Kieran Light ’21
After the Indiana Pacers took down the Cleveland Cavaliers on May 10, 2021, the Toronto Raptors were eliminated from playoff contention for the first time since 2013, thus ending Toronto’s 8-year playoff streak. This was the longest streak across the association. In that time span, it is no question that the Raps were one of the league’s best clubs, having had the 2nd most regular season wins, 12 All-Star selections, 9 series won, and most of all, a chip (with the dip of course). So now that they’re out of the playoffs, that must mean this franchise is heading back to the doldrums of the NBA, right? I’d be wrong in saying that the Raptors are the same team that won the championship two years ago, but I’d also be wrong in saying that they’re a bad team. Let’s just take a step back and look at everything Toronto faced this year. By far the biggest factor that led to the Raptors’ struggles in 2021 was the fact that they did not play a single game at home this year.
Due to Covid-19, the Raptors were forced to play their season in Tampa Bay, so even if the schedule said “Home,” it really wasn’t. In fact, most of the fans that piled into the Amalie Arena were either fans of the Miami Heat or whomever Toronto was facing. It has to be noted how passionate Raptors fans are, not having their energy is a huge blow. Another big reason why Toronto struggled was due to injuries, and more specifically, the health and safety protocols. For those who don’t know, the health and safety protocols of the NBA require that a player or staff member who is a close contact to a positive case must quarantine for a minimum of ten days or roughly five to seven games, which in a shortened schedule like this, is a lot.
The Raptors ended up missing guys like OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, Gary Trent, Chris Boucher, and especially Kyle Lowry, who missed 26 games this season. Before the onslaught of injuries and having to quarantine, the Raptors were fourth in the Eastern conference above playoff teams like Boston, Atlanta, New-York, and Miami. During that time of the season the Raptors beat teams like the stacked Brooklyn Nets, the Milwaukee Bucks, and later in the year they beat the defending champion LA Lakers without three of their starters. The last reason why Toronto struggled was Aaron Baynes who was an anchor holding the Raptors back. He was brought in to be a solid rebounding and defensive presence in the paint who could shoot a few threes but he was the opposite. No positive offensive impact, crowded the paint defensively, and was awful from three. He held everyone back and his negative presence was put on full display when the Raptors signed Khem Birch who had an immediate impact.
So yes, the Raptors are back in the lottery again after they were at the bottom of the league in defensive and offensive efficiency. But things aren’t as bad as it seems as they now have a chance at some great prospects in the lottery like Cade Cunningham or Evan Mobley. Don’t be surprised if Toronto rises back to the top after this season.
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