Last night the Cleveland Cavaliers finally finished off the Toronto Raptors, after the Raps extended them to six games. I’d hoped for a game seven, but the Cavs just put the hammer down last night, the same hammer I really thought would sweep the Raps this round. But the Raptors are the Raptors, and they don’t go quietly. And that’s why we love them.
Disappointment over getting manhandled by the Cavs aside, no one views this year as anything but a success for the Raptors. They finished second, and made it to the third round of the playoffs, extending a true contender to six games after they swept their first two opponents. And let’s face it: the Raps weren’t considered a true title contender. This team wasn’t built to win a title; after the Raptors were swept out of the first round last year by a weaker opponent, this year’s team was built to not get swept again. The season was a check mark when the Raps won their direct round series against Indiana. It was a bigger checkmark when they beat Miami in 7, Miami being exactly the kind of team they would have folded to in the past.
So now, the challenge shifts to becoming a true contending team. If they can re-sign DeMar DeRozan they’ll have the core every top team needs: 2 all-stars (DeRozan and Kyle Lowry) and a strong third option (Jonas Valanciunas), but top teams surround those guys with strong bit players and good shooters who can extend the opposition’s defense. The Raps simply didn’t have that last night, or throughout the playoffs. Terence Ross disappears in the playoffs. Luis Scola might as well not be there. DeMarre Carroll’s a good defender but probably isn’t a reliable enough outside threat. Norman Powell’s still developing.
The Raps don’t have much cap room, but they do have a high draft pick (thanks Andrea Bargnani!) so I’m hoping they can add a good power forward or backup centre to replace Bismack Biyombo, who they almost certainly won’t be able to re-sign, and manage to sign (or, more likely, trade for) some veteran shooters.