The 2023–2024 Toronto Raptors are a far cry from their glorious title-winning team of 2019. In five years, the Raptors have gone from NBA champions to a team firmly out of the playoff race. We all know how the infamous story began, with the Raptors trading fan favourite DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard in the summer of 2018. But post-championship, how exactly has the team evolved? 

2019–2020 season

Leonard left the team in free agency when his contract expired in July 2019. Nevertheless, apart from that, the roster was virtually the same as the year prior, and the Raptors proved that their championship run was not a fluke, finishing the season with a 53-19 record. Furthermore, Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry made the all-star roster, while players like Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby had breakout seasons. To cap it all off, Raptors coach Nick Nurse won Coach of the Year

Yet the COVID-19 pandemic brought a startling halt to the season, drastically hurting the momentum of several teams around the league — including the Raptors. They made it to the Eastern Conference semifinals but lost to the Boston Celtics in seven games. 

2020–2021 season

This season is one that fans would love to collectively forget. It’s not hard to pinpoint why the Raptors were not good this year. They lost Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, two crucial role players, and didn’t bring in adequate replacements. On top of that, the Raptors were forced to make their home arena in an entirely different country due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. 

On the bright side, the Raptors were bad enough to snag the fourth overall draft pick for the next season and drafted Scottie Barnes. Nevertheless, the team’s apparent decision to tank this season for a high pick was questionable. With the losses of Gasol and Ibaka, and with the team struggling, they could have gone into a full rebuild and traded away attractive players like Lowry, Siakam, Anunoby, and VanVleet for younger talent or draft capital. 

At this time, however, it seemed as though the Raptors made the right choice at the moment. 

2021–2022 season

This season was a mixed bag of high and low emotions. The big offseason headline was that the team traded Lowry to the Miami Heat. Like the DeRozan trade, fans reacted passionately to this monumental moment in Raptors history. 

Nevertheless, the Raptors didn’t dwell on the loss of Lowry for too long, as they bounced back in a big way. The Raptors won 48 games and clinched the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, though they lost in the first round to the Philadelphia 76ers. Moreover, remember that guy Scottie Barnes they drafted the previous season? Well, he’s really good — he won Rookie of the Year in 2022.

2022–2023 season

As a whole, mediocrity prevailed in this season, hence the team’s even 41-41 record. The Raptors were not bad, but they were not particularly good either. Aside from the wonky post-COVID year, this was the first season in a long time where the Raptors weren’t competitive, alluding to the fact that the team didn’t do enough to improve the roster either in the offseason or regular season. 

The new core of VanVleet, Siakam, Anunoby, and Barnes played decent basketball all year round but just missed the playoffs after losing to the Chicago Bulls. Notably, this was Coach Nurse’s last season with the Raptors.

This season was also where the Raptors front office made some critical mistakes. The team was not competitive, yet they elected to keep VanVleet at the trade deadline as opposed to trading him for younger talent or draft assets. In hindsight, it’s easy to talk, but the Raptors’ financial constraints meant it was almost a certainty VanVleet would walk in free agency — as he eventually did —  so the decision not to trade him made little to no sense. 

Instead, the “big” deadline trade the Raptors made was to send Khem Birch to San Antonio in exchange for Jakob Poetl — a former Raptor who ironically had been part of the initial trade to acquire Leonard back in 2018. Yet, the Raptors gave up a lightly protected 2024 first-round pick, which is never ideal for a non-contending team. The trade also did little to move the needle in terms of becoming a contending team again.

2023–2024 season

And that leaves us with the present 2023–2024 Toronto Raptors. The season is far from complete, yet so much has already happened. Most notably, the exit of several integral parts of the 2018–2019 championship roster: VanVleet left for Houston in free agency, Anunoby was traded to New York, and Siakam was traded to the Indiana Pacers for a slew of young role players and future draft picks

The season is still young, and a lot can still happen. But from the looks of things, the Raptors are on the right track, as they have leveraged their veterans of old into some exciting young prospects — like RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley — to build around players like Barnes. I’m no fortune teller, but I think the future still looks bright for Toronto.