Toronto Raptors: 3 reasons Raptors have been as good as last season

(Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
(Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /
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The defending World Champion Toronto Raptors are back dominating the Eastern Conference once again this season, but it wasn’t supposed to happen. Here’s why this season is going so well.

When a team has developed championship DNA, they don’t just disappear, even if they lose their best player. For the Toronto Raptors, losing a star hasn’t slowed them down. In fact, it’s only seemed to fuel them. Not only have the Raptors not fallen off, they are on a better pace than last season.

That’s right, their 39-14 record this season is two games better than last season’s 37-16 record after 53 games.

How is this possible? We knew they’d still be good, championship DNA and all, but this good? The hottest team in the NBA good? 14 wins in a row good? Without Kawhi Leonard?

Instead of feeling sorry for themselves about Leonard’s inevitable departure to the LA Clippers, the Raptors went about their business. Team president Masai Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster have compiled a gritty roster of grinders and non-egos. Kyle Lowry? He was cast off by two teams before landing in Toronto. Pascal Siakam? A late first-round draft selection. Fred VanVleet? Not drafted.

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Oh and Terence Davis? He may not have been recognized as a Rising Star for All-Star Weekend, but he’s yet another undrafted gem Toronto’s brain trust has unearthed from the NBA draft trash heap.

As the NBA All-Star break nears, the Raptors have raced to a 39-14 record and don’t seem to be slowing down. Here are three key reasons the team has been so good in the first half, even without their former star.