With the holidays around the corner, the Toronto Raptors have continued to turn heads with their play, as impressive wins over Philadelphia and Utah moved the Raptors to the second seed in the Eastern Conference.
With the end of 2010’s nearing, let us not only dive into some new insights from the team’s play, but also take a moment to reflect on the journey the franchise has been on.
As the Raptors continue their winning ways, they also continue to uphold their reputation of shutting down all-stars. The Raptors 101-96 win over Philadelphia was the latest example of the Raptors’ defensive identity. The latest victim was 76ers’ centre Joel Embiid, who was held to zero points for the first time ever in his 6-year career.
Not only did Toronto shut down Embiid, but they also held Ben Simmons to just 10 points. Shutting down the 76ers all-star duo forced them to turn to Jason Richardson and Tobias Harris for scoring, which ultimately wasn’t enough.
As the primary defender on Embiid, Marc Gasol reassured everyone that he is still an elite defender.
Gasol may offensively be having one of his worst years from a production standpoint—if the season ended today, this would be by-far his lowest scoring season—but the Raptors have proven that they aren’t in dire need of additional offensive production. With that being said, if Gasol can continue to have elite defensive performances, especially against top tier superstars, he has a place on this team.
The legitimacy of the Raptors defence has been confirmed. Through 19 games, Toronto has held all 2019 NBA All-Stars they have faced to just 12.4 points per game, about 15 points less than their usual output.
A Christmas Game—Finally!
A tradition since 1947, the NBA’s annual Christmas Day games have been a showcase for the league’s top talent.
In the 25-year history of the Raptors franchise, they’ve only participated in a single Christmas day game, a 102-94 loss to the New York Knicks in 2001. That game was played on the road in Madison Square Garden, and despite success over the past decade, the Raptors haven’t found themselves back.
However, that changes this year. This year marks the first time ever that Scotiabank Arena will host a Christmas Day game. The Raptors will take on the Boston Celtics on Dec. 25. This is much deserved, as Toronto has proven itself to be one of the best basketball cities in the world for nearly a decade. With 2019 being a year of “firsts” for the Toronto Raptors, it’s only fitting that they end the year with a Christmas Day game.
Decade in Review
As 2019 comes to a close, so too does the decade. The 2010’s were an amazing time period for the Raptors and is easily the most successful decade in the history of the young franchise. The narrative of the Toronto Raptors in the 2010’s truly inspiring and is worth diving into.
Do you remember how the decade began? It was quite a long time ago, but we can’t forget that Chris Bosh was once the face of the North.
However, seven months into the decade, after leading the team to a 40-42 record in the prior season, Bosh decided to leave the North and head south, specifically to South Beach, to become a member of the Miami Heat.
Without Bosh, the Raptors became the doormat of the NBA. With no stars, cold weather, and an underwhelming front office, it was hard ever imagining basketball success returning to Canada.
The rebuild was supposed to be long, however, only four seasons later, the Toronto Raptors finished third in the Eastern conference and back in the playoff picture. The new core of fifth year star DeMar DeRozan and journeyman Kyle Lowry had unexpectedly risen the Raptors to prominence, and would continue to do so for many years.
But after getting over the hump of rebuilding, the Raptors encountered the hump of finding playoff success. After being edged-out by the Nets in seven and swept by the Wizards in back-to-back years, the Raptors would run into LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs for three straight years, resulting in the birth of ‘LeBronto.’
The playoff failures forced Masai Ujiri to take the biggest gamble in NBA history. Ujiri traded away franchise star DeMar DeRozan for a question mark in Kawhi Leonard. This move, accompanied by good drafting and player development, led to the Raptors finishing the decade as the NBA Champions.
The Toronto Raptors have an all-time record of 917-1022 (.473). However, in the 2010’s, the Raptors put up an overall record of 400-322 (.554).
A 55 per cent-win percentage accompanied by five division championships, six straight playoff appearances, one Conference Championship, one NBA Finals appearance, and one NBA Championship, make the Toronto Raptors one of the most successful teams of the decade.
Entering the 2020’s with a solid young core, you can probably list 43 or more reasons why Raptors fans can be excited for the future of this team.
Coming Full Circle
During the 2010’s, aside from the Raptors finding success, the ramifications of the Carter Effect were on full display, as fans witnessed an outburst of young Canadian talent making it to the NBA. One of the brightest moments in the 2013 NBA Draft was when Anthony Bennett became the first Canadian to ever be drafted first-overall. Despite his disappointing career, it was still a bright moment for Canadian basketball. Andrew Wiggins followed up the next year, as he became the second Canadian to ever go first overall.
The 2019 NBA Draft saw six Canadians drafted, a record for Canadian basketball. Another four were signed to NBA rosters. With a record 16 players currently on NBA rosters, it can finally be said – as envisioned by David Stern – that basketball has truly come full circle in the Canada.
When the Raptors took on the Knicks, this was on full display as a quarter of the league’s Canadians were on the floor: Toronto’s Chris Boucher and Oshae Brissett, as well as New York’s R.J. Barrett and Ignas Brazdekis.
With players such as Boucher, Barrett, Wiggins, and Kitchener’s Jamal Murray at the forefront, the future for Canadian basketball is bright.
The Carter Effect has proven to be successful and Canadian basketball now has enough momentum to carry its own weight.
As we enter the 2020’s, it will truly be exciting to see the continued growth of basketball in Canada.
If all goes well, the Raptors do have a future of success, and Canada will continue to produce NBA level talent.
Who knows, if the NBA ever does decide to expand to Seattle again, the league just may feel comfortable putting another team in the North to even out the number of franchises.
Time will tell, but rest assured, Canadian basketball is entering the 2020’s in a good place.