We look into our crystal ball to see what is in store for the next decade of Toronto Raptors basketball.
An exciting decade of Toronto Raptors basketball has come to a close. In the span of 10-years, the Raptors evolved from NBA bottom feeders to league champions.
The 2010s will likely be remembered as the most important decade of Raptors basketball. Finally, after 24-years of waiting, the team made it to the top of the NBA mountain.
Another important of Raptors' history that took shape was the "We The North" movement. A simple slogan went from being a catchy marketing ploy to a true identity, a rallying cry.
It is safe to say that uprising did indeed occur over the past 10-years -- a "northern uprising." The "We The North" movement is in full effect and does not appear to be cooling off anytime soon.
January 1st, 2010 was a time of uncertainty for the Toronto Raptors. Nobody could have predicted the success the team would find. However, as 2020 begins the Raptors are poised for success, hotter than ever before.
With a new decade on the horizon, there is no better time to make some predictions for the next 10-years than the present. It is impossible to correctly predict the future however, this is a good place to start.
Our predictions include a passing of the torch, the end of an era, a homecoming, and much more. If we had to make a few guesses, these are just some things that are on the horizon for the Toronto Raptors.
The last 10 years will be looked upon fondly forever. But, in the meantime, it is time to look towards the future.
Kyle Lowry retires as a member of the Toronto Raptors
The greatest Raptor of all time will retire with the team, you heard it here first. This means that he will finish his playing career with the Raptors and ride off into the sunset in Toronto. None of that one-day deal stuff.
Kyle Lowry signed an extension that will extend his stay in Toronto until the summer of 2021. However, it seems likely that Lowry will stay with the Raptors beyond that, at least on a short-term deal.
The next contract Kyle Lowry signs very well could be his last. But as it stands, the 33-year old has aged like a fine wine.
This season he is averaging 20.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 7.4 assists. He is not showing signs of slowing down anytime soon, shooting 41-percent from the field and 36-percent from three.
On July 1st, 2021 Lowry will hit free agency at 35-years old. Toronto must avoid getting locked into a pricy long-term deal.
This is not to say that when Lowry becomes a free agent he will be an average player. Others in the 33-plus category such as J.J. Redick and Andre Igoudala have more than proved they still belong in the league.
A best-case scenario situation for Lowry's upcoming contract would be to sign him to a team-friendly three-year deal with an opt-out in the final year. This way the Raptors can ride out Lowry's eventual slow decline and decide what to do next when he hits free agency again at age 37.
Toronto's front office will need to take a cautious approach in this situation. Fred VanVleet is coming up on a contract year and at 25-years old he could be hungry for a starting spot elsewhere. However, it could be a deal sweetener for VanVleet to stay in Toronto knowing that eventually, he will be the keyholder to the Raptors offense.
Kyle Lowry has long been open about his desire to stay in Toronto long-term. In addition, he just captured his first championship ring which lowers the threat of him leaving in pursuit of a title. It seems unlikely he would leave the Raptors to chase a ring but, stranger things have happened.
If you were worried about Lowry leaving and playing elsewhere, you should not be. The greatest Raptor of all time is going to finish his career in Toronto.
Pascal Siakam will be a five-time All-Star by the end of the decade
Pascal Siakam is already playing like an All-Star. Siakam is averaging career-highs across the board with 25.1 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game. It seems all but certain Siakam will earn his All-Star nod.
At 25-years of age, Siakam is entering the prime of his career. He is poised to be at the forefront of the next generation of NBA superstars.
The biggest test in Siakam's quest to become a multi-time All-Star will be his ability to carry a team. Siakam has shared the court with players such as Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry throughout his young career. At some point in the near future, he will be tasked with carrying the load on his own.
However, the Raptors' focus is clear, he is their centerpiece. In today's NBA it is important to have at least two All-Stars, the Raptors arguably have three.
Another question that must be addressed is how long will Pascal Siakam be able to produce at this level? It is entirely possible he burns out by age 30, or has a minor regression next season.
In all likelihood, if Siakam keeps this level of play up he could be a five-time All-Star by 2025. Kyle Lowry is currently riding a five-year All-Star streak which means a similar streak is not impossible.
Another important factor that will work in Siakam's favor is fan support. The Raptors' faithful always gets behind their stars.
With an exceptional skill set and superstar potential already showing, 2020 will be the first but certainly not last All-Star game for Pascal Siakam.
Andrew Wiggins comes home
Andrew Wiggins donning a Toronto Raptors jersey is a dream scenario Canadian basketball fans have flirted with since he entered the league. However, after a few average seasons, the hype around Wiggins to the Raptors has cooled off.
A former Rookie Of The Year winner, Wiggins has not yet realized his potential as a franchise-altering talent. But, who is saying that he will not?
Wiggins is currently in the midst of a career turnaround, and all being well, this season could prove to be a turning point for him.
The former Kansas Jayhawk is averaging 24.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game. Wiggins also currently ranks 14th in the league in scoring. However, this is not about his current production.
Toronto is unlikely to have the assets to acquire Wiggins in a trade anytime soon. A potential Wiggins homecoming would have to wait until 2023.
