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Raptors fans aren’t known for their tempered expectations, but this year they have a lot of reasons to be excited, as the team is finally poised to contend in the East.
When I say “contend”, I do mean contend for the opportunity to lose to the Heat in the first round of the playoffs, but for a young team that is just transitioning into their identity, this could be a very promising season.
The last 2 years have been particularly harsh on both the franchise and its fans – and not just in terms of the win/loss record. Let’s face it, the players were hard to root for. If you liked Ed Davis, you had to acknowledge his lack of size. If you liked Jose Calderon, you had to defend his defensive ability every time you talked to a Jerryd Bayless fan. If you liked Sundiata Gaines, you were trolling your friends.
Don’t get me wrong, I tried my hardest to buy in, culminating in an unsuccessful attempt to write an article arguing that Jose Calderon was a top 7 NBA point guard. I started writing it, but after using the phrase “assist-to-turnover” ratio 74 times in the opening paragraph, I shut my laptop and cried myself through an episode of Property Brothers (the Taylors really deserved that new home).
Now I’m going to say it. I’m really going to say it. This season feels different.
After the Raptors missed out on the Nash sweepstakes, the team was forced to open door #2, and the consolation prizes weren’t that bad. Landry Fields may have a bad contract (it‘s actually not terrible), but he could really develop his game in Toronto. At worst he’ll be one of the best defenders on the team, and his ball handling ability will be valuable when the Raptors choose to go small – something which Dwane Casey plans on doing a lot more this season. Landry will be easy to root for.
Kyle Lowry is even better than Fields when it comes to defence, and in a league where more point guards are drafted in the 1st round of your fantasy draft than any other position, that’s invaluable. Lowry can be explosive on offence too, and is a nightly triple-double threat. Triple-doubles are very easy to root for.
Then of course, there’s the rookies, Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas. Ross was drafted for two reasons – he can shoot, and he can play defence – and if he does those two things, he’ll have the perfect opportunity to develop the rest of his game. Valanciunas is more of an unknown, but if anything can be taken away from the preseason, it’s that he’s going to put the doubters to bed pretty early on. In the last 3 games, he’s been putting up near double-double numbers and averaging over 2 blocks per game. Easy to root for.
Regardless of the final standings, watching the Raptors this season is going to be fun, and October 31st should feel like December 25th, because fans are finally going to see their new toys in action. The 2012-2013 Raptors are young, skilled, and finally…easy to root for.