What's Next? 2016-17 Toronto Raptors: Do It Again

By now, NBA season previews are rolling out. Countless basketball sites, podcasts, and television shows are breaking down all 30 teams; projecting how each will fare based on additions and subtractions. I would like to do something different and focus on teams through the fish-eyed lens of their respective most-intriguing player or players. I continue with the Toronto Raptors.

The only reason the Toronto Raptors are the next-to-last Eastern Conference team in this series is because I want to give them credit for being a Conference finalist. Regardless of my belief in just how good this team and the rest of the conference ultimately is, that is a wonderful accomplishment for a franchise that's never made it that far in the postseason.

Are DeRozan and Lowry great players? (Credit: Fansided.com)
Are DeRozan and Lowry great players? (Credit: Fansided.com)

But something doesn't seem to fit with them. They are at least contenders for the conference crown, but it almost feels I begrudgingly place them there. The Raptors are good, but they're really good by the basic reason that someone has to be. Even when they tied the Eastern Conference Finals at two games apiece, I never doubted that Cleveland would win that series. The Cavaliers have great players, including the best player ever in the world. The Raptors, well, they don't.

A basic measure of greatness is sustained excellence. The Spurs have won at least 50 games a season for the past two decades. LeBron James has had 12 straight years of averaging at least 25 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. "Off The Wall," "Thriller" and "Bad" is a three-album run that doesn't pale in comparison to any other artist's discography. As previously stated, Toronto was in uncharted postseason territory. So it is plausible to hold off on calling them a great team until they show a measure of consistency comparable to great teams.

They have to be great players if they were Olympians, right? (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
They have to be great players if they were Olympians, right? (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

What about their two best players? Their starting backcourt were both All-Star selections and Olympians--something no other pair of guards can currently say. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are very good--both separately and together. Both average over 20 points per game, and both are tough covers for any defender. They won two consecutive Game 7s, proving they have some semblance of mental toughness. Yet even as I type this on my phone, I feel the pull to not label them as great. Honestly, it feels like calling them great dulls the gleam of the word. I have seen enough basketball to know what greatness looks like, and I'm not sure about them.

But there is a way for them to persuade me to change my opinion of them. They must remain at this level for this and future seasons. Don't just be the second seed in the East because the other 13 teams are average and below. Be great. Great entities feast on the mediocre. That Toronto backcourt needs to eradicate all doubt in the basketball realm surrounding their names and abilities. They were great for one year. Now, they must do it again.

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