It was only a few seasons ago that the Toronto Raptors were celebrating the first NBA title in team history. The team was riding high, as was the entire country of Canada who was supporting their only team in the NBA.
Fast forward to the pandemic-altered 2020-2021 season, and things were a lot different. The Raptors missed the NBA playoffs for the first time in eight years, finishing with a really bad record of 27-45.
The team had a lot of injuries to deal with throughout the season, in addition to all the increased COVID-19 protocols that the league put in place. One of the toughest things they had to do was play all their home games in Florida, since Canada wasn’t allowing free travel back and forth with the United States.
The Raptors are now fully into offseason preparation mode for the 2021-2022 season, with the hopes of returning to glory soon. As people are looking at betting on NBA games in the upcoming season, here are some offseason predictions for the Toronto Raptors.
Pascal Siakam Will Stay with the Team
The Raptors are in a complete rebuild. The team’s long-time point guard, Kyle Lowry, already headed to the Miami Heat this offseason. The team also selected fourth overall in the NBA draft, taking Scottie Barnes from Florida State.
Forward Kawhi Leonard departed only a few seasons ago, and now not much of that championship team core is still with the team. Except for Pascal Siakam — for now.
There have been a lot of rumors swirling around the future of Siakam in Toronto, but the team’s ownership and management have all said that the centerpiece of the team will remain with the Raptors. It’s very likely that Siakam will start the season with the Raptors, but it’s quite possible that he won’t finish it with them.
The Raptors can take two routes here. Either they can have Siakam lead a young roster as it grows, or they can trade him for assets that could be part of the next championship core. The likely scenario is he sticks around in Toronto for the better part of the 2021-2022 season.
Goran Dragic Another Trade Chip
The Raptors are in good position for a full rebuild because they have another solid potential trade chip in Goran Dragic. The Raptors acquired Dragic along with Precious Achiuwa from the Miami Heat as part of the sign-and-trade agreement for Lowry in the offseason.
Immediately after they acquired Dragic, though, the rumors started swirling that the Raptors would either buyout or trade him for more assets. The Raptors have said they wouldn’t buy out Dragic, though, even though there’s a lot of interest from the Dallas Mavericks to sign him.
At 35 years old, Dragic doesn’t fit Toronto’s rebuilding timeline, nor does his salary of $19.4 million. That being said, he could certainly serve as trade bait leading up to the start of the season, or even as it’s underway.
It’s not certain how much the Raptors could get in return for a 35-year-old player making that much money, but at least they wouldn’t lose him for nothing. Look for the Raptors to shop him around the league a lot.
The Playoffs Don’t Look Good
The Raptors still have some solid leftover talent from their championship team and some young upstart players who are looking to make a name for themselves. Despite this, though, it’s still unlikely that Toronto will seriously challenge for a spot in the NBA playoffs.
The rest of the Eastern Conference is improving from top to bottom. Teams that were bottom feeders not long ago, such as the Charlotte Hornets, have made a lot of improvements in recent years, making it even more difficult for a team like the Raptors to have a lot of success.
Most experts believe that the Raptors will struggle mightily again in the 2021-2022 season. That will be especially true if they end up trading away Siakam and/or Dragic at some point before the end of the year.
The safe bet is that the Raptors may make some strides here and there, and show some future promise, but that they will be picking in the lottery in the NBA Draft next summer.
While fans and management may not like to hear that, it’s probably the best path for the team forward as they look to build a long-term contender once again. A return to the playoffs this season might actually stunt the team’s progress toward building a real contender.