Winning too soon?

Posted by By at 5 January, at 15 : 13 PM Print

Winning too soon?

Thanks to the lengthy lockout that finally ended in early December, the NBA Season was forced to start close to 2 months later than normal.  Because of the lockout, NBA teams had limited time to practice and get re-acquainted with each other, so it’s safe to say team chemistry should be off.  Shouldn’t it?

With the majority of teams having already played 10% of their schedule (6 Games in a condensed season), it’s easy to make assumptions for each team on their progress thus far.  Pre-season ”Power Rankings” were set based on expectations, last seasons performance and any roster changes that were made during the off-season.  These rankings are seen as a strong indicator of where teams will finish in the standings and can help the everyday casual fan see the bigger picture of what teams might be good, and which one’s aren’t so good.

With every pre-season Power Ranking having placed the Toronto Raptors at the bottom of the standings it was assumed they would have a difficult go at it this season.  Compound last seasons performance, their lack of a true Superstar and  the compressed schedule and you can see why a young team like the Raptors would be expected to fail.  It is easy to expect them to struggle at finding their team identity, but for some reason the Toronto Raptors have been thriving in this “new NBA”. 

There must be a reason…right?

In recent years, the recipe for success in the NBA goes as follows:  Draft a stud Rookie, sign 1 or 2 Mega Stars and than fill the rest of the roster with veterans and younger players trying to prove themselves in the league (See the Heat, Celtics, Lakers).  This roster model can be seen all over the NBA and more often than not has been a very successful recipe to follow.  The Raptors on the other hand, are right smack in the middle of the complete opposite of this.  They are currently mid-way through their Youth Movement that the team committed to a few years ago.  The Raptors chose to take the same path as teams like OKC and Memphis, and build their Franchise from within.

With one of the youngest rosters in the league, the Raptors may have found their identity through 1 very important signing.  By bringing in new Head Coach Dwayne Casey the Raps quite possibly have found a leader for their young core of players to look up to.  Casey brings with him a wealth of experience, a Championship Ring and more importantly a sense of confidence that they can be successful regardless of who may or may not be on the team.

The Raptors struggled last year on Defence and everyone from GM Bryan Colangelo down to the everyday casual fan knew that they would need to shore up their team defence before they could move forward and grow as a team.  What Casey represents is a changing of the guard for the Raps as they are now focused on defending the rim and not just scoring more than their opponent.  Based on the team record after 6 games it’s pretty plain to see that whatever Casey has done with this years edition of the team is working.  They are allowing fewer points per game, rebounding more than last season and have shown a tough grit that has been missing the last few seasons.

Sitting at 3-3 after 6 games the Raps have defied the odds that they were capable of playing cohesively as one team and win games in today’s NBA.  Not only do they sit at 3 wins and 3 losses, they should be 5-1 after giving up late leads to Orlando and Dallas in the past few days.   This Raptor team is proving that although they are without 1 true Superstar(Take care Chris Bosh), they are capable of putting up baskets in a hurry and can compete with any team in the league…and more importantly stop them from scoring! (so far).

Right now, high-flying DeMar DeRozan and former 1st overall pick Andrea Bargnani are putting up 20 ppg numbers on a nightly basis.  Jose Calderon has returned to his star Point Guard form, and their is a strong group of young up-and-coming player son their roster (Ed Davis, Gary Forbes, Jerryd Bayless, James Johnson).  This roster appears headed in the right direction under the leadership of Dwayne Casey and direction of President Bryan Colangelo.  With this past NBA Draft 5th overall pick Jonas Valanciunas playing overseas until next year, an additional 1st round pick next year and approximately $20 million in salary cap to spend next season the future is looking as bright as ever in Toronto.

One must ask themselves however…With the Raptors off to such a fast start this season, wouldn’t it be beneficial for the team to finish as low in the standings as possible to ensure they get as hig of a pick as possible in next years talent loaded NBA Draft?

The Bowse's Word

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