Article Written by Jacob Pacheco (@JacobPacheco6)
Basketball is back! The three words everyone loves to hear this time of year. The NBA season is indeed back and we’re not talking about pre-season anymore. This is the real deal. The full 82 game season as the Toronto Raptors face off against the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight in Game 1 of 82 in Toronto at the new Scotiabank Arena.
Call it a rematch if you will, but without LeBron James, this Cavaliers team is what swept the Toronto Raptors in last season’s Conference Semi-Finals. Although they might not be able to accomplish that now without The King, they still have a lot of returning firepower from the team; Tristian Thompson, Kyle Korver, Kevin Love, and J.R Smith (doubtful to play due to injury.). Also, young rookie sensation and 8th overall pick in this year draft; Collin Sexton.
The Raptors should not take this Cavs team lightly. However, this new and improved Raptors’ team has something to prove to the world that this is their time and their year to win it all. 110 percent will be given each and every night. Based off of the few pre-season games played for Toronto, fans will be treated to a ton of minutes handed to Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard to carry the Raptors to victory; not only tonight, but all season long. Head Coach Nick Nurse paired them together almost every minute and every chance he had in the pre-season to help them grow and gain chemistry with each other. Also expect a ton of shooting beyond the arc. Adding the sharpshooting ability of Danny Green deepens the threat of more three pointers made alongside with fellow teammate C.J Miles.
That’s not all. You can’t leave out the two big men for the team - Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas. Ibaka has a bit of a chip on his shoulder after his poor performance all throughout last post-season. The veteran big has something to prove this season, who, not to mention can also shoot from beyond the arc. As for Valanciunas, could this be his break out year? We’ve seen Valanciunas have amazing games where the team feeds him the ball early along with great rebounding and defensive abilities. But we’ve never seen that consistently throughout the full 82 game season. Some could say former coach Dwane Casey was holding Valanciunas back by not giving him minutes in the 4th quarter of close games. But with Nick Nurse, this could certainly change.
There’s also OG Anunoby. Just when you thought his defensive skills couldn’t get any better, the team adds two-time Defensive Player of the Year, Kawhi Leonard, who is someone Anunoby can learn from, become better, and grow with this season. OG isn’t all about defense as he can show off a bit of flare from time to time by getting to the rim with authority and showing off his strength. We’re not sure how often we will see these two on the court at the same time this season, but if we do, you know the opposing team won’t score many points on them.
The Bench Mob. Almost no introduction needed, but nobody can forget quite possibly the best bench in the NBA last season. Fred Vanvleet, Delon Wright, Norman Powell, Pascal Siakam and now Greg Monroe. Raptors’ fans will have no shortage of seeing these men coming off the bench adding their flare and versatility to the game from every aspect. Vanvleet and Wright with their three-point shooting and great ball handling. Powell and Siakam with their hustle and slashing ability. Monroe with his grit and rebounding. This team sounds unstoppable.
Lastly, Chris Boucher, Malachi Richardson, Jordan Loyd, Lorenzo Brown - do these names come to mind? These are the third strings for the Raptors this season. You may not see a lot of them on the court, but if an injury ever occurs, you bet you’ll see one of these men step up to the plate when needed. Brown was a G-League MVP last season with the Raptors 905. Loyd, who had tryouts and had a great summer league with the Raptors,’ ultimately made the team. Boucher, possesses a great story behind him and how he got to where he is today is unbelievable. Something that started out as a 10-day contract in the NBA led to signing yearlong contracts. The local Canadian kid out of Montreal deserves it. Richardson is a great role player and always doing what is needed whenever his name is called.
Sounds pretty dominant right? The pressure is on for the Toronto Raptors. They know what is at stake. While nobody knows what the future holds for this team, the ceiling is as high as it can possibly be.
Championship or bust.
Let’s play some basketball, Toronto!
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