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All the Raptors want for Christmas is a real shot at the big time

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It’s the week before Christmas, and all through the house, the Raptors are doing quite well thank you very much.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Charlotte Hornets Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

In case you missed the news today, here’s the official word from Tom Ziller, of Good Morning It’s Basketball fame, on this year’s version of the Toronto Raptors. Go have a read and then let’s reconvene in the next paragraph.

[waits a few minutes]

Did you check out that headline? Can you believe it? As it turns out — brace yourselves for this — the Raptors... are fun and good! In fact, according to our man Ziller, this may be the best version of the Raptors in... forever???

Now, I don’t mean to sound belligerent here — this is supposed to be a post done in the positive spirit of the holidays — but I also just can’t help myself. Heading into this season, the Raptors were largely being written off. Kyle Lowry was too old, Serge Ibaka was suspect, DeMar DeRozan would never change, and who knew about all these young guys. (And obviously Jonas Valanciunas was supposed to be the coal in this team’s stocking.) The general consensus was that the Raptors would still be decent, but probably slip a bit while taking a step backward from their previous season (and a sizable jump back from the heights of 2016).

Ah, but look at this, it’s a Christmas miracle! As Ziller notes, the Raptors have the third best net ranking in the league (and it puts them closer to Golden State and Houston than fourth place Boston). Their defense has been stifling at times, which ranks them sixth in the league. And their offense, meanwhile, is fourth best. I mention this part last because, well, the Raptors have had a high-ranked offense before and it hasn’t always meant that much. [cue sad violins as 2014-15 montage plays]

This year however, the Raptors are playing the Right Way — more buckets in the paint, way more threes, more passes around the court (and out of double teams) to the open man, to the roll man, to any man. The stars have bought in, the rotation flashes 12 deep, and the options appear endless in Toronto. One night it’s Lowry kicking ass, another it’s DeRozan calmly destroying a team’s soul, and then on yet another night it’s a random show from Fred VanVleet or rookie OG Anunoby, or hell, Valanciunas! I love it, is my point.

The Raptors have remodelled their entire sense of identity this year compared to last. The culture reset, or change, or whatever you want to call it, has worked. The Raptors are fun and good and will likely continue to put pressure on the Celtics and Cavaliers for the top spot in the East. (And for the record, I absolutely think they are better than Boston.) What more do they need? What more could they desire as a basketball gift as we head into 2018?

Just this: to be taken seriously, to be given credit, to be acknowledged not as a fluke or a sideshow, a team to be brushed aside when the big times come. This Raptors team is for real — they believe it, we believe it, and hopefully when the post-season arrives, they’ll get their shot to prove it to everyone else. That’s what they want, that’s what we want, and that’s it.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays.