Coming into last season, many expected the Toronto Raptors to take a step back after the departure of Kawhi Lenard and they were essentially just as good. This season has been the complete opposite for the Raptors. With high expectations coming into the season the Raptors are now tied with the Pistons for the worst record in the NBA. The big question now is what went wrong and can they fix it?
So What Went Wrong?
When you look at the roster of the Raptors you wouldn’t think of the worst record in the NBA. They have established all stars like Pascal Siakim and Kyle Lowry leading the way. Not to mention solid role players like Fred VanFleet, OG Anunoby, and Chris Boucher supporting them. So with all this talent on the roster, what’s the problem? Well the easy answer is inconsistency, in six of their eight losses this season they have blown double digit leads. For most of their games, they have looked like a good team for a large chunk of the game, but at some point or another the wheels start to fall off.
The losses of Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol have had a much bigger impact on the team than initially thought. While they weren’t the forces they once were, the Raptors have felt their loss. Compared to last season they are averaging 11.4% percent less two point attempts per game. Most people will look at this as a good thing in the three crazy world we live in, but in the end, having a presence in the paint still matters on offense. Aaron Baynes was brought in to help fill this hole, but through about 10 games it’s clear it isn’t the same.
The fact that the Toronto Raptors have had to play all their home games in Tampa Bay, Florida is also a HUGE factor. Don’t get me wrong, the weather in Tampa is much better than Toronto, but it’s still not home. Having to be in an unfamiliar environment can have pretty large affect on players. This is especially the case when players don’t get to see their families as much.
Can it be turned around?
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The next big question is can the Raptors turn it around and the simple answer is yes, with a BIG but. That but is, is it really worth turning it around to just be a middle of the pack team? If you ask me I’d say no and I think Masai Ujiri thinks the same. Ujiri has never been afraid to trade a player and I’d be surprised if some big names didn’t move. First on the list is Kyle Lowry, this might sadden some Raptors fans, but his days are numbered. He is on an expiring deal, so he’s not going to be around for the long haul. Lowry is definitely not the all star he once was but he would still be a valuable piece for a contending team. Even a player like Siakim could be moving for the right price.
The big thing most people need to remember is that 10 games is not a huge sample size. Odds are the Raptors will likely return to the mean, given their roster. Siakim didn’t get off to the best of starts this year and has been playing much better recently. He even posted a 20 point triple double in a loss to Portland. The fact is, plain and simple, it’s super unlikely the Raptors continue to blow such large leads so frequently.
Pascal Siakam in-and-out at the buzzer, Raptors lose a thriller in San Fran. pic.twitter.com/lkXO5XB9Fu
— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) January 11, 2021
Another big piece to the Toronto Raptors turning it around is Chris Boucher. Unless you’re a huge NBA fan you probably don’t know who Boucher is, but he is damn good. He’s putting up 14.3 points and 6.2 rebounds in 22 minutes per game. This doesn’t exactly jump off the page, but his per 36 numbers certainly do. Boucher currently sits at 23.2 pts, 10.2 rbs, and 4.2 blks. Yes I know this doesn’t mean if you