Why Toronto fans must believe in Masai Ujiri’s smart rebuild

Birds of prey are a work in progress. Photo from The Athletic.

The Toronto Raptors have been through a lot in the last 18 months.

After beating the Utah Jazz in March 2020, they went 46-18 – with a high chance of retaining the championship – they faced turmoil, playing their entire Covid-hit season in Tampa Bay.

They lost Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol, Kohi Leonard, Norman Powell and Kyle Lowry while the front office was pivotal in the rebuilding.

But with clear new strategy in place and the Nick Nurse’s championship-winning genius to lead, there’s every reason to be on top of this outfit in Toronto.

New look from Raptors

Gone are the days of the traditional 1-5 lineup north of the border – the vast majority of the crew are between 6’7 and 6’9, they can protect any position on the field, and most of the time they can shoot.

If all goes right, this is a basketball revolution. But it will take some time – and Toronto fans will have to be patient while the franchise works itself out.

Just two years ago, the tournament reached 6ix for the first time. But only four players – Fred Vanfleet, Og Anonubi, Pascal Siakam and Chris Boucher – remained from the 2019 list.

With the front office struggling to attract free, high-profile clients to Toronto, Masai Ujiri tries to roughen the diamonds.

Barnes looks like he’s stealing

Scotty Barnes—who expected very few Raptors to take this year’s draft—was a revelation. It’s exactly the kind of player, besides OG Anunoby, that this strategy will be built around. It was completed by Toronto’s Dalano Banton – who, in pick 46, looks like he’s already stealing a drag night.

But there are others, too. Forever underestimated in Miami, Precious Achiuwa is fixing Toronto’s perennial recovery issues. Gary Trent Jr. appears closed off on defense. The Khem Birch continues to be a smart pickup, while the likes of Goran Dragic and Svi Mikhaylyuk contribute their expertise and shoot them off the bench.

The Raptors may have started 1-3, but there is every reason to believe in this team going forward.

Whether this year ends as a development season, or if they make their way into the playoffs, Toronto fans can believe once again.

We broke down the Raptors roster and previewed the campaign on our podcast Balling In The 6ix – Toronto Raptors’ number one podcast based in the UK. You can find us at Twitteror Facebook or our website. You can listen to our latest episodes on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or any major streaming platform.

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