Toronto Raptors Season Review 2015/16: An NBA Championship team in the making
With 3 minutes to go in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, three things were certain, the Raptors were going to be eliminated from the playoffs, the Cavaliers were on their way to their second NBA finals in two years and the Toronto Raptor fans would give its team nothing less than a standing ovation and loud chants of “Lets Go Raptors!” to conclude a historic season. Even Lebron could not help but acknowledge the beauty of that.
As some Raptors players take a much needed time off, others get ready for national duty with the fast approaching Rio 2016 summer Olympics. Whilst the few left get ready to experience free agency and as all of them reminisce, one can’t help but agree that this season definitely tested one thing, the team’s heart. How did they do in this test?
It’s safe to believe that they passed with flying colours! So much so that the team now expects nothing less than its first ever championship trophy.
Let’s look back at the pivotal pieces from this season that made it one to remember and most importantly one for the heart to believe.
2015 playoffs heartbreak
One must bring this dark memory up because the heart does not stop feeling what the mind forgets.
As the Toronto Raptors went into the 2015 playoffs seeded third in the Eastern Conference, very few expected the Raptors to lose the first round to the Washington Wizards let alone a soul crushing 4-0 sweep. Fans were heartbroken, players stumped and the head coach started questioning his position and job role.
But when adversity strikes, there is only one way to look, and that is forward. That is exactly what team GM, Masai Ujiri did. First things first, he trusted head coach Dwayne Casey to get the Raptors back into the playoffs in the upcoming season and gave him a contract extension.
Pivotal New Recruits
Ujiri then took to free agency to bring in veterans that had relentless belief, playoff experience and an immense heart to win. Team culture is all about the personnel that it includes and Masai got to work to help build that straight away.
Corey Joseph – a homecoming
Toronto native, Cory Joseph grew up dreaming about playing for the Toronto Raptors one day. After being part of a championship winning team and in turn graduating from the San Antonio Spurs school of basketball the dream finally came true when he signed with the Raptors to a 4-year contract worth $30 million.
His experience coming off the bench and being a playmaker would help the Raptors throughout the regular season but most importantly during the playoff run this season especially during times when Lowry and DeRogame-tyingot in the best of shooting forms.
DeMarre Caroll – the defensive force
After being cut from the Denver team and a small stint in Utah, Carroll really transformed himself while playing for the Atlanta Hawks where he developed into a rugged yet versatile defender who can shoot down threes with ease at an impressive 39.5 percent. Despite an injury ridden regular season and an average playoff run as far as numbers go, one cannot rule out the experience, heart, and courage that this athlete brings. His best for Toronto is yet to come.
Bismack Biyombo – The one that meant business
When Ujiri signed on Biyombo for a 2 year 6-million deal, Ujiri wanted a marked defenceman. Little must he have expected that Biyombo would become one of the most talked about Raptors player in the post season. Apart from the finger-wagging blocks and efficient rebound grabber, Biyombo has become a favourite in Toronto and Ujiri will have to consider a massive pay raise to ensure Biyombo stays. If a franchise record 26 rebounds against favourites Cleveland Cavaliers in a crucial game 4 of the playoffs is not reason enough then I don’t know what is.
Time to rewrite history books
After an impressive regular season start, the Raptors quickly climbed to the top 2 in the eastern conference points table and there was no looking back. They became quite the force to reckon with and broke several records in the process. The momentum that the team was able to gain definitely gave them the mental confidence to forget about the playoffs last season. Where is just a few noticeable franchise records that this team set this season –
Most wins in a regular season – 56 Wins
Most Home wins in a regular season – 32 Wins
Tied Franchise record for most consecutive wins – 11 Wins
First team to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals
Stats are always a good indicator of a team’s fire and determination and most importantly, heart.