The Toronto Raptors’ defense of their NBA crown ended at the hands of the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. Nick Nurse’s men put forward a strong effort in the post-season, defying pre-season expectations of their hopes of competing without Kawhi Leonard. They took a talented Celtics side to game seven of their series but were undone by the brilliance of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The franchise now must look to the future and there are tough decisions to be made regarding the contracts of key players.
Fred VanVleet and Serge Ibaka are among the names that are free agents in the off-season. VanVleet will be eyeing a lucrative deal that the Raptors will certainly not be able to afford – without taking themselves out of the market for several outstanding players that will be available in the 2021 free-agent market. Giannis Antetokounmpo could be on the market at that point and tandem with Pascal Siakam could see the Raptors dominate the Eastern Conference for a decade.
Toronto has to be prudent and place trust in the system that put them in contention for the crown once again this term. Nurse has proved himself to be an excellent coach and motivator, lifting the team after the loss of Leonard and developing a new star in Siakam. All eyes will be on him again to produce a competitive unit in the next campaign.
What team can Toronto field next season?
Siakam and Kyle Lowry were the foundation of the Raptors’ success this term. After Leonard’s departure following the NBA Championship triumph, there was a void on the court for the Raptors. Siakam rose to the occasion brilliantly to become the potent presence that Nurse desperately required.
The 25-year-old averaged 22.9 points per game along with 3.5 assists and 7 total rebounds. He earned his first All-Star berth, justifying the huge contract that the Raptors paid out to secure his services for the next four years.
Lowry was equally outstanding, even at the age of 34, averaging 19.4 points per game – the third highest-scoring season of his career. In the process, he earned his sixth All-Star berth, continuing to deliver for the franchise. They will need all that and more from the point guard and Siakam next term. The two players cannot afford to see their standards drop. VanVleet was an excellent foil for Lowry on the court, but he will attempt to chase a lucrative deal to become the main point guard elsewhere unless the Raptors can match the offer.
Ibaka and Marc Gasol are also free agents, who played a significant role in the Raptors’ 53-win campaign and run to the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. The franchise may be able to keep both men on short-term deals, pushing a potential rebuild down the line. Signing one may give them enough flexibility to tie down VanVleet, but they also need experience and to commit resources to other positions other than a point guard.
OG Anunoby had the moment of the season for Toronto as we detailed at https://www.torontomike.com/anunoby-buzzer/ when his last-second three-pointer against the Celtics stopped his team from dropping to 3-0. The 22-year-old made improvements last season, but Nurse will want to see a lot more from him before deciding to commit to a new deal for the Brit.
Will the Raptors be able to compete once again?
Toronto was beaten by a team on the rise and the Celtics will certainly be a team that will be up there once again in the Eastern Conference. However, there will be value on betting on the Raptors especially if you’re tracking the best betting sites for Canadian fans at https://www.sbo.net/country/canada/. As the season develops, the odds for the Raptors could be a good price for anyone expecting Nurse’s men to bounce back next season, with many sites offering sign-up bonuses and offers to sweeten that. There is also support and guidance for Raptor fans looking to get involved with the betting community.
They went toe-to-toe with Boston and were undone in game seven, while they were proven to have greater consistency during the regular season than the Miami Heat and the Philadelphia 76ers. Only the Milwaukee Bucks had a better record in the Eastern Conference, but their defeat at the hands of the Heat in the post-season has exposed their vulnerabilities. There are suggestions that next year will be Giannis’ final season in Milwaukee and it may result in a trade to ensure that the Bucks cash in on their prized asset or a breaking of the team spirit at the franchise.
With their two stars under contract and more than content in Toronto, the Raptors have a chance to nestle in that top-four spot in the Eastern Conference once again. Once you’re in the playoffs very little matters – as anything is possible. It could lead to a surprise run to the Finals or at the least a deep surge into the post-season. Few people expected it this year, but due to the quality of the coach and the rise of Siakam – Toronto proved their doubters wrong. It would be foolish not to take seriously next season.