partly by design, partly due to injuries, the rotations have been fluid all season long and the team got exposed multiple times in December. Even when they were winning and scoring more than 100 points per game the team lost its fluidity on offence and got absolutely crushed in San Antonio because of ISO ball to the max. So, the good news is Kyle’s back. Bad news, head coach Nick Nurse has to realize Delon Wright can’t be on the floor without another point guard. There are two X-factors for Raptors rotations in 2019. Pascal Siakam at the 5 create and more minutes for OG Anunoby. Could it lead to a Warrior’s style death lineup for the playoffs?
Keep Happy Kawhi
Whatever he wants, give the man! Other than a NBA championship the goal of this season is to show Kawhi that Toronto is an elite organization from Masai Ujiri’s front office to the medical staff to Drake and the fans. Everyone south of the border makes it a forgone conclusion that he leaves in free agency but I still think the Raptors have the inside track on signing the two-time defensive player of the year barring a major playoff disappointment.
Finally, can Masai and general manager Bobby Webster pull the trigger on another deal to improve the roster? Their two key areas of interest are three-point shooting and rebounding. Barring a monster trade for Bradley Beal look for the team to scavenge the NBA’s scrap heap of conscienceless gunners to replace the self-destructed C.J. Miles
Catch Ben Miner, Frank Trachtenberg and Brody Hamilton on The Basketball Court Monday’s at 7pm ET on SiriusXM Canada Talks Channel 167.