Division champs, Drake and the “Brazilian Kevin Durant” are all items that are associated with the 2014-2015 Raptors. Winning hasn’t been associated with this team since the all Euro- Team of 2006 which included Bosh and Bargnani. A lot has changed since then and for the better. Sure they took their lumps and terrible seasons but for the first time in years there is one word this team has, expectations.
Fresh off winning the Atlantic Division and losing a hard-fought 7 game series loss against the Nets, the expectations for these Raptors are sky-high. Masai Uijiri retained Kyle Lowry, Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez. Kyle Lowry was obviously the main concern. He is often compared to a Pit bull because of his tenacity and aggressiveness.
He carried this team and refused to let them lose. Many teams were after his services but he’s now ready to be the “guy” and is looking to lead this team past the first round. This was a focal point for Uijiri because he wanted to sustain a successful foundation and prove to the fans and the rest of the NBA that players want to play in the “6”.
They filled the needs of a scoring backup guard in Louis Williams and a big win defender in James Johnson. Lou Williams will be huge in giving both Derozan and Lowry rest during back to backs or a long road trip. He isn’t afraid to put up shots and will be a scoring option for that second unit. He averaged 10 points and almost 4 assists a game for Atlanta last season. Joe Johnson killed the Raptors in their seven game series and the Raptors were in need of someone who can guard big scoring wings.
Bringing in Johnson will allow for Demar and T-Ross to guard players in their position and stay out of foul trouble. There were rumors of Dwayne Casey and Johnson not seeing eye to eye when Johnson was played for Raptors but that relationship is repaired
The great unknown is Bruno Caboclo and whether he is ”two years away from being two years away”.
Uijiri made the most shocking pick of this year’s draft and it had many experts and fans scratching their heads.
The Raptors haven’t had the greatest luck or decision-making in previous drafts. Many fans were wondering if we were ever going to see the “Brazilian Kevin Durant” ever play but they should get small doses of Bruno in real NBA games this year.
The 6’9 205 pound Brazilian with a 7’7 wingspan participated in summer league and showed he has potential and has a burning passion for the game. He averaged 11 points and 3 rebounds.
His potential is shown in these clips:
[youtube id=”CIq6wM6lHUg” width=”620″ height=”360″]
Bulking up and getting used to the physicality of the NBA will be two of the many things that Bruno will have to do to be successful in the League. The Raptors filled out their roster with summer league stud Will Cherry and swing-man Jordan Hamilton (former Uijiri draft pick). These two pickups replaced Dwight Buycks and Julyan Stone.
The man in charge of all these men is Dwayne Casey. He is fresh off signing a contract extension of three years worth around 3.75 million dollars and looking to build on the success of last year. He brought a defensive attitude and got people to buy in and play for each other.
This mentality did not exist before Casey got there and #WetheNorth nation is grateful for this. He will have sky-high expectations for this team and that should bring the best out of everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re an all-star or a rookie, Casey will make sure their held accountable.
The word for the Raptors is “Expectations” and it is their job to live up to these expectations set by fans, media and management.
They are no longer the hunters but the hunted. Fighting to be top three in the East and advance past the first round is expected now. Demar, Amir, T-Ross and Jonas know what playoff basketball is all about now and will be ready for future encounters.
They need to be ready for a battle every night. The 2014-2015 campaign should be exciting, competitive and eyes will be on them to make the Eastern Conference Finals.