Title: THE RAPTORS HAVE NEVER BEEN IN A BETTER POSITION TO WIN THE EAST
Date: April 11, 2017
Original Source: Vice
Synopsis: For my latest at Vice, I wrote about the opportunity in front of the Toronto Raptors, who have never been in a better position,
All roads go through Cleveland, same as it ever was.
The Toronto Raptors wrapped up their 2016-17 season with a 51-31 record, some positive momentum heading toward the playoffs, and with the same question hanging over them that shaped the discourse around the team both at the start of the season, at their peak, and after the trade deadline: Is this team good enough to defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers?
Make no mistake, the Cavaliers are the measuring stick for the Raptors, at least in the present. So long as LeBron James and his ridiculous streak of NBA Finals appearances exists in his pseudo-human form, each Eastern Conference team on the upswing has to ask itself whether now is the time to strike, whether James and the Cavaliers are fallible, and if not, whether there’s a conceivable path to defeating them the following year.
The Raptors, for all their growth and success over the last four seasons, still face those same questions now. Kyle Lowry will be a 31-year-old free agent this summer. DeMar DeRozan is theoretically at his peak, though anyone doubting he can get even better hasn’t learned their lesson. Lowry will be joined in free agency by Serge Ibaka, P.J. Tucker, and Patrick Patterson, and while the Raptors employ some nice young pieces, none have the upside to push this team to another level on their own.