Raptors’ Recap: Forging an identity

Courtesy The Athletic. Stylized by Dashawn Stephens

The Toronto Raptors recently embarked on a road trip that many viewed as an early-season test for the reigning champs.

With injuries sidelining both Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, the Raptors were forced to turn to new faces to find success.

Through this road trip, the Raptors were not only able to learn a lot about who they are right now, but also who they may become in the near future.

Defensive Dominance

The defensive prowess continues for the Toronto Raptors.

Many pointed to this west coast road trip as a true test for their defence and said they would fail against the powerhouses of the west.

The Raptors didn’t disappoint as they were able to not only pick up two wins, but also showcase three games of sheer dominance.

The Raptors proved that their defence is lethal, holding Lebron James to 13 points, Kawhi Leonard to 12 points, and Damian Lillard to 9 points.

This ended Lillard’s streak of 230 games with at least 10 points.

During Toronto’s recent road trip, the Raptors allowed just 41.5 points per game in the paint, which is the lowest of any team in the NBA during this four-game span.

They also averaged 6.8 blocks per game, which was the second-highest in the league over the same stretch.

Who is Terence Davis. Jr.?

During the Raptors road trip, one of the new faces that stepped up was Terence Davis. Jr.

The undrafted rookie out of Ole Miss put up notable performances against both the Lakers and Trail Blazers.

Logging 13/5/3 and 15/6/1, Davis opened the eyes of many, but where did he come from?

After not being selected in the 2019 Draft, Davis joined the Denver Nuggets for the NBA Summer League.

Even though he performed decently for the Nuggets, including a 22-point outburst in a game against Orlando, Denver decided to gear away from Davis, and released him.

Then Toronto jumped at him, seizing the opportunity to sign the rookie to a 2-year fully guaranteed deal.

Guaranteed deals are extremely rare for an undrafted player, but it has become obvious why Toronto gave one to Davis.

He has not only displayed his athleticism, long-range shooting, and defensive abilities, but Davis has proven that he can manage the game when the ball is in his hands.

This will only grow as he develops chemistry with Chris Boucher and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson on the Raptors’ new bench.

The Raptors have always been a first-class organization when it comes to player development and scouting, and Terence Davis. Jr. is another prime example of this.

It will be exciting to see how he continues to grow throughout the season and how much of a factor he can become off the bench.

What does this mean going forward?

As faith would have it, Toronto lost the two players that have the highest chances of being traded later in the season to injury.

The biggest insight that the Raptors gained from their recent road trip was a look into life without Lowry and Ibaka.

This road trip proved that Toronto can thrive without the two.

In fact, the absence of Lowry and Ibaka allowed for the duo of VanVleet and Siakam to shine.

Through four games, the pair combined for an average of 45.5 PPG, highlighted by a 66-point performance against Portland.

In addition, the Raptors learned that they truly have good depth.

The new bench core of Davis. Jr., Boucher and Hollis-Jefferson proved to be a breath of fresh air, as the young trio was able to give great production on both ends of the floor.

They were also able to average a combined 33.6 PPG over the first three games of the road trip. 

When Lowry and Ibaka return, look for the bench group of Davis. Jr, Boucher, Hollis-Jefferson, and eventually Powell, to possibly become the best bench core the Raptors have had in the Masai Ujiri era

Although we await the returns of Lowry and Ibaka, the Raptors may be more motivated than ever to trade them, since they were able to prove that they still are one of the top teams in the NBA without them.

The duo of VanVleet and Siakam quietly may currently be the best duo in the league, and at times Toronto appeared to be ‘one All-Star-away’ from returning to prominence.

As the Raptors embark on the toughest portion of their schedule, look for Masai Ujiri to use this time to look into what moves need to be made at the trade deadline.

The Ring Fiasco

Last week, Toronto’s General Manager Bobby Wester announced that the organization would not be offering championship rings to ex-Raptors Jonas Valanciunas, CJ Miles, and Delon Wright who were traded mid-season. It was an out-of-character move for an organization that prides itself on player relations and splurged on its championship celebrations. 

Fans were irate, saying that the players deserve a ring since they contributed to the championship season by helping the team secure its playoff seeding.

The team defended their decision, saying that historically, most teams haven’t given rings to players who were traded away midseason.

This argument is fair for Wright, who was only with the team for three seasons, always coming off the bench as the team’s eighth man.

The same goes for Miles, who is a veteran journeyman who only played in Toronto for three seasons.

But for a player as special to Toronto as Valanciunas, the team simply needs to give him a ring.

Valanciunas was selected by the team with the fifth-overall pick in 2011, playing for the Raptors in 470 games over six seasons.

He was the third-fiddle to Lowry and DeRozan as they set franchise records for wins and playoff success prior to last season.

He even came back to Toronto to cheer on the team in the playoffs.

Furthermore, Valanciunas played in 30 games for Toronto last season and was only moved at the trade-deadline. 

Valanciunas doesn’t have to accept the ring — in fact, most ex-team members who are offered them don’t — but if Toronto truly cares about their player relationships, they should give him the chance to decide.

It’s a very simple argument: if Drake can get a ring, Valanciunas can get one too.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.