The year 2023 is going to be important for the Raptors. Pascal Siakam will be entering the final year of his contract the following season. Toronto would potentially also have to make a decision on Kyle Lowry which, we put forward earlier in this article.
Adding Andrew Wiggins to their roster in the summer of 2023 would make the Raptors strong contenders. A trio of Fred VanVleet (assuming he is still around), Pascal Siakam, and Andrew Wiggins would be a force in the Eastern Conference, if Wiggins stays on his current trajectory.
We're willing to bet that by age 28 Wiggins will have developed into an elite talent. However, even if he does not, he could still be a highly valuable complementary piece to Toronto's core.
At one point the man was dubbed "Maple Jordan." It is only fitting that he suits up for Canada's lone NBA team at some point in the next decade.
Toronto Raptors win another championship
When the 2010s began the Raptors were far from where they are now. In fact, the Raptors' playoff appearance in the 2013-2014 season was their first of the decade and first since 2008.
Over the past 10 years, a championship culture has been built in Toronto. Canada's lone NBA franchise is no longer at the bottom of the league.
A key ingredient in the Raptors' quest for another championship will be attracting star players. Toronto, despite the cold winters, is viewed by many as a favorable playing destination.
Unlike a decade ago, the Raptors can attract stars. They have one of the top coaches in the league, a winning culture, and an extremely promising young core.
Pascal Siakam is already starting to emerge as a top-level talent. Fred VanVleet on the other hand, may not be in the same tier as Siakam but he is a tremendous complementary piece. In addition, a player such as Terence Davis could turn out to be another diamond in the rough stud for the Raptors.
One generation of stars is reaching the peak of their careers, while another is just getting started. The landscape of the NBA as we know it is bound to look different as the next decade progresses.
It took Toronto 24-years and a lot of heartbreak along the way before winning their first championship. However, as the 2020s approach, the Raptors are primed to add another championship to their resume.
Passing of the torch in the front office
At some point in the next decade, Masai Ujiri will pass the torch to Bobby Webster. Eventually, the lure of another exciting project will lure him out of Toronto.
Losing Masai Ujiri would not be a total loss. Sure, the 49-year old has been large in part responsible for the Raptors rebuild and subsequent championship victory.
However, Ujiri did not do it alone. Enter Bobby Webster.
In June of 2017, Webster was promoted to general manager of the Toronto Raptors. At the time, he was the youngest general manager in the NBA.
Webster is 35-years old. At some point, despite all the success he is likely going to want to prove that he can run a team on his own.
Currently, the Toronto Raptors front office runs the team like a well-oiled machine. Having both Webster and Ujiri is identical to a scenario many teams in the league see on the court. Two top-tier talents who play the same position but eventually, the younger player may grow to want the starting job.
It is not often that a top-level executive and an NBA franchise mutually part ways. However, if and when Masai Ujiri receives an offer he cannot refuse, the Raptors should allow him to take it.
Letting one of the NBA's premier strategists walk away sounds obscure. But unlike most teams, the Toronto Raptors have another highly coveted front-office man who is eager and hungry to lead this team into the distant future.
Before the 2020s end, the torch will be passed from Masai Ujiri to Bobby Webster. Allowing the latter to take full reign of the Toronto Raptors.
Raptors miss out on the Greek Freak
If you were expecting the popular "Giannis to Toronto" theory here, you will be disappointed. The Raptors are going to make a strong case but in the end, Giannis Antetokounmpo will choose to stay in Milwaukee.
One of the biggest factors that have linked 25-year old to Toronto is his pre-existing relationship with Masai Ujiri. The Raptors President of Basketball Operations helped Giannis' family secure Greek citizenship. In addition, it is no secret that Ujiri wanted to trade into the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft to pick him up.
Antetokounmpo has often stated how he feels that playing in a small market has helped his career. In a 2017 article by Marc Stein of the New York Times he said:
“I’m a low-profile guy,” Antetokounmpo said. “I don’t like all these flashy cities like L.A. or Miami. I don’t know if I could be the same player if I played in those cities.”
Toronto is not necessarily L.A. or Miami but it has the big city vibe. Plus, in Toronto, it would be all eyes on Giannis, all the time. Toronto is also a much bigger market to play in than Milwaukee.
His current team can also offer him a five-year $247 million contract. How would you be able to decline that much money all while leaving a market where you are already comfortable and successful?
The Raptors will make an ultra-competitive pitch. They'll be able to offer him the opportunity to play alongside their young stars. Plus, as Giannis witnessed first hand in the 2018 postseason, the entire country of Canada would embrace him the way it embraced Kawhi Leonard.
However, try as they might the Raptors will fail to land the "Greek Freak." The lure of a record-setting contract and the ability to stay where he is already comfortable will be too much for Antetokounmpo to turn down.
Antetokounmpo loves Milwaukee, and Milwaukee loves him. He has also always vocal about wanting to build a winner there. It just feels as though he will not be able to abandon what he has started with the Bucks.
When the summer of 2021 comes around it would be shocking to see Giannis Antetokounmpo sign anywhere other than Milwaukee.