April 7, 2013 by bronasvalanciunas
What a season it’s been! With a healthy five games left to play, the Toronto Raptors have clinched their second Atlantic Division title, snapping their 4-year-long playoff drought.
When a team has such a magical season as this, full credit must go to that team’s front office and coaching staff for creating a winning formula in such a short amount of time. Bryan Colangelo’s savvy off-season acquisitions of Landry Fields and Kyle Lowry have paid dividends from day one. Landry Fields has found the form of his rookie season and then some, showcasing one of the smoothest jump shots in the NBA. As the team has been hampered by injuries to fan favorites Andrea Bargnani and Linas Kleiza, Landry has had to step out of his penny loafers and into their 3-shooting shoes. A lesser player might have struggled with this burden, but Landry has delivered, shooting a lustrous .435 from beyond the arc this season.
Kyle Lowry had a shaky start with the team, but after recovering from a career-threatening tricep tear, he has been on fire, showcasing court vision, handles, and a cheeky smirk that has made Raptors fans all but forget about the departure of Jose Calderon.
Colangelo’s midseason trade for Rudy Gay has also taken the Raptors from a decent playoff team to (dare I say it?) a championship contender. Gay, frustrated by a Memphis team that was quickly disintegrating into one of the league’s worst, took the opportunity to jump ship. While Rudy had a negative reputation as a volume shooter in Memphis, since coming over to Toronto he has won the fans over with intelligent shot selection and an underrated ability to just pass the ball to an open man (i.e. Landry Fields for 3) instead of drive into double coverage.
While Colangelo’s acquisitions have certainly helped the team, credit must also go to Dwane Casey for getting the best out of the players we already have. Under Casey’s guidance, Demar Derozan and Alan Anderson have both become efficient, underrated two-way shooting guards, giving the Raptors almost unmatched depth at that position. Derozan has finally turned into the premier defender that we all knew a guy with his athleticism could become. And who knew that journeyman Alan Anderson, previously known just for his heartwarming smile, could become the unselfish leader of our second unit? Thank goodness he doesn’t shoot more, or other teams might start to realize what a gem we have found!
Casey has also turned Terrence Ross from an erratic college dunker into one of the most focused, mature rookies that I can remember. When you see Ross go through his free-throw routine now, you would think he’s a ten-year veteran. Of course, credit must also go to Terrence Ross for going to the gym for six hours a day and perfecting his jump shot. For Ross, winning the dunk contest was just icing on the cake.
While Casey’s work with our shooting guards has been his most notable contribution, he has also managed to efficiently use our second unit role players to nullify other teams’ star men (who can forget that game earlier in the season when Aaron Gray stuffed Blake Griffin not once, but four times!) When you combine Dwane’s ability to match-up against other teams with his creative play calling out of timeouts, it is easy to see how he has turned the Raptors into an Eastern Conference juggernaut.
For once in my life as a Raptors fan I am going into the playoffs filled with a cocky confidence, knowing that my team is in the safe hands of Casey and Colangelo. Even though this season has felt like a dream so far, I have full faith that I won’t wake up any time soon.
And if our notoriously lazy big men (Jonas! Amir!) can finally pull their heads out of their respective asses, I may spend April and May literally walking on sunshine.