In 2016, the Toronto Raptors pushed the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Sort of. Toronto won two games before bowing out respectfully in six.
This year, not so much. The Raptors were swept in the conference semis, losing four games by an average of 15.3 points per game.
Brandon Tierney believes it’s time for Toronto to blow it up and start anew. Is it?
In a word, maybe.
“You have a short window to kind of win this thing,” FSI NBA analyst Jim Jackson said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “A lot of people think that being in the East is a lot easier than being in the West, but . . . you always got to go through LeBron James. Here’s the dilemma you have: If you allow (Kyle) Lowry to walk, you get nothing for him, okay? You’re basically staring over. You were third in the Eastern Conference. You were close, but not close enough. Are you willing to take the backseat and fall back to start over?”
Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have been great players for the Raptors, but they’re 2-8 against the Cavs in the playoffs.
“DeRozan is great, you’ve made the trade for (Serge) Ibaka and kind of filled out some other pieces, (but) you haven’t been able to get over the threshold,” Jackson said. “Keep in mind LeBron is probably at a high level for another three years, and then after that, Father Time sets in. So what’s your long-term (and) short-term plan if you want to get to the pinnacle? That’s the question they’re going to have to ask themselves because if (DeRozan and Lowry) are your two best players, then I don’t think you have a chance to win a title. I think you’ll be very competitive, but I don’t think (you’ll win a title).”
Then again, a lot of teams could probably say that about their two best players. At this point, all signs point to Cavs/Warriors Part III. Is that good for the NBA? Well, it depends on your perspective. Was it good in the 1980s when everyone knew that the Celtics and Lakers would likely meet in the Finals?
“Everybody knew those two teams wold be involved, and it was a heated rivalry,” Jackson said. “You had some scuffles, some hard fouls, but the intensity level made people buy into that more. Cleveland and Golden State haven’t gotten to that point where it’s such a fierce rivalry, even though they’ve played each other twice in the Finals. So it’s kind of a different dynamic. I’ve found myself at times watching the other games – I love the games – but it’s almost like, ‘Okay, you guys are playing for second place. Let’s just fast-forward to Golden State and Cleveland.’ So is it bad for the league?” Jackson continued. “No, because you’re going to have the two best teams. Would you want to see a Washington/Utah Finals if you’re a viewer outside of those respective markets?”
No, probably not.
“So as much intrigue and party that you want, at the same time, you still want storylines and the best teams with the best players,” Jackson said. “And that happens to be Golden State and a guy named LeBron James in Cleveland.”