The Eastern Conference has been somewhat upside down so far this season. Some of the top teams from last seasons have struggled out of the gate and are working their way back to the top. One team that has not struggled so far though is the Toronto Raptors, who have seem to become a forgotten team.
Do Not Forget About the Toronto Raptors
Staying with the Core
The Raptors have shown they are committed to running this team through Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, giving both of them contract extensions the past two summers. They just re-signed Serge Ibaka as well, who they acquired at the trade deadline last season. Having continuity in a franchise with your star players makes life easier for both the players and front office. They have a plan and direction they want to move in, which has paid off. The Raptors are coming off back to back 50-win seasons and currently sit at 11-5.
Better Flow in the Offense
While the Raptors have had successful seasons recently, the offense has been predictable. The offense would start with an isolation by either Lowry or DeRozan while the rest of the team stands around, making it easier for the defense to get a stop. They would wait until late in the shot clock to move the ball, sometimes resulting in a bad, contested shot.
So far this season, the Raptors have done a better job of moving the ball and getting everyone involved. They currently average 23 APG, which is good for 9th in the league. Last season, they were 30th with 18 APG. While Lowry and DeRozan are going to be the top options, the better ball movement helps get contributions from other players.
Putting Trust in the Young Guns
The Raptors have a plethora of young players they have put trust in. Outside of C.J. Miles, the rest of the bench unit has three years or less of experience. But due to the opportunities they are given to play on a consistent basis, they are gaining experience and developing at a faster rate.
During Sunday’s win against the Washington Wizards, the Raptors had a lineup of Fred VanVleet, Miles, Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam and Lorenzo Brown on the court in the 4th quarter. For Dwane Casey to have that much trust in his young players says a lot. That unit was able to produce as well, giving the Raptors a seven-point cushion to work with before the starters returned.
The Raptors deserve more recognition among the top teams. Sure, they have had their duds in the playoffs with their top players not always performing their best. Even if that continues, they are still going to be one of the better teams in the regular season. If things keep up, the Raptors could be headed for their third consecutive 50-win season, something that has not happened in the team’s history.
*stats per NBA.com