Last year was not an easy year to be a Toronto Raptors fan or bettor. Watching and wagering on your favourite team when they are hugging the middle of the pack, making moves that lack foresight, and playing erratically so you never know which odds to pick can make for a challenging season. Ultimately, the year ended with the Raptors flaming out in the play-in tournament, a disappointing result.
Fans and bettors still don’t know what to make of the Raptors. They have middle-of-the-pack odds on gambling sites like Sports Interaction Canada once again, and it feels like many of their moves have yet to be made. But it is not all doom and gloom for Raps fans. There are several reasons to start being optimistic about this team and its future.
Scottie Barnes is the obvious biggest reason for optimism for most Raptors fans. The 2022 Rookie of the Year had a disappointing follow-up last season, not breaking out in the way many expected. But the potential is still there for him to be a true superstar, and he is just turning 22 this summer. Barnes has almost everything you look for in a franchise centrepiece. He is long, athletic, a great defender, and an excellent passer for his size. If he can develop his shooting and isolation play, he will be an All-NBA type player. The Raptors need him to take those steps.
Raptors fans were thrilled when Gradey Dick fell to the team in the 2023 NBA Draft. While he hasn’t played a single NBA minute, Dick’s skillset is clear. He is an elite shooter who can create his own shot, something the Raptors need badly. If Dick can be an instant-impact high-volume shooter, it will open a lot of space for this team. He is also young and has a vibrant personality, and could blossom into a high-quality starter for the Raptors. It was a great value pick for the team and also something that was needed badly.
Huge Trade Chips
There have been rumours swirling around Pascal Siakam and O.G. Anunoby all offseason long, particularly after Fred VanVleet left. While both are incredible players beloved by fans if the Raptors are going in a different direction, at least these two stars will not leave the cupboards barren. If the Raptors trade both players, the team’s identity will change dramatically, but they will fetch a huge return, likely including high-quality young players and many draft picks. This could position the Raptors to succeed as they move toward a potential rebuild.
Winning Management History
While Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster have gotten a lot of hate from fans for their mistakes the past few seasons, they are still the same duo who led the team through its most successful era, culminating in an NBA Championship. Ujiri’s fixation with lanky forwards who can’t shoot and his lack of foresight with VanVleet were genuine mistakes. But hopefully, lessons have been learned. The Raptors still employ some of the brightest minds in basketball. Fans have lost faith a little, but the people calling the shots are the same ones who provided them with their happiest basketball memories.
Young Role Players
The Raptors have several young role players on the roster that could take steps forward next year. Precious Achiuwa looked like a huge part of the team’s future in 2021-22 but fell off last year. He is still only 23 and has a hugely valuable skillset that could lead to him becoming a high-end bench player or even a starter. Christian Koloko showed a lot of upside in his rookie year and is a seven-footer who can intimidate on defence. And undrafted flier Markquis Nowell is undersized but is a slick passer who was one of March Madness’s biggest stars.
Cap Space Opening Up
In the NBA, having cap space has become a rare thing. But going into next offseason, when both OG and Pascal Siakam will have the opportunity to become free agents if they aren’t traded, the Raptors will have plenty of cap space. They likely won’t use it all on veteran free agents because a rebuild would be in progress, but some young players with potential could definitely be on their way. The more cap a team has, the more maneuverability.