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Raptors regain respect around the NBA

Despite the Toronto Raptors’ recent loss in round one of the NBA playoffs, basketball in Canada has never been better.

While the Raptors suffered a tough loss to the Brooklyn Nets in their grueling first round series, they succeeded in one key challenge: making Canadians care about basketball again.

The Raptors are in a good position to be competitive in the Eastern Conference again next season and should get even better. Head Coach Dwane Casey recently signed a three-year extension after leading the Raptors to a franchise-best 48 wins this season. Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan is poised to build on an All-Star campaign that saw him receive national recognition as one of the best shooting guards in the game. Sophomore star forward Terrence Ross and center Jonas Valanciunas will only grow as they get more experience in big game situations.

The Raptors and General Manager Masai Ujiri have done very well in acquiring and developing talent over the last year, despite being in a city that has been a notorious place for free agents to avoid, they’ve managed to gain star power. This is key because now free agents will have to re-think about a Toronto offer knowing the talent they already have, and the impact he can bring. Players now want to be a part of what’s going on the north of the border.

The Raptors must try to keep this team together over the off-season. The key to their success was not just talent, but also how tight they were as a team. In an NBA where teams are put together on the fly with big name superstars, chemistry as a team is a valuable asset.

Raptors guard Kyle Lowry may become a free agent this summer, but both sides would be foolish not to extend the veteran’s contract past this year. Lowry deserves a big paycheck and the Raptors will have their (should be) All-Star in the near future.

What the Raptors missed skill-wise was a true backup center to come into the game when Valanciunas struggled. Once Aaron Gray was dealt to the Sacramento Kings in the Rudy Gay blockbuster deal, the gap in the middle was quite apparent.

The Raptors will also be looking to grab an impact player with the 20th pick in the NBA Draft. Fortunately, the NBA Draft is loaded this year with a number of potential quality players including names like point guard Kyle Anderson, power forward Jerami Grant or centre Adreian Payne. The Raptors must find someone who can provide a spark off the bench and be a part of this team well into its future.

This Raptors team managed to bring the entire nation together and create excitement about NBA basketball once again. The outdoor scene in Maple Leaf Square in Toronto was truly amazing, seeing hundreds of fans cheering all game long, in sun and rain. It was also satisfying to show the American NBA establishment and fan base how passionate the fans of Toronto and Canada truly are about basketball.

The Raptors’ foray into the NBA spotlight has done wonders for the game. The game of basketball in Canada has never been so strong.

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