After winning a franchise-record 48 games in 2013-14, expectations are on the rise for the Toronto Raptors.
This is especially the case now that the same core group of players has been secured for next season and beyond.
At the outset of the 2013-14 campaign, the Raptors didn’t appear to be a team poised to establish a new season-high for victories. If everything went right, the roster that featured Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Amir Johnson, and Jonas Valanciunas, was, in my opinion, a fringe playoff team capable of playing around the .500 mark.
The notion of winning 48 games and rising to the top of the Atlantic Division was certainly not on the radar screen after a 6-12 start.
However, the collection of players who went 42-22 the rest of the way was a much different bunch from the opening day roster as a result of the trade that sent Gay to the Sacramento Kings.
While the Raptors did become a better team by adding talent and depth through that trade, they also received a boost by way of internal growth and development. Most notably, DeRozan became an All-Star and Lowry turned in career highs in points (17.9) and assists (7.4), albeit in a contract year.
Still, the possibility exists that luck was on their side. The stars aligned, so to speak. Everything that could go right, did go right — at least until Lowry’s buzzer-beating attempt at the end of Game 7 against the Brooklyn Nets.
In both 2000-01 and 2006-07 the Raptors posted 47 wins. In the seasons that immediately followed, the Raptors won 42 and 41 games, respectively.
Of course the players and circumstances change, but it would be a disappointment if the 2014-15 Raptors continue that franchise pattern, especially considering the continuity in their roster.
We won’t know for a while whether last season was a fluke for the Raptors. At least 0n paper, they look like a team ready to take another step forward toward the goal of becoming a perennial contender.
48 wins would probably be enough for the Raptors to repeat as division champions, but a 50-win season would provide an emphatic statement that they are a legitimate threat in the Eastern Conference.
With all that said, here is a look at a few of the factors that could make 50 wins a realistic goal for the Raptors in 2014-15.