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Your! Call: Who has been most integral to Raptors' success?

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Ryan Horne, TSN.ca
3/27/2014 4:46:41 PM
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The Toronto Raptors are having one of the best seasons in franchise history - in a year when nobody expected it.

Many believed sneaking into the final playoff spot would be a success for the Raptors this season, but even that wasn't guaranteed.

But with only 11 games remaining in the regular season, Toronto (40-31) sits in third place in the Eastern Conference, 2 1/2 games ahead of the Brooklyn Nets for tops in the Atlantic Division and a postseason spot all but official.

This will be the first time since 2008 that the Raptors will play in the NBA's second season.

With all of the good fortunes the Dinos have seen this year, who has been most integral to the team's success?

DeMar DeRozan is the face of the franchise and is one of the longest tenured members of the Raptors. The 24-year-old made his first All-Star Game this season and is leading the team in points scoring 22.7 per game.  This is DeRozan's fifth year in the Association and he signed a four-year deal last season to stay north of the border for the foreseeable future. Will the team only go as far as DeMar will take them?

Kyle Lowry has quickly become a fan favourite in only his second season in Raptors colours. The rugged point guard has shown bulldog-like toughness on a nightly basis, playing considerable minutes and being the man the team has looked to when they are in need of a spark. Analysts and fans alike thought the 28-year-old should have been in New Orleans for the All-Star Game. Averaging 17.6 PPG (scoring over 20 points in eight consecutive games) along with 7.7 assists per game makes a good case for that argument. His future is uncertain in Toronto with Lowry hitting the free agent market this summer, but the Raptors are glad to have him for the time being. Is he the one to thank?

Then there's Amir Johnson. At only 26, he can be considered a veteran, already playing in his ninth NBA season and is an important part of the Raps front court. He averages 11.1 PPG, 6.9 rebounds per game and is a strong force on the defensive side of the ball.

Maybe the key success is coming from the sidelines. Head coach Dwane Casey is in his second year in charge of the Raptors and seems to have finally gotten through to his players. Toronto has gotten much better defensively only allowing 97.6 PPG, good enough for fifth in the NBA. Is the coach's defence-first mindset the reason the Raptors are headed to the post-season?

The success could be attributed to General Manager Masai Ujiri. The Nigerian hasn't brought in a lot of highly touted talent since he took the job last off-season. Instead he's used the method of addition by subtraction to improve on the court. First, he shipped the much-maligned Andrea Bargnani off to the New York Knicks followed by sending Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings during the season. Toronto is 34-19 since Gay was traded out west. With the offence no longer going through Gay, the Raptors have been able to score more efficiently. Not to mention the players coming back to Toronto - namely Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez – have helped the Raptors to get where they are today. Do we have to look to the front office for the reason behind the sudden improvement?

So, who do you think is the most integral to the Raptors success this season?

As always, it's Your! Call.

Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan  (Photo: Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images)
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