The NBA released the full schedule on Friday. Here are our choices for the top 10 must-see games on the Raptors schedule.
Date: October 17
The Raptors will open the season on Wednesday, October 17 at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavaliers will of course be without LeBron James who joined the Lakers this offseason. The Raptors have won five straight season openers, the longest active streak in the NBA and one that began in 2013-14 against the Celtics in what was the NBA debut for Boston head coach Brad Stevens.
Class of the East
Date: October 19
The only Eastern Conference team expected to win more games than Toronto according to the oddsmakers is the Boston Celtics. The Raptors get an early chance for a marquee win, hosting them in their second game of the season in a game that will shown stateside on ESPN. With Kawhi Leonard suiting up, history is on Toronto's side as Leonard has never lost to the Celtics, posting a perfect 8-0 record as a member of the Spurs. They were evenly matched a year ago with the home team winning all four games.
DeMar DeRozan's return
Date: February 22
DeMar DeRozan returns to Toronto on February 22 in a game that will be broadcast on ESPN in the United States and promises to be the most emotionally charged game in the history of the Raptors. It will be the second game for DeRozan against his former team as they play in San Antonio on January 3 in a game that will be broadcast on TNT. Though former stars like Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and Chris Bosh all returned to Toronto to varying levels of fanfare, none did so under these circumstances. Carter's return came after an ugly split and subsequent trade to the Brooklyn Nets while both McGrady and Bosh willingly left as free agents.
There's no player that can match DeRozan's legacy in Toronto and his return will make Canada at least for one night the center of the basketball universe.
Words could never express what you've meant to me. I was just a 19 year old kid from Compton when we first met, but you took me in and embraced me as one of your own. I am so grateful for the Love and Passion that you've given me over the past 9 years. All I ever wanted to do was duplicate it 10x over just to show my appreciation. Thank you Toronto, thank you Canada. #Comp10 #ProveEm
Expect nothing but love.
LeBron James visits Toronto
Date: March 14
There's no team that benefited more from LeBron James' decision to head west than the Raptors, who simply couldn't hang with his Cleveland Cavaliers in the postseason.
Barring an unexpected NBA Finals matchup, hoops fans in Toronto will have just one opportunity to watch James in person. Though the playoff sweep proved painful, perhaps Raptors fans can opt for selective memory and dream of another 34-point win, which is exactly what happened when James made his lone regular-season trek up north last season.
First crack at the Warriors
Date: November 29
Trading for Kawhi Leonard was done with the full intent of competing for an NBA title. If the Raptors are going to do that, they'll most likely need to topple the defending champs in June.
The last time Leonard stepped between the lines against Golden State, he was the best player on the floor, the game's leading scorer and led by 21 when he landed on Zaza Pachulia's foot. Though that play in Game 1 of the 2017 Western Conference Finals proved to be the first domino in a long series of events that ultimately led to Leonard's arrival in Toronto, it also serves as a reminder that outside of LeBron James, there's perhaps no player at his peak that can go toe-to-toe with the Warriors quite like Leonard.
Fair or not, the Raptors' first crack at toppling the champs can be used as a barometer for just how seriously this team makes a run at the ring in 2019.
Date: October 24
It's already year five for Wiggins, who entered the NBA with visions of superstardom. Though he hasn't yet reached All-Star status, Wiggins represents the best of Canadian basketball currently in the league. The Toronto native is still in search of his first win in the annual trek home. Wiggins fans won't have to wait long to catch him in action as the Raptors host the Timberwolves in their fifth game of the season. With Jimmy Butler potentially on his way out of Minnesota after requesting a trade, there's a opportunity for Wiggins to shoulder even more responsibility this season.
Date: November 14
Casey on the opposite bench for a Raptors game will certainly take some getting used to. His first game against his former team takes place November 14 in Toronto.
The reigning Coach of the Year now calling the shots for the Detroit Pistons, Casey is easily the most accomplished coach in Raptors history. His five postseason appearances equal the combined total of every other coach in team history. He's also the only coach in Raptors history with a winning record.
This season marks the first since 2010-11 in which someone other than Casey will patrol the Raptors sideline. Just how long has it been? Kyle Lowry wasn't on the team yet, Andrea Bargnani was the team's leading scorer and a 33-year old Peja Stojakovic played two games for the Raptors in his final season.
Last look at Vince Carter
Date: January 8
Vinsanity is on its last legs as this season will be the final one for Vince Carter, who is returning for his 21st season. Carter's last time lacing them up in Canada could prove to be one of the most memorable moments of the entire season as that January 8 game is the only time the Hawks travel to Toronto this season.
We won't run through our favourite Vince Carter moments now since that warrants special treatment of its own. Just know that whenever he looks up at the video monitor one last time in Toronto, it will call for an oversized supply of Kleenex and ear plugs to protect from what should be thunderous applause.
Toronto plays host to the MVP
Date: March 5
Though they play earlier in the season on January 25 in Houston, the Rockets will play at Toronto on March 5.
The last time the Houston Rockets landed in Toronto on March 9 of last season, they did so on the heels of a 17-game win streak. Fueled by the eventual MVP James Harden and with its full roster available, Houston simply looked unbeatable.
So when the Raptors emerged victorious despite Harden's efforts - he finished with the only 40-point game any player posted against Toronto the entire season - it resonated as perhaps the single most impressive win any team posted during the regular season. A Finals-level atmosphere a year ago that came down to the final possession, Houston's return to Toronto promises to be among the can't miss games on the schedule.
Last year's most exciting matchup
Date: October 29
If there's any player that truly soared into superstar stratosphere last season, it's Giannis Antetokounmpo. With his combination of length, skill and speed, the Greek Freak is a one-of-a-kind talent that offers up a viewing experience unlike any other player.
His battles against the Raptors were also among the most competitive between any two teams as both meetings in Toronto went to overtime. The first meeting is set for Octber 29 in Milwaukee with the first tilt in Toronto slated for January 9.
On paper, Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. Kawhi Leonard is likely the best individual matchup in the Eastern Conference and one you won't want to miss.