I often use the expression that the Raptors fan experience is like a roller coaster ride. It is mainly in reference to the wild inconsistency that we see on a regular basis. This has been a season full of those. The game on Sunday has been just another. The Raptors stormed into a big lead against the Nets and than hung on walking to the edge of the cliff of blowing a large lead.
It has been that type of season from a 4-19 start to winning streaks from out of nowhere. The Raptors with nothing to play for in reality have all of the sudden won 5 of 6 games when most have turned their attention to the Leafs playoff run or the early struggles of the Blue Jays. DeMar DeRozan with the spotlight far away from himself and the team poured in 36 points one short of his career high.
Despite the constant banging of the drum by some that the Raptors can’t go forward with both DeRozan and Gay as they are far too similar they have shown they can produce. More than combinations the Raptors have relied on before. This is much more than we ever saw from Bargnani and DeRozan as the Raptors one-two punch.
Where this issues lie is in the contracts both will be paid starting next season. DeRozan thanks to his extension signed at the beginning of the season. One of the ways DeRozan plans on earning those dollars is extending his range this off-season. Part of that 36 point performance was going 3 for 4 from three point land. Something people question if Gay or DeRozan are capable of being acceptable percentage shooters from long range.
The Raptors road to success if they are to have it next season will be paved with internal improvement. It will be hard to make significant chance to this group, with no draft picks to speak of, just the exception that ever other team has for Free Agency and being pressed up against the luxury tax threshold. About the only way the Raptors can improve significant or change is through the trade market and they really don’t have the assets to make moves that will not be piled with risk. When you consider, your largest trade piece is Andrea Bargnani who is a huge risk for any team that would entertain taking him.
When you consider the other teams that will miss the post season in the Eastern Conference their options to improvement are far more than that of the Raptors. Despite this being what everyone is classing as a fairly weak draft class. The Raptors winning streak to close the season has at least lessened their odds of winning in the draft lottery. In a sense winning in the draft lottery would be losing for the Raptors. After all with a much stronger draft class expected to be led by Andrew Wiggins next season the Raptors would much rather have a ticket for that lottery or they should. It is far better if they can have the pick they traded to acquire Kyle Lowry be cashed in this season.
What could be interesting in terms of the draft if the Raptors would consider getting into the draft should Myck Kabongo who has declared for the draft is available in the second round. The Raptors also are without a second round pick but could easily acquire one without much difficulty especially if it were later in the round. Kabongo is a talented kid that was forced out for most of his second season at Texas. He has not lived up to the hype for some but he is a talented and intriguing prospect. Not to mention being a home grown product. He clearly will not be ready to take Kyle Lowry’s job but he could develop and grow into an eventual starter in the NBA or a quality back up.
It has been a frustrating season no doubt but the off-season could be just as frustrating for the Raptors or maybe more so Raptors fans that will be expecting to see changes and could very realistically see few.