The Raptors just celebrated their 20th-anniversary last season, in which they saw many players, coaches, the good and the bad to make them into what they are today.
They started their inaugural season in 1995 with their first-ever draft pick with the seventh overall pick in Damon “Mighty Mouse” Stoudamire. They followed up the next three years with amazing first round draft picks in future superstars with Marcus Camby in 1996, Tracy McGrady in 1997, and trading with the Golden State Warriors in 1998 for Vince Carter. Despite having such talent and only one first round playoff win in their illustrious 21-year history to this point, this is still solely the beginning for this young franchise.
We’ve also seen other big names come through the franchise in Hedo Turkoglu, number one overall pick Andrea Bargnani (in 2006), and Chris Bosh. Even though I’ll still hold on to my Chris Bosh jersey, and all have had their memorable moments in the Raps history, none have been able to throw the team on their back, and pushed through the playoffs, when it really matters.
With the superstar backcourt duo Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozen, and the front court, which on many nights includes young talent in Jonas Valanciunas, and Terrance Ross, this team looks very bright for many years to come.
With the recent acquisitions of Luis Scola, DeMarre Carroll and, Toronto’s own Cory Joseph, the face of the Raptors has definitely received an uplift. Both DeMarre Carroll (from his time with the Atlanta Hawks), and Luis Scola (from his time with the Houston Rockets) have playoff experience that will help this young team who’s only seen the playoffs the last two years, with missing them the last five. Team Canada’s point guard Cory Joseph also brings along playoff experience (his time with the San Antonio Spurs), in which he won the 2014 NBA Championship. With his experience in both NBA and Team Canada roles, he’s a young talent, who’s definitely a proud Canadian that will help with tons of energy off the bench, and assist in production come playoff time. This year’s squad has so far led them to a 45-21 so far to this point in the season. Being a great road team with an above 500 record at 19-13, and being even more dominant at home with a record of 26-8.
With each regular season that passes, the Raptors have that much more camaraderie heading towards this postseason. Even though they had two straight first-round exits at the hands of the Brooklyn Nets and most recently, the Washington Wizards last season, they have grown that much more on and off the court and are a major threat to anyone in the Eastern Conference.
Pretenders have now become a past tense term of the Raptors. Looking towards the end of this season, and future years to come, Contenders has a better ring to it, Eastern Conference finals perhaps.