Five Things We Can Most Look Forward To This 2021-22 Season
When the weather starts to cool, the leaves change from green to a range of yellow or red, and the evening skies get ever clearer, you know what time it is.
After a frustrating year-plus away from home, the Raptors are ready to make Toronto home again. Over the past few days, Scottie Barnes, Yuta Watanabe, and Gary Trent Jr. were among those making their first arrivals in Toronto as members of the Raptors ahead of training camp in a couple of weeks and have already shared their excitement about the city on social media.
With the official announcement that the Raptors are indeed returning to Scotiabank Arena beginning with preseason games from Oct. 4-12, the excitement is palpable. With faces to look forward to both old and new and the return of the best fans in the NBA to both the arena and Jurassic Park, here are five things we can most look forward to this 2021-22 season:
Home sweet home!
It can’t be said enough. After winning 152 of their last 200 regular season games (.760) at home, the Raptors could only muster up 16 wins in 36 games at Tampa. There will be 41 regular season games in Toronto and fans who have been kept away for so long may well be looking to set some new decibel records cheering on the home team. Player intros, fun timeouts courtesy of the Raptor, everybody clapping their hands, “Let’s Go Raptors!” chants, it’s all coming back!
Outside of the arena, it will be fun to see how all the new faces get acclimated to the city. Rookie Barnes already got a little taste shortly after signing when Kardinal Offishal gave him a tour, but with extended time in the city, look forward to all the new faces being in full tourist mode and checking out all the hot spots Toronto has to offer.
The likes of Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and OG Anunoby will look forward to sleeping in their own beds again and that could provide an uptick of its own.
We’ve had a healthy dose of Chris Boucher the last couple seasons but it’s time to ramp up the Canadian content. With Khem Birch re-signing after his late-season acquisition in Tampa and the Raptors selecting a Canadian in the draft for the first time ever in Dalano Banton, the local flavour will be at an all-time high for the Raptors this season.
Birch figures to be the starting centre while Boucher might have an opportunity to fill in as a starter for Siakam until the former all-star returns from a shoulder injury. As a second-round pick, Banton figures to bide his time with the Raptors 905 and make his case for the senior squad from there.
Life with Scottie
Everything about Barnes so far screams positive vibes from his smile to his game. Having a lottery pick is a luxury the Raptors haven’t enjoyed for some while with all their winning ways, and it’s time to sit back and take it all in.
Having recently arrived, he looks to be already loving the city and recognizing that this is truly one of the best NBA landing spots. On the court, it’s a matter of time before the combined length of Barnes, Siakam and OG Anunoby takes fans’ breath away with spectacular defensive highlights.
OG Anunoby breakout season
Last season was the preview to the main event. All signs point towards this being a breakout season for Anunoby after upping his scoring average by over five points while also increasing his overall efficiency, most notably from the free-throw line where he shot a career-best 78.4 percent.
With the continued exodus of stars from the 2019 championship team, Anunoby’s role is only going to expand further and the increased responsibility should see his league-wide recognition go to new heights. It’s about time he made one of the NBA All-Defensive teams.
Training wheels are off
Yes, it is going to take some getting used to tuning in to Raptors games and not seeing Kyle Lowry on the court. But as the Raptors look to build the next championship team, they needed to take the training wheels off.
With Lowry no longer around as the most dependable of leaders, the likes of Siakam, VanVleet and Anunoby have the keys to not only the car, but the house and the cottage. They’re ready to take this team forward and while there will certainly be moments to learn from, that’s all a necessary part of the journey back to the promised land one day.