Whether it’s to make the fans happy, the belief in the system, or loyalty from the players, Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri is sticking to the status quo.
What is the Status Quo?
After getting swept in the second round to the Cleveland Cavaliers, many questions rose about the future in Toronto. DeMar DeRozan is still under contract, but Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka weren’t. That changed rather quickly when Masai Ujiri inked them both to 3-year deals this offseason. Ibaka signed for $65 million, and Lowry signed for $100 million, respectively.
There are positives and negatives to this move of sticking to the status quo. While bringing both of those players back kept the core together, it’s showed in years past that this formula hasn’t worked – at least not enough to get out of the Eastern Conference.
While Toronto’s version of the big 3 will be returning for the next three seasons, it doesn’t solve the problems they’ve faced before and moving forward. LeBron James is still in Cleveland, and they’ll be the favorites in the East until he either leaves or retires. The Boston Celtics improved by adding Gordon Hayward for the next four years. The Philadelphia 76ers have a young core that will be up and coming and a force, headed by Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and this years first overall selection Markelle Fultz.
It’s good to see the belief in the players and team in Toronto, but this core over the last four years has had its struggles in the postseason. The only exception being last year when they took the Cavs to six games. They’ve been bounced in the first round twice, once in a seven-game series to the Brooklyn Nets, the other a sweep at the hands of the Washington Wizards. Even with last years success, when the Raps made it to the Eastern conference finals, it came only after two grueling seven-game series that most predicted wouldn’t go seven to begin with.
It’s not like the Raptors aren’t in the best position they could possibly be in. Many of the teams in the East have plateaued and will stay that way for the next little while. Not to mention it’s by far the weaker of the two conferences, for now. Toronto is still one of the top four teams in the East, but like we saw last year, it didn’t matter how the regular season played out.
Now, with all of the concerns out of the way, there are some positives moving forward for the Raps. Since Dwane Casey took over the head coaching position, Toronto has increased its win total in every year. The only time they didn’t? This past season, where they went from 56 a year prior to 51 this year. This team has gone through a lot of adversity and learned many lessons over their last four playoff stints. They’ve endured multiple 7 game series, both winning and losing. They’ve faced off against the King twice, and have an understanding at what it’s going to take to dethrone him.
Let’s also not forget this: Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have proven they are perennial All-Stars. Now, add in a full season of Serge Ibaka, rising starter Norman Powell, and Toronto shedding both Cory Joseph‘s and DeMarre Carroll‘s contracts. This gives the Raptors a strong foundation, with room to now add to the formula.
What is Next to Come?
We know what the Toronto Raptors are: A 50-win, top four team in the Eastern Conference. It’s hard to win 50 games in the NBA, I get that. The problem is, unless Toronto makes a big splash with their new-found cap room, this might be the height of their success before they face even bigger problems down the road.