The Toronto Raptors did not have a good start to the decade. While they had to witness their former franchise player Chris Bosh win NBA championships, the Toronto Raptors did not make the playoffs from 2010-2013.
However, they have made it to the NBA playoffs in the last six years. This includes making it to the NBA Eastern Conference Finals in 2016 and obviously winning the NBA Finals in 2019.
Toronto Raptors Best from the 2010s
Jonas Valanciunas – Center (2012-19)
Jonas Valanciunas contributed the most to the Raptors roster. He played many years with the Toronto Raptors before being traded to the Memphis Grizzlies last year. Dwane Casey, who was the head coach for Valanciunas for many years, described him like this on Memphis Flyer by Sharon Brown.
“Every year he got better and better at understanding that those mundane things are just as important as hollow points you might put up, the verticality, the screening, the rolling, the catching and making good decisions. It’s not flashy, your name doesn’t get in the paper, but those teams win when those guys accept those roles and do that job. It’s not fun, but it’s a very valuable position to develop and to be in.”
Valanciunas has been a Raptors player for most of the previous decade. He played for the Raptors from 2012-19. In his 2012-13 rookie season, He averaged 8.9 points and six rebounds per game. He also averaged 12.7 points and 8.6 rebounds per game in the 2017-18 season. Valanciunas also had similar stats in the 2018-19 season scoring 12.8 points per game and 7.2 rebounds per game. He also stepped up in the 2018 NBA playoffs as he had 21 points and 21 rebounds against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The reason why his stats were not higher was that he had limited minutes as he shared it with Serge Ibaka. If he was the starting center for the Toronto Raptors, he would have an average near 20 points per game, which he averaged in the second half of the 2018-19 season with the Memphis Grizzlies.
The framework that he and other players built allowed players like Pascal Siakam to grow.
Pascal Siakam – Power-Forward (2016-Present)
Siakam has emerged as an NBA All-Star for the Toronto Raptors. The Most Improved Player in the NBA and first-time NBA All-Star has dramatically improved his stats. In his rookie season, he scored just 4.2 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.
However, his improvement has been nothing short of remarkable. In his 2018-19 season, he really took his play to another level scoring 16.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game.
This allowed Siakam to win the most Improved Player of the Year Award. Furthermore, he took a step further in the 2019-20 NBA season, averaging 23.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game. As a result of this Siakam has just recently received his first NBA All-Star Appearance as a starter from the Eastern Conference.
He also performed well in the NBA Playoffs last year. He played a big role in the Raptors opening NBA Finals win against the Golden State Warriors. According to John Schuhman of NBA.com, Siakam made 14 out of his 17 field goal attempts.
“He always has the mismatch and can get whatever he wants.”
A big part of Siakam’s increase in production this year is due to the increased number of shots and his increased importance to the Raptors offense. In Ibaka’s cook show, Siakam revealed that he and Fred VanVleet were going to get more shots. This is because of the loss of Kawhi Leonard, who is the reigning NBA Finals MVP.
Kawhi Leonard – Small Forward (2018-19)
Leonard only played one year with the Toronto Raptors organization, but it was a year too good to ignore. Leonard came via trade as he and Danny Green were traded to the Toronto Raptors. In return, the San Antonio Spurs got a first-round draft pick along with Jakob Pöltl and fan-favorite DeMar DeRozan.
Leonard had a lot to prove himself. There was a lot of drama with him and the San Antonio Spurs, but the Toronto Raptors gave him new life and a new start. Josh Lewenberg of TSN 1050 tweets on what Leonard thought of the city of Toronto:
Kawhi on what he'll remember about his time in Toronto, outside of the championship: "The guys, the journey, also the country, the city, it was amazing. There's just so much you could keep going on and talking about it."
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) November 9, 2019
With the Toronto Raptors, he averaged 26.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists. In the playoffs, he stepped up in many games. Key games include his series-clinching shot against the Philadelphia 76ers.
The shot was broadcasted in many different languages around the world, showing how rare and special Leonard’s shot was in NBA playoffs history. Another big game was game three of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks. Leonard had 36 points, nine rebounds, and five assists according to Scott Polacek of Bleachers Report.
Kawhi Leonard Steps Up
Those two games were the most important games in the Toronto Raptors playoff run. If the Raptors did not win both games, they would not win in six games against the Golden State Warriors. Speaking of the Warriors, even though other players did step up, Leonard got his second NBA KIA Playoffs MVP award.
According to Marcus White of NBC Sports, he averaged 28.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game in the NBA Finals. This includes scoring 22 points at the Oracle to clinch the Toronto Raptors their first-ever NBA title.
