This is the most fun Toronto Raptors team of all time

Toronto Raptors - Pascal Siakam (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Pascal Siakam (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

This years Toronto Raptors are the most fun edition of the team we’ve seen in their 25 years of existence. Why is it that this year feels even better than last years historic team?

The internet is filled with joyful compilation videos of people celebrating the Toronto Raptors 2019 NBA championship victory. The videos show people exploding into jubilant displays of love and affection to those they were watching the game with. They paint a picture of a joyful, carefree title win.

They make the season feel like something you wanted to be a part of which may be true in hindsight but was certainly not the case while the journey unfolded.

Every Raptors fan with an understanding of the history of the team was undone when they opened their playoff run by losing a Game 1 contest against the lowly Orlando Magic. It was impossible to separate the baggage of heartbreaking Raptors loses from the reality of how well the team was performing in the moment. The reason why Kawhi Leonard’s Game 7 bouncing buzzer-beater shot is so revered by Toronto fans is that the team’s history tells them how rarely those types of bounces go the Raptors way.

There’s a group of faithful fans who spent the final seconds of the 2018-2019 playoffs dissolving into a puddle of relief rather than exploding into a celebration of joy.

The Raptors team from last year was a lot of good things but fun was not one of them.

Thankfully, the title win from last year acted the same as setting off a pressure relief valve in an emergency scenario would. Toronto Raptors fans came out in droves for the championship parade and they used the event as an opportunity to blow off all the steam that had accumulated over decades of heartbreak.

This has allowed a clean state for this year’s edition of the Raptors. With the championship win and the departure of star player Kawhi Leonard, there are virtually no expectations. Fans have entered the season content to just have a victory lap, hoping to make it down to Scotiabank Arena for the opportunity to gaze up at the championship banner they felt they played a small part in earning.

Many media outlets wrote off the defending NBA champions coming into the season. Some analysts comically predicted the Raptors may even miss the playoffs all together.

The only people who weren’t content to do a victory lap it seems, were the actual players left on the Raptors roster. The 2019-2020 Raptors have burst out to an 18-8 record turning ESPN power ranking polls to into Old Takes Exposed fodder on Twitter.

It’s not just the great play and energetic nature of Toronto’s fast start to the season that makes them so loveable, however, it’s the backstories of the players they are doing it with.

Aside from rarely seen bench player Stanley Johnson, there isn’t a single lottery pick player on the team. At this point, I’m convinced the Raptors could develop me into a solid rotational guy if they needed it.

In fact, I’m not sure Masai Ujiri is even aware that Duke and Kentucky exist. I don’t think he has ever watched a March Madness game. He’s the only guy who makes sure to fill out his Conference USA tournament bracket each year and he could give you a full breakdown of every minute last year’s thrilling Round of Eight tilt between Old Dominion and Louisiana Tech.

While most teams in the NBA are dead set on trading away all their assets and setting themselves up to lose in the hopes of striking rich on lottery picks, the Raptors have rewarded their fan bases patience by developing late draft picks from places like New Mexico and Witchita State in star players.

Even their coach is a loveable underdog. Nick Nurse went from leading a team called the “London Towers”, to wearing his own branded hats, performing guitar solos at sold-out Arkells shows and getting massaged by Drake as he leads his team to an NBA championship.

Nurse’s development into a legit coaching force was seen earlier this season when he strategically and publicly called out newcomers Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson for not buying into the Raptors team culture. It was a move that motivated Hollis-Jefferson to bring his all every night and has led Stanley Johnson to ah… spend a lot of time on the bench.

This move, however, embodies what this Raptors season is all about. The team and their coach know they are playing with house money. Nurse and the rest of the Raptors know they can take risks, they are playing like a team not afraid to fail.

For all the ways last seasons playoff run made Raptors fan feel undone, this season is making fans experience the feeling of being made new. Stress stacked up at the same rate as playoff wins last season. Every step closer to the ultimate goal also brought fans closer to ultimate heartbreak.

This year is different. Raptors fans are able to watch Pascal Siakam develop into a superstar without a nagging voice telling them that this city is just a stepping stone to a more significant team. The familiar fear of “this is too good to be true” has all but vanished when we watch players like Fred VanVleet take steps forward in his career.

Those who watched the Raptors win a championship with a roster fit for the island of misfit toys are not surprised when undrafted free agents like Terence Davis perform at a high level.

In a season of no expectations, they Raptors have proved they are a team worthy of high hopes. They have continued to do what won them a championship in the first place. They have adapted, developed and they continue to play like they have a lot to prove.

Next. How Stanley Johnson can earn minutes for the Toronto Raptors. dark

Those that couldn’t find joy in the final moments of last season are finding it in every win this season. They are finding that fun in faulty power rankings and in being counted out yet again. Every small victory, every seemingly insignificant win this year feels like a tiny little championship celebration all over again. It all icing on the cake, it’s all jubilant.

This year, Toronto Raptors are a lot of good things and fun is certainly one of them.