By Amery Gardiner, published October 19th, 2021
Toronto Raptors fans had high hopes for another great season after an spectacular run in 2019, winning the NBA championship for the first time in franchise history. The following year, they made it to the quarterfinals. Those two seasons demonstrated that the franchise was a consistent threat. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic dragging on, the team was forced to move to Tampa Bay, Florida to play their home games. It all went downhill from there. They went from 2nd in the league to 24th. They traded away Norman Powell and lost Kyle Lowry—arguably the best player in franchise history—to free agency. Nevertheless, the one benefit of a losing season is high draft picks; the Raptors struck gold in the NBA draft lottery when they upgraded to 4th pick overall. In the 2021 draft, the Raptors surprised everyone. Instead of drafting Jalen Suggs, their presumed pick, they chose Scottie Barnes, a six-foot-nine guard, who is primed for a key role in the team's playmaking. Players OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet, and Pascal Siakam will also need to step up to the opportunity for their team to have success.
Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images
Furthermore, Raptors fans are anticipating the team’s return to their home court in Toronto, where they can cheer on their club; it’s the first time there in 584 days. Clearly, the Raptors are in a retooling phase which also relies on another young group of players, notably Gary Trent Jr, Malachi Flynn, and Canadians Chris Boucher and Khem Birch. But how does this Toronto team fare against other lineups? In their first preseason game against the Philadelphia 76ers, they came out a bit rusty, being momentarily down by 11 points. But after a timeout, the switch flipped and they never looked back. The Raptors ended up winning that game 123-107, led by a 21- point performance from OG Anunoby. Three days later they played once again, but lost 113-125 in a hard-fought battle with the 76ers. This 1-1 start gives fans hope for a decent year, but what do you think? What will the Raptors season look like? Will it be a bounceback year or a return to the draft lottery?