The summer is definitely a drag for TV viewing.
If you’re not a baseball or CFL fan, there’s not much sports action (Olympics later on aside) and if you like your network TV, there’s not much there either but reruns and a few reality shows.
So lately, I’ve found myself tuning into RaptorsTV more and more. No, it’s still too early for Summer League coverage, and we’re past the draft talks, but RapsTV has been running a nice bunch of "classic" Raptors’ games.
Just last week I saw Toronto’s first ever regular season match, a win over the New Jersey Nets, and the first "Naismith Cup" game pitting the Raps against the Grizz. We’re talking classic stuff here and as someone who was late to the Raptor-party (I was admittedly a Cavs fan until I moved to Toronto from Prince Edward Island), it’s a great refresher as to some of the young franchise’s pivotal moments. At times, I’ll leave the channel on in the background while catching up on housework or talking on the phone, occasionally glancing over to see an Alvin Robertson 3 or a Carlos Rogers dunk.
Watching these vintage games however got me thinking about something yesterday. Toronto has had some pretty bad teams in their history, but have also had a few decent ones. No title contenders or even conference champs, but some squads that could give the opposition a real fight on any given night. Both teams under Bryan Colangelo’s tenure represent the latter arena while a few under the domain of Glen Grunwald do too.
So what about next year’s team? Will this be the best Raptor club we’ve ever seen? And regardless, as a fan, isn’t it great to simply be able to have thoughts like this?
On paper the talent looks pretty solid with three potential all-stars running the show. The bench is no Pistons’ crew from the 80’s, but if players like Andrea Bargnani, Jamario Kris Humphries and Jason Kapono (if he’s not starting) step it up, there is a nice mix of skills. So can this club top both the 2000-01 and 2006-07 editions of the Raptors that won 47 games? And regardless of wins, can this team get past the first round for the first time in over seven years?
It’s early to predict seedings but a quick look around the East shows what should be an improved conference from top to bottom. Consider that:
-The Heat will have a healthy Dwyane Wade and Shawn Marion and a double-double monster in Michael Beasley
-The Bucks will be sporting an improved starting five thanks to the acquisition of Richard Jefferson, not to mention some improved depth off the bench via the draft
-The Bulls should finally have some order through their ranks and depending on who they keep in free-agency, some nice pieces to retool around, especially with Derrick Rose running the show
-The Pacers almost made the playoffs last year and now will have our old friend TJ Ford running their style of run-and-gun basketball. Their bench got deeper too with solid prospects like Rush and Hibbert alongside Rasho Nesterovic
-The 76ers may still use their cap room to grab another star to play alongside an ever-improving group of youngsters
-The Wizards have kept their core together and with a healthy Gilbert Arenas and some improved play from their youth, should be ready for more playoff action
-The Cavs, Magic, Pistons and Celtics probably aren’t going anywhere.
So can Toronto vie for that top spot in the East?
Even the Knicks look to be finally turning the corner although it will probably be some time before they can start thinking playoffs. And I think the worst team in the East next year will be the Bobcats unless the Hawks somehow drop the ball and let the two Josh’s (especially Smith) escape via free agency.
As for the Raptors, right now I think a healthy Toronto team will be a top 3 seed.
Really it’s tough to say though as trades and signings could really change things up. But really that’s not the point of this post. The point is really to consider how great it feels as a fan to be going into next season with such a sense of optimism.
Considering some of the Raptors’ clubs I’ve been watching on TV lately, those days of Vincenzo Esposito and Tony Massenburg luckily seem so far away.