Ever since the Toronto Raptors acquired Rudy Gay from the Memphis Grizzles, there have been high hopes for the Raptors to push for the playoffs. But as last year’s season came down to the wire, the Raptors were short on yet another playoff position. However, it seems that after they traded Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings, their season has turned around.
No one in the beginning was talking about the Raptors being the Atlantic Division Champions, let alone have the third seed heading into the playoffs. Not to mention setting a franchise record for wins while they were at it. The organization was focused on re-branding the Raptors for the upcoming 2016 NBA All-Star Game. But the team had other plans. A 48-34 record may not seem all that impressive, but a little history may clear up those numbers for you. In 2001, they were one jump shot away from making it to the Conference Finals. Turns out that with the same power house line up, and over $250 million dollars spent to keep them in Toronto, they lost in the first round in ’02. It took nearly four years, for the Raptors to re-enter the playoffs, this time under All-Star Chris Bosh. The problem was that we had always tried to find the missing piece, rather than start from scratch, with both Hedo Turkoglu and Jermaine O’Neal taking turns with that role. Since the departure of Chris Bosh, it has been a long five year drought, but the Raptors have finally made it back to the elite 16.
The Raptors were 6-12 before they decided to trade Rudy Gay, and ever since then, have led the Eastern Conference with a 42-22 record. Rudy Gay, Aaron Gray, and Quincy Acy were sent out, and in turn, Patrick Patterson, Greivis Vasquez, Chuck Hayes and John Salmons joined the team. A rather fitting trade as Patrick Patterson had a great game two against the Brooklyn Nets, with Vasquez providing solid minutes as well.
Since the turning of that leaf, Terrence Ross has played phenomenal for a sophomore player, and taking Rudy’ position, has grown into a fine player for the Raptors. Stellar play from Kyle Lowry and first time all-star Demar DeRozan led the charge. And this playoff season has high hopes for the Raptors as they face Brooklyn at home, with the series split at 1. The trade not only led to a winning record, but better dynamics within the team, each player’s role became more defined, and Demar DeRozan was able to take charge of the Raptors offence. And there’s still potential for growth in his game. Having Gay on the team restricted ball movement, as Gay was a very possession-dominanting player restricting the growth and maturity of the talented young players that the Raptors have an abundance of. The hole that Gay left, allowed Demar to turn into the potential marquee player that all Torontonians want him to become. There is no doubt that this trade has benefited the Raptors, it has also benefited the city. The numbers don’t lie. 6-12 with Rudy Gay and 44-22 without.
The city is filled with an air of excitement, because once again, the city of Toronto will be in the playoffs. Not in hockey, but in the game of basketball. Fans no longer worry about tanking for Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker, instead, they worry about Lowry resigning next year, and the possibility of making a deep playoff push.
Speculation that the Nets tanked the last few games in the season to face the Raptors will only fuel the fire for a team that is on the rise. Without a doubt, the Raptors won’t give up in the series. With Game 2 being a ‘must-win’ the Raptors delivered just that. Look for them to come out with some fury on Friday night, when they play Brooklyn in Game 3 of the NBA Playoffs.
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