It's still August, so this particular exercise will probably sound cruel, but here goes: Where will the Toronto Raptors be in 12 months? Yes, next August. If you answered "chilling in the off-season", you'd be correct. But, for the sake of argument, let's trace out the two main possibilities; one, a reasonably optimistic goal, and the other, a dark timeline into despair. Sounds fun? Let's get to it.
Reasonably Optimistic Goal
After a long season of hard fought victories and minor setbacks, the Raptors find themselves in the summer having completed the franchise's most successful season to date. By August 2015 we'll be looking back fondly at the first 50+ win season in franchise history, and another Atlantic Division title - the team's third. Raptors fans will still have unlimited trust in General Manager Masai Ujiri, and complete faith in Dwane Casey. The team's foundation in 12 months will be extremely solid.
Oh, there will be some disappointment, sure. The Raps will remain a ways away from winning the NBA title (just a heads up: the Spurs repeat in this scenario). Despite some much needed national TV exposure, they'll likely lose a tough second round playoff matchup against the Bulls or Cavaliers. But, the team will still have its young nucleus under contract and playing hungry. Kyle Lowry will by this time have his first All-Star appearance under his belt, with DeMar DeRozan joining him for his second. We'll have enjoyed Terrence Ross's third Slam Dunk contest, and perhaps seen Amir Johnson and Patrick Patterson's name pop up on some All-Defense and Sixth Man Award ballots, respectively. And of course, by next summer we'll all be on the edge of our seat, waiting to welcome Jonas Valanciunas into the upper echelon of the NBA. Let me tell you, it'll be some time to be alive.
But roll the dice with me here, and let's contemplate the nightmare scenario.
Dark Timeline Into Despair
Here's where it all goes wrong. Hang in there, we're going to get through this together. In 12 months, rather than rise to the upper tier of the Eastern Conference, the Raptors find themselves once again on the outside looking in. Not even the darkest timeline can envision a future where the Raps don't make the playoffs next year, so we'll have to assume that in this scenario, the team managed to draw a first round opponent that shocked them into an early round exit. (I'm conjuring images of Lance Stephenson's Hornets calmly blowing them aside.)
Maybe injuries played a factor in the season's ultimate undoing, maybe some of the younger players didn't quite make the leap as expected, or maybe our renewed faith and optimism were misplaced. (Toronto sports fans in general have been there.) I don't know. In fact, I'm not sure I want to think about it anymore. The existential horror of this thought experiment is wearing me out.
Let's stay positive and go with the original answer: In 12 months the Toronto Raptors will be chilling in the off-season.
What a relief.