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Raptors Are A Team That Is Still Developing Core Players

The Toronto Raptors are coming off a franchise best 48-win season and have all of their key players back, however, as a young team, Head Coach Dwane Casey remains focused on developing his core players. Still, optimism was running high in all quarters at Media Day in Toronto and the team has set some lofty goals for this year despite their youth.

“I think we are still a young team. We still have growing to do as a team,” Casey said. “Our goal is to win the division no matter what it takes.”

The Raptors starting unit of Kyle Lowry (28), DeMar DeRozan (25), Terrence Ross (23), Amir Johnson (27) and Jonas Valanciunas (22) won 29 games last season, a franchise record for the most wins by a starting five and they were the only playoff team last season with two sophomores in the starting lineup.

From the start of last season, right up to and including the seven-game playoff series with the Nets, Casey insisted the Raptors focus was on developing Ross, Valanciunas and DeRozan. DeRozan earned an All-Star nod, but Ross and Valanciunas were going to play significant minutes even with a playoff series on the line and more veteran players available on the bench. Not much has changed for Casey this year except last year’s sophomores are more experienced.

“That’s the funny thing,” Casey said. “We are talking about taking the next step with third year players and DeMar is further down the road (now), but those two guys are core guys (that) still got to get better and develop, so that hasn’t changed at all.”

Those two sophomores helped Toronto to a franchise best regular season record and a large measure of this year’s optimism comes from the expectation that they will be better and continue to improve during the season.

Toronto is deeper on the wing and at center than they were before, but Casey’s focus on developing his two young core players remains the same and after last season, that should only lift expectations for the Raptors.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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