Title: Raptors’ focus needs to narrow in order to take the next step
Date: May 10, 2018
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I wrote about the need for the Raptors to become more granular in their focus for 2018-19.
The Toronto Raptors have most of the big stuff figured out. Short of acquiring a legitimate franchise superstar, the Raptors have done and continue to do the right things at the macro level. They have rehabilitated the image of an organization once synonymous with irrelevance, they’ve added a state-of-the-art facility in the BioSteel Centre, and they continue to unearth undervalued and undrafted gems. And their player development accelerator — including very early success for Raptors 905 — looks to be on the cutting edge for getting every ounce of potential out of prospects.
The results are clear: Three consecutive years with 50 wins or more in the regular season and at least one postseason series victory, improvement in five of the last six seasons, and, in 2017-18, unquestionably the most successful 82-game slate in team history. All of these things are very important. Not all 30 teams can fall into the tidy buckets of contending or tanking, and it’s maximizing those in-between stages that can help position a franchise to make the jump to the other tier somewhere down the line. The new lottery odds and the increased appetite for basketball in Toronto may preclude or at least give pause to a genuine tear-down any time soon, and the Raptors continue to emphatically check the boxes that should help them remain relevant and well thought of for whenever that really matters.
On Wednesday, Raptors president Masai Ujiri and head coach Dwane Casey did their end-of-season media availability, and that was understandably not the message. They can joke that there’s no culture reset this time around, but they have to at least sell forward progress, even while acknowledging the value of getting to and sticking at this level of “very good, not quite great.” The Raptors are mostly locked into a core they should want to maintain anyway, and there are genuine reasons to be optimistic that the team’s pieces are headed for positive growth, even if believing in a different ultimate outcome might prove difficult.