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Successful season for Raptors? Remain relevant

The Toronto Raptors are coming off an epic 2018-19 campaign. What would constitute a ‘good’ year for the Raptors in 2019-20?

The Toronto Raptors will never have another year like 2018-19. After all, a franchise only wins its first championship once.

Following up a title-winning campaign has proven to be problematic for teams without transcendent, dynasty-setting superstars sticking around. The Detroit Pistons, Dallas Mavericks, Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers have all won a single title this century while failing to secure a second.

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Failure to repeat as champions wouldn’t automatically make 2019-20 a “bad” year for the Raptors. Taking a step back only seems natural after losing Kawhi Leonard to the LA Clippers in free agency.

That doesn’t mean Toronto should fall off a cliff. They return most of their core from last season, including Kyle Lowry, who was just rewarded with a pricey one-year contract extension.

Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka return as veteran leaders with championship rings, the former with a World Cup title as well. Nick Nurse will be going into just his second year as head coach, revealing room for further growth.

Breaking: Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors have agreed on a one-year, $31M contract extension that takes the five-time All-Star guard out of July’s free agency market, agent Mark Bartelstein of @PrioritySports tells ESPN. https://t.co/nkhme9AHes

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 7, 2019

So what would constitute a good season for the Raptors?

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A good season would mean Pascal Siakamascends to All-Star status. The forward broke out in a major way last year despite the presence of Leonard, earning Most Improved Player honors. Now, he’ll be expected to be the franchise’s alpha for the foreseeable future.

An All-Star year from Siakam would portend a major contract extension as he becomes the building block of the next era of Raptors basketball.

A good season would see the arrival of a Robin to go with Spicy P’s Batman. The most obvious candidate is Fred VanVleet, who has been groomed to one day take over Lowry’s role as the starting point guard. He will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, however, and now Lowry’s extension will block him from major minutes for another year.

OG Anunoby would be another candidate if he can stay healthy.

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A good season would mean keeping the team together. There are a lot of rumblings that a rough start from the Raptors could lead to a sell-off at the NBA trade deadline. Toronto should still be in the thick of it by the midway point of the season, though, rendering a sell-off as a PR nightmare.

Not only would keeping the core together mean things are going well, but it would also give the Raptors the ammunition to make a postseason run.

Finally, a good season would mean making it as far as the Eastern Conference Finals. The NBA has changed around — with Toronto no exception to that change — so asking for another NBA Finals trip seems demanding.

There’s no reason to think the Raptors can’t be one of the final four teams standing in the league, though, and that should be good enough for their fans as they continue to bask in the afterglow of a championship.

Fulfilling these criteria should create the sense that the Toronto Raptors had a good season in 2019-20.

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