A new season brings renewed hope for the Raptors

The NBA is officially back in Canada for the first time since before the pandemic.

The Toronto Raptors opened their 2021-22 season on Oct. 20, with a 98-83 loss to the Washington Wizards, marking the first time the franchise played a regular season game in Toronto since all the way back on Feb. 28, 2020.

After finishing out the 2020 playoffs in a bubble setting in Disney world, and playing every home game in Tampa Bay last year, Canada’s only team is finally once again allowed to cross the border and play in their home city for the upcoming campaign. Th0ugh the excitement is palpable around the country for having the Raptors back home, a lot has changed with the makeup of the roster during their year-and-a-half long odyssey.

Only four players remain from the team that last played a game in Toronto; OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and Chris Boucher. Most of the players from the 2019 championship run are gone, including franchise legend Kyle Lowry, and this new season looks to be ushering in a new era for the squad.

So, what are the team’s realistic expectations for the year?

For one, this new team is going to get up and down, play hard, and play defense. Stocked to the brim with youth and athleticism, it’s clear that former Coach of the Year Nick Nurse is going to put an emphasis on the defensive side of the ball.

With the addition of defensive minded newcomer Scottie Barnes, the 2021 fourth overall pick in the NBA draft, along with Precious Achiuwa who was acquired from Miami, Toronto has a chance to be one of the very best defensive teams in the league.

A full season with combo guard Gary Trent Jr. along with the addition of veteran Goran Dragic should plug at least some of the void left by Lowry’s departure, and having the home crowd advantage back from a great fan base should definitely be worth a couple extra wins as well.

The issue will be scoring. There isn’t a lot of one-one-one shot creation readily available on this roster, and if team’s can slow them down and force them to play in the halfcourt, things could get bogged down. This problem will only be exacerbated by the fact that Siakam, the team’s best offensive talent, will begin the season on the sidelines with a shoulder injury.

Though they won’t be competing for a championship again any time soon, this team will be young, hungry, and provide plenty of high-flying highlights.

My prediction for the season is a record of 41-41, ultimately missing the playoffs by a small margin. After last year’s dismal season in Tampa Bay, these Raptors will definitely be more exciting to watch at the very least. There’s a long way to go for this team to return to prominence, but a feeling of hope surrounding the Toronto Raptors has returned to the fans and the organization, one that hasn’t been felt in a year and a half.

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Eddie Huband
Multimedia Reporter
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