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Friday, June 21, 2013

SDH Presents the 2013 End of Season NBA's Worst to First: 18. Toronto Raptors

Overall Win/Loss Record (At Season’s End):  34-48  tied fourth place Atlantic Division

At Season’s End:

Team Statistics and League Rank (At Season’s End)

  • Points Scored:  97.2 (16th)
  • Points Allowed: 98.7 (17th)
  • Team FG%: .446  (20th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .458 (18th)
  • Team FT%: .788 (5th)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .343 (26th)
  • Rebounds per game: 40.2 (28th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 41.7 (13th)
  • Turnovers per game: 13.2 (5th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 13.7 (20th)

Individual Statistical Leaders (At Season’s End)

Taking a Look Back at the Season that Once Was . . .

SDH Worst to First Recap
Time Period
Change (+/-)
At Season’s End
SDH Player of the Year:
Amir Johnson

With the emrgence of third year Ed Davis often upstaging him, it seemed as if Johnson would soon be saying goodbye to Toronto as he no longer looked that he would factor in the team's future.  That all changed, however, when GM Bryan Colangelo pulled the shocking move sending Johnson's would be replacement Davis along with veteran point guard Jose Calderon to the Memphis Grizzlies, Amir Johnson's floundering career in Toronto got a much needed adrenaline boost and he took advantage of his new found opportunity.  With projected starter Andrea Bargnarni hampered by injuries, Johnson became the team's official clean up man grabbing boards and showing the physical toughness and leadership that Bargnarni himself could never display.  Starting at his more natrual power forward position, Amir meshed well with newcomers Rudy Gay and Kyle Lowry as he ran the floor, crashed the boards and cleaned up all the misses.  Not only did he prove to be a excellent option for coach Dwane Casey, but also silenced any doubters in the T-dot that did not see him as a premier power forward in the league.

Read this now and heed this warning: come next all NBAs teams better watch out for the Toronto Raptors because they are going to be a team that is ready to bust down the gates and bum rush the entire league.  Like the prehistoric animals there were named named after, they are pack that is 12 strong, are very hungry and are looking to tear into flesh and devour their opponents.  No longer are they are team to be simply shrugged off and ignored--this time Toronto will be the ones who will steal the spotlight as the media and the basketball world will finally take notice of them after black out for so long from mainstream media.  Raptor fans who have been patiently waiting for so long to finally have something to cheer about as their team has finally turned a corner going from underwhelming cellar dweller to becoming one of the top breakout teams in the league.  Those who shrug off and disregard this warning will find themselves not only having egg on their faces and swallowing huge helpings of humble pie while trying to fend off the imminent attack of this revamped and re-energized team.

At the end of the regular season, the Raptors not only increased their win total from the previous season, but also finished within an earshot of the playoffs falling just four games shy of the Milwaukee Bucks for the eighth and last spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.  If it were not for the poor start in November, the Raptors might have actually surpassed the Bucks and perhaps would have continued playing into April as they maintained a solid record through the rest of the season.  Since that regretable start in November when they won just five of their first twenty four games the Raptors went on a tear in mid December winning eight of their next nine games going into the next.  Upon heading into 2013, The Raptors stumbled in the month of January winning just five of fifteen; however they came roaring back in February finishing 7-5 and even came within a game and a half of the eighth playoff spot in the East.  Unfortunately, a poor performance in March sent the Raptors reeling out of contention; however, instead of simply throwing in the towel, the Raptors fought back and finished the regular season strong as they won seven of their last nine game.

To bad their strong finish was not enough as they would yet again be watching the post season at a distance and waiting for the next NBA draft; however, unlike the previous seasons, this time Toronto Raptors fans have at least something to hope for once the season starts back again in November.  For the first time in a long time, their team now has built a solid and talented core of players and among them, an All Star caliber player who can be considered as "the complete package." When Rudy Gay arrived in Toronto in a mid season trade that sent Ed Davis to the Memphis Grizzlies and long time veteran point man, Jose Calderon, to the Detroit Pistons, he immediately proved to be the missing piece that Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo, who recently stepped down from that position, had yearned for.  Despite being unjustly criticized for having a superstar contract but never being able to make an All Star team, Gay has provided throughout his career a big game player on offense capable of putting up plenty of points and clutch performances while at the same time, he showing an equal passion and determination on the defensive as well as he has earned the reputation of being one of the elite perimeter defenders in the league.  With such a player capable of providing great leadership on both ends of the floor, Toronto found that missing piece that was capable of bringing a team of inexperienced and low self esteem players out of the pit of despair and self pity they have been in for so long and back on the track towards respectability.      

Surrounding Gay will be a deep and balanced roster of impressively talented yet overlooked and unknown players who will certainly grow and thrive thanks to his presence on the court.  Before Gay arrived, the Raptors looked far from impressive as, save for two or three players, it consisted of primarily no names who would not even make an NBA roster, let alone start on an NBA team; however, upon Gay's arrival That completely changed as if his presence magnified and elevated the abilities of those around him.  That certainly was the case for fourth year guard Demar DeRozan who struggled being the primary offensive option for Toronto; however playing along side Gay, he was relieved him of much of the pressure on offense allowing him to play more freely not having to worry about carrying the team offensively.  The same can be said for all the other Raptors that played alongside Gay as he gave the team the leadership and toughness in which they could rally around along with feeding off the energy and effort that he provides on both sides of the floor.  Not even the previous marquee names that have graced the court of the Air Canada center had been able to have such an immediate impact upon arrival--not Damon Stoudamire, not Vince Carter, and not even the most recently departed Chris Bosh--making the arrival of Rudy Gay one of most significant events in Toronto Raptors history.

As they look to rest and reload for the next regular season, it would be wise for all the teams in the league, especially those in the Atlantic Division to keep a close eye on this reborn Raptors squad.  Both the Big Two Big Apple Bosses, namely the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets will definitely need to be watching their backs as there will be a hungry and blood thirsty pack of predators heading their way.  Many denizens in Toronto balked at the idea of acquiring Gay namely because they did not like the size of his contract and favored the Raptors to take a ground bottom to top approach focusing on developing their talent for the future; however after five years of wallowing at the bottom, a drastic move had to be made and so what if the Raptors are forced to pay luxury tax penalties thanks to the acquisition of Gay.  The Raptors were not going anywhere to begin with and, despite their vast wealth of salary cap space, it would have been next to impossible for them to attract any real help in the free agent market.  In this NBA, a team has to spend money to make money and by acquiring Rudy Gay, the Raptors have secured not only themselves, but also their fans, with a team that will not only bring them back to the playoffs, but also possibly bring the spotlight to shine upon Toronto, a city in which due to geography and media bias, have remained one the peripheral outside looking in.