Toronto Raptors may not have the richest history in the NBA circles, having only debuted in the strongest basketball league in the world in 1995. While they started slowly, much like all expansion teams, the Raptors have gradually earned the reputation as time passed by. The Canadian NBA outfit did not make deep playoff runs all up until the mid-2010s. Inspired by the likes of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, the Raptors built a name in the NBA as this duo suddenly took the team to the stars.
As you all know, the summit of this Toronto rise came in the 2018/19 campaign when they won their only NBA Championship (without DeMar DeRozan in the squad). We will recall the journey to this lone title, as well as the other two magnificent Raptors rosters that could have easily gone all the way themselves with more luck in the post-season. Here are three of the best Toronto Raptors NBA campaigns ever.
The 2017/18 Season
This was the second breakthrough season for Toronto Raptors. It was the campaign that saw the team breaking multiple reasons in the regular season. Finishing the season on a 59-23 (.720) score, Toronto Raptors broke the franchise record for total wins in a single season (previously 56). They have broken the record for the number of total home wins in the campaign (34) along the way and secured the top seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time ever in the process.
Toronto translated such a spectacular form to the first playoffs round, eliminating Washington Wizards in six games. ‘The Wizards were by no means a naïve opposition back then with the likes of John Wall and Bradley Beal in the roster’ said John Pentin, NBA expert of Newjerseysafebetting. Next up were their old rivals Cleveland Cavaliers who had eliminated the Raptors in the previous two playoffs runs. The outcome in this season was the same as the one from the previous (2016/17) campaign when the Cavs swept Toronto in four games. The Raptors thus became the inaugural Conference winner to get swept in the playoffs since the Cavs in 2015 (lost 0-4 to Atlanta Hawks). Unfortunately, the team decided to part ways with a very successful head coach Dwane Casey following this disappointing elimination at the hands of LeBron James and company.
DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry were the ultimate leaders of this team. Only they played more than 30 minutes on average. The former led the team in points (23.0 on average), while the latter contributed with 16.2 points, 6.9 assists, and 5.6 rebounds per game.
The 2015/16 Season
The 2015/16 campaign was Toronto’s first super-serious season in the NBA. The team managed to beat the magic 50-win mark for the maiden time in franchise history with 56 wins in the regular season (56-26). It was enough for the third successive Atlantic Division crown and the second position in the Eastern Conference standings. The Raptors finished the regular season only a single victory shy of Conference champions Cleveland Cavaliers.
Toronto went on to make a remarkable playoffs run in the post-season. They had a tricky rival in the first round as Paul George and Indiana Pacers threatened to eliminate them. Nonetheless, DeMar DeRozan inspired the team’s 89-84 victory in the seventh game in Air Canada Centre, guiding the Raptors to a 4-3 victory overall.
They then played another sensational series against Dwyane Wade and Miami Heat. In an identical scenario to the previous round’s clash against the Pacers, Toronto Raptors advanced after a win in the seventh game on the home floor. They destroyed the Heat 116-89 on the occasion as Kyle Lowry dropped surreal numbers with 35 points and 9 assists. Bismack Biyombo had 16 rebounds on the evening. The fairytale ended in the Eastern Conference finals where LeBron James and Cleveland Cavaliers were too strong, beating the Canadians 4-2. The Raptors just did not have the answer to Cleveland's performances at Quicken Loans Arena on the occasion.
When it comes to overall individual numbers, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry led the field with 23.5 and 21.2 points per game. Jonas Valanciunas and Bismack Biyombo protected the rim very well throughout the entire season.
The 2018/19 Season
A year after the Raptors broke franchise records for the number of wins in the regular season, President Masai Ujiri decided to make a very brave and risky move. He traded the outfit’s top scorer DeRozan (as well as Jakob Poeltl) to the San Antonio Spurs for the likes of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. He also fired Dwane Casey to appoint Nick Nurse as the new head coach. Also, the team started to play the home matches at a renamed Scotiabank Arena. The Raptors went on to change their main center Jonas Valanciunas, trading the Lithuanian big man to Memphis Grizzlies in an exchange for Marc Gasol.
The Raptors had a very similar campaign in the regular season to the one from the previous year. They were one win shy this time around, clinching a 58-24 record which was enough for the second seed in the Eastern Conference standings. The playoffs run was when the party started for the Canadians. They eased past Orlando Magic in five games in the opening round before playing a blockbuster series with the Philadelphia 76ers. The Raptors were regarded as the underdogs against a team packed with stars, including Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler, and Tobias Harris. The series went to seven games as Kawhi Leonard scored one of the biggest shots in the history of the game over Joel Embiid to secure Toronto a huge 92-90 win and the progress to the conference final.
Toronto then went on to beat Giannis Antetokounmpo and Milwaukee Bucks despite losing the opening two games of the series. Inspired by Leonard and Pascal Siakam, the Raptors won four consecutive matches to qualify for their first-ever NBA finals. Finally, Toronto Raptors became the first non-US team to win the NBA Championship by beating Golden State Warriors in six matches.
Kawhi Leonard earned the status of a legend in Toronto despite spending only one season there. He posted incredible numbers throughout the entire season, especially the playoffs when he averaged more than 30 points per match. Also, it is worth noting that Kyle Lowry won his first ring after staying loyal to the team for a decade. Without a doubt, the 2018/19 Raptors were by far the best team in the franchise history.