Why the beginning of this season is so important for the Toronto Raptors

Toronto Raptors - Fred VanVleet (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Fred VanVleet (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Getting off to a good start is often a recipe for success. For the Toronto Raptors, it’s a chance to figure out their status as buyers or sellers come the trade deadline.

The great parable “it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish” has never meant nearly as much to anyone or anything as it has in sports. Competitors start strong and exert all their energy into gaining a lead, they forget that it’s a marathon and not a sprint. While that is true, the Toronto Raptors will use the start of this season to figure just how they want to proceed.

A lot has been made of the Raptors offseason and the acquisitions they have made during free agency, and even more has been made of the loss of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. With those two players, they were NBA champions. Without them – they are still NBA champions, but in a more critical stage of team-building.

While most stages of team building come during the offseason, one of the most important aspects of your team’s construction comes from the moves you make during the season. No one knows that better than the Toronto Raptors, whose successful pursuit of Marc Gasol back in February changed the whole dimension of the team, and ultimately, won them the NBA title.

At that point, the Raptors were surely going to be buyers heading into the trade deadline, such was the quality of the team. The Raptors were second in the Eastern Conference and flying high, yet they knew additions would be needed if the team was to challenge for their first-ever Larry O’Brien trophy.

This season likely sees the Raptors as playoff contenders, probably hanging around between the third and sixth seeds. A talented roster that still boasts the majority of players who won a championship last year, plus a few new interesting pieces, the Raptors will be looking to do all they can to start the season well.

That’s what makes the opening proceedings of the season so interesting. The start of the season really could define what team the Raptors are heading into the trade deadline.


Option one. The ideal preference for the Raptors. A strong start to the season, one where Pascal Siakam can adjust to life as the number one option for the Toronto Raptors early on, and where the rest of the pieces around the roster adjust to large roles.

Five of the Raptors first six games are against Eastern Conference foes. Four of those teams will likely be in the playoffs come the end of the season – or at least roundabout the hunt. Beating those teams early on will give the Raptors an edge, and could be the swinging point heading towards February.

If the Raptors head towards the trade deadline hovering around the third or fourth seed and looking like a strong team, they could decide to hedge their bets and scout the market for a trade that could make the team infinitely better.

A strong start doesn’t necessarily mean a strong finish, but it certainly puts you in a better decision to build chemistry and momentum.


If buying is the ideal scenario, then the Raptors entering the deadline as sellers could be construed as the polar opposite. A poor start to the season could see the Raptors on the outside looking in, or just clinging to a playoff spot with very little hope of progression.

A five-game road trip out West in November could put things into perspective for the Raptors early on, taking on the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers in back-to-back nights could do that to a team.

It might not even come down to the team’s record, though. The Raptors had the second-best record in the NBA when they made the Marc Gasol trade, they could be sitting in the fifth seed and the right offer for the right player could come calling. Then, Masai Ujiri would have a decision to make.

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For the Raptors, getting off to the best possible start could be the best way to head into the deadline as buyers. Teams can get hot after the All-Star break without making moves, but heading into the break in an even better position could leave the Raptors with a plethora of moves.