Raptors Wrap: So Many Questions
A sad, quick postseason has wrapped up with a 125-94 loss to Washington Sunday night.
The dismantling of the Raptors was so convincing and so hopeless that an entire fandom is still in a stupor after losses piled up so quickly following a franchise-best season.
Showing a lack of heart and hustle that characterized Toronto in the post-Rudy Gay era, the Raptors never caught up to the Wizards first step and left with little to be optimistic about.
“Last year we left on a high. At least kind of a high,” Kyle Lowry told media at the end-of-season press conference. “But this year it was just disappointing. It sucks, to be honest.”
Most notable in the frustration was All-Star Kyle Lowry unable to make shots, direct the team, or even stay on the floor as a result of frequent foul trouble.
It was emblematic of the team’s effort as a whole – couldn’t shoot, couldn’t defend, couldn’t rebound, couldn’t compete. The wind was out of their sails completely.
Lowry’s injuries included a strained back that forced him to miss nine of the last 14 games, a shin contusion that ended his Game 2 early, and the fatigue of a long season where he emerged as a leader by example and carried the load.
But for his part, when asked if he was healthy the whole series he said “Yep. I don’t make excuses, I gave my all.”
At the press conference the Raptors held back at the ACC Monday morning, the players stuck up for each other and Coach Casey and voiced their support for their collective identity, but their wide-eyed expressions and hesitant answers made you believe they think the axe is going to fall somewhere.
Optimism that held GM Masai Ujiri’s hand at the trade deadline in February won’t hold it this summer. Expect a number of new faces and veteran presences in Raptor uniforms next season.
That first step that Washington got found the Raptors flatfooted and they never recovered. The hardest job now is getting the wheels to catch again and find a way to build momentum.
If there is no wind, row.
The questions start mounting now…
Is DeMar DeRozan a perennial All-Star when healthy? Can he lead a team through a playoff round as the primary option on offence? Can he facilitate for his teammates?
Will Amir Johnson’s role as heart and soul accept a discount to come off the bench? Can he stay healthy much longer? Is Patrick Patterson the starter of the future?
Where does the James Johnson experiment go? Is there something between him and Dwane Casey that prevents his playing time?
Can the Raptors afford to invest in Lou Williams’s all-time high stock? Or can his minutes be distributed to Greivis Vasquez who is already under contract? Who has a better impact on the team?
What will wake Terrence Ross out of his general malaise? Will he start getting to the free-throw line? Can he be a starter and emerge as a star?
When will Jonas Valanciunas start recognizing opponent’s offensive sets and reacting on defence? Will he always be a step slow? Can he assert himself enough on offence to stay on the floor in crunch time situations?
Will a full-time backup PG help Lowry stay healthy and energized through an entire season? Can he keep up with the elite point guards in the modern NBA? Can he drive a team with his pace-setting and distributing as more of a leader on the court?
Can Dwane Casey force a defensive mentality on these shoot-first gunners? Could they move the ball and move off the ball to generate better shots?
The answers may never come to light completely, but we’ll know so much more next season.
It’s a long time to wait and watch and build but hopefully the 2016 playoffs will feature a real fire under Toronto’s butts, started from this sweep and used to fuel results.