Led by Cameroon’s finest forward Pascal Siakam, the gritty and do-it-all mentality of guard team leader Kyle Lowry, veteran bigs Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, and resurgent guards playing the best basketball of their careers in Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell, the Raptors have strutted to an impressive 46-18 record.
Despite being plagued with injuries throughout the entirety of the regular season, the emergence of undrafted rookie Terence Davis, the energy of big man Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and a sprinkling of G-League alum Chris Boucher, among others, have been able to right the damaged ship.
Averaging career-highs across the board with 23.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game, Pascal Siakam has truly lived up to the billing (and his lucrative extension signed last summer) and stepped up to be a true number one scoring option on a winning team. Earning a starting spot on this year’s All-Star team, he has officially cemented himself as one of the league’s brightest stars.
Not bad for a guy who didn’t play a single minute of organized basketball till the age of 18, and who just two years prior, was averaging 7.3 points per game and bricking most of his three-point launches.
Charge-drawing enthusiast and eternally under-appreciated All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry has kept doing his thing this year. Remaining consistent statistically while upping his points and assists per game averages. While he isn’t the flashiest point guard we’ve ever seen, by God, not many guards around the league possess the skillset he has.
Whether it be his role as the floor general of this team, his innate ability to dive for loose balls, the knack to cash in the most ridiculous of three-point attempts, and his already mentioned charge-drawing prowess, he is the perfect fit to this Toronto Raptors team. Gritty and stable, coupled with the occasional explosion — such as his 32-point, 8-rebound, 10-assist effort in the 30-point comeback win over the Mavericks in late December — he is the quintessential Raptor.
Reminder: He’s 34 years old!
The Emerging Guards
Although injuries kept slowing him down this year, Milwaukee’s most hated man Norman Powell was having a career season, averaging 16.4 points per game and shooting a very respectable 50.8 percent from the field and 39.8 percent from downtown. Ladies and gentlemen, he is finally having his coming out party.
Similarly, despite also hampered by shoulder issues, fellow G-League alum Fred VanVleet has also had a career-best season, scoring 17.6 points and dishing out 6.6 assists per game. In a contract year (he will become an unrestricted free agent this offseason), he will most definitely have his fair share of suitors come this October.
The Veteran Big Men
By the same token, big men Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka are also set to become unrestricted free agents. While Big Spain isn’t what he once was down in Memphis, he is still a key piece to the puzzle as his ball distribution and defensive prowess will be instrumental to another deep playoff run (see: Marc Gasol’s defensive highlights against Joel Embiid).
On the other hand, mid-range and fashion artist Ma Fuzzy Chef has seen a slight uptick to his overall statistics, also improving his three-point efficiency by more than 10 percent, knocking down long-range shots at a 39.8 clip. Despite looming questions regarding their long-term futures, both have been key to the Toronto Raptors’ success this year.
The Bench Mob
A staple of years past, the Toronto Raptors depth has been as strong as it has ever been. The likes of flashy rookie point guard Terence Davis, tenacious defenders OG Anunoby and Pat McCaw, energetic Hustle Man Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, athletic forward Chris Boucher and three-point sniper Matt Thomas have all played instrumental roles in this year’s injury-stricken team.
Serge Ibaka’s fashion sidekick OG Anunoby has already risen to the starting lineup, proving his worth as a poor man’s Kawhi. Lastly, as this year’s newcomers, both Davis and Hollis-Jefferson have been surprisingly excellent off the bench and in their spot starts, not bad for an undrafted free agent rookie and for a guy who was dumped by the Nets last summer.