It is important to note that this would not have happened without DeRozan. An important thing to note is without DeRozan there would be no Leonard. DeRozan was the one who was with the Raptors in the bad years before their success in the 2012-13 NBA Season.
DeMar DeRozan – Shooting Guard (2009-18)
DeRozan was drafted ninth in the 2009 NBA Draft by the Toronto Raptors. He would spend nine seasons in Toronto before being traded to the San Antonio Spurs.
Don't worry, I got us…
— DeMar DeRozan (@DeMar_DeRozan) June 29, 2010
At the end of his rookie season, he averaged 8.6 points, 2.9 rebounds, 0.7 assists per game. His stats dramatically improved in his sophomore season, averaging 17.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game. He would later develop and eventually becoming a regular NBA All-Star.
In the 2013-14 season, his first NBA All-Star Game appearance, he averaged 22.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, and four assists per game.
Furthermore, in the 2015-16 NBA Season, he and Kyle Lowry led the Toronto Raptors to their first-ever Eastern Conference Finals appearance. They defeated the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers in seven games before losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games.
One of his most notable games was scoring 28 points, eight rebounds, and one assist in game seven against the Miami Heat to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
DeRozan also made his second NBA All-Star appearance that year in Toronto. His most notable season with the Raptors was the 2016-17 season where he averaged 27.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game.
He and Lowry ended up succeeding in the Bosh era in Toronto and created the golden age of Raptors basketball, which started with the 2013 NBA Playoffs.
Kyle Lowry – Point Guard (2012-Present)
Kyle Lowry Comes to the Toronto Raptors Organization in 2012
This does not come as a surprise. With DeRozan and Valanciunas being traded, Lowry became the Raptors’ current longest-tenured player for the Toronto Raptors.
According to Jesse Dorsey of Bleachers Report, Lowry was traded from the Houston Rockets to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for a protected first-round pick. Furthermore, when Lowry came to the Raptors organization he came as a back-up, not as a starter. That role was taken up by Jose Calderon. However, Calderon was traded to the Detroit Pistons in a three-way trade in January 2013.
Kyle Lowry Becomes Starting Point Guard
This gave Lowry the keys to be a starting point guard for the Toronto Raptors. An opportunity he took and to this day hasn’t given it up to anybody. He would in his ninth season make his first-ever NBA All-Star Game appearance as a starter.
In the 2014-15 season, he averaged 17.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 6.8 assists per game. He would follow that up in the 2015-16 averaging 21.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 6.4 assists per game. There, he made his second NBA All-Star Game appearance with the Toronto Raptors as an NBA All-Star starter.
His best regular-season performance was the 2016-17 season, there Lowry averaged 22.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, and seven assists per game. His heart, soul, body, and competitive spirit are a big reason why the Toronto Raptors have experienced post-season success in the last decade.
Kyle Lowry Stepping Up in Big Moments
Lowry has also performed well in key moments as a Toronto Raptor. This includes the 2019 NBA Finals, including game six of the finals. In that game, Lowry started strong as he scored 26 points, 10 assists, and seven rebounds.
These five players including Lowry made a huge contribution to the Raptors NBA Championship in 2019. Without these five players’ contributions, there would be no Larry O’Brien trophy in Canada.
Jose Calderon – Point Guard (2005-13)
For many years, Calderon was considered the second-best Toronto Raptors player in the Bosh era. In the summer of 2005, Calderon was signed by then-general manager Rob Babcock.
In the 2011-12 NBA Season, he averaged 10.5 points, three rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game. Calderon in 2012-13 NBA Season with the Raptors averaged 11.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 7.4 assists per game.
What was more impressive about Calderon that year though was his free throw and three-point percentage. In the 2011-12 NBA season, he averaged a three-point percentage of .461 and a free throw percentage of .900.
Serge Ibaka – Power-Forward (2017-Present)
A player who has become very popular in Toronto, Ibaka came into the Raptors organization in 2017 via a trade. According to Peter Kaye of Life in Repeat, a 2017 first-round pick and fan-favorite Terrence Ross was traded in order to acquire Ibaka from the Orlando Magic. Then the Raptors were struggling and needed a boost heading into the NBA playoffs.
Ibaka provided that as the Raptors were able to get the third seed in the Eastern Conference. They defeated a young Giannis Antetokounmpo in six games before getting swept by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
This NBA season, Ibaka is having his best season averaging 16 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game. The year before Ibaka averaged 15 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game.
Furthermore, according to Matt Schneidman of The Mercury News Ibaka had six blocks. This resulted in the Raptors taking back home-court advantage and as a result, won the NBA Finals four games to two.
Fred VanVleet – Shooting Guard (2016-Present)
If this list was about positionless basketball, VanVleet should be considered as a starter in the list above Valanciunas. However, it is hard for anyone to take out DeRozan for VanVleet for the best shooting guard in the last decade.
The 2019-20 NBA Season has been an excellent season for VanVleet. He is averaging 17.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per game.
Sam Amick, a senior NBA writer tweeted out the NBA MVP Finals votes:
NBA Finals MVP voting results. Kawhi was a Hubie Brown vote away from being unanimous. pic.twitter.com/A0sGNchSBg
— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) June 14, 2019
As seen above, Hubie Brown was the only person to not vote for Leonard as the NBA Finals MVP. Brown explains why on Sportsnet 590 The FAN’s Writers Bloc.
“He did an incredible job for you offensively, but more importantly, he took (Steph) Curry out of the left corner in the key wins and that alone should’ve gotten incredible ink from guys that were witnessing the game and writing about the games,” said Brown, explaining his reasoning on Sportsnet 590 the FAN’s Writers Bloc on Tuesday.
VanVleet played very well against the Milwaukee Bucks and the Golden State Warriors in the Raptor’s NBA playoff run. He played a big role in the NBA Championship just like Norman Powell did.
Norman Powell – Shooting Guard (2015-Present)
Powell is another player who could be an NBA All-Star next season. He really is having an excellent season scoring 16.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game. This is a big improvement from last year.
“Paul George is an all-star. He has been in this league for a long time, he averages high numbers and does so much for his team,” Patterson said. “He is a tough matchup and I thought Norm did a great job. Stayed physical, battled strong, played hard without fouling. Got a couple of steals, and pushed the ball in transition, hit some shots. Norm never gave up, not one single possession.”
To learn more about Powell and what he means to the team, read this previous article.
Marc Gasol – Center (2019-Present)
The last player to make the list is Marc Gasol of the Toronto Raptors. There was some serious thought to put Andrea Bargnani, Ross, and to a lesser extent Amir Johnson as the sixth and last bench player. However, Gasol did something both Ross and Johnson could not deliver and that was an NBA Championship.
Gasol was acquired in the 2019 NBA trade deadline. According to Jack Maloney of CBS, Gasol was traded to the Toronto Raptors. In exchange, the Memphis Grizzlies got Valanciunas, Delon Wright, C.J. Miles, and a 2024 second-round pick.
If one looks at Gasol’s offensive stats as a Raptor, it is not that impressive. In the 2018-19 season with the Raptors, he averaged 9.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game.
What differentiates Gasol from other NBA players that did not make this list was his defensive performance. According to Owen Phillips of FiveThirtyEight, Joel Embiid was limited to 21 points per 100 possessions. This is a significant dip from 37 points per 100 possessions in his 2018-19 NBA season. He also successfully guarded Stephen Curry a few times in the NBA Finals.
Gasol and Leonard Guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo
Leonard should be given credit for guarding Antetokounmpo. It was a big reason why the Raptors went to the NBA Finals. However, some credit should also be given to Gasol for guarding against Antetokounmpo.
This is what Antetokounmpo said in a Bruno Manrique Clutch Points article:
“Now, every day in my head, I’m seeing Gasol double-team me,” Antetokounmpo said. “You think I’m joking, but I’m not. I’m not seeing anybody else. I don’t care who’s guarding me. Give me a name. Thaddeus Young. All I’m seeing is Kawhi, Gasol coming because I know that. When I get to that situation, it might not be them. It might be (Joel) Embiid. Ben Simmons guarding me, Embiid double- teaming, but that’s what I’m seeing now. That’s what I feel like I have to do better.”
Gasol’s offensive numbers might not be great, but his defensive prowess should not be ignored. It played a big role in the Raptors winning an NBA championship.
Overview of the Toronto Raptors 2010s Decade
The Raptors currently have the longest playoff streak in the Eastern Conference. They have made it to six straight playoff appearances in the last decade. They have continued this run into the current decade clinching their seventh straight NBA playoffs appearance in 2020.
In 2016, the Raptors made it to the Eastern Conference Finals and hosted the 2016 NBA All-Star Game. Both DeRozan and Lowry played in that NBA All-Star Game. Then in 2019, the Raptors became NBA champions.
To learn more about the Toronto Raptors’ most notable players read this previous article on the five greatest players in franchise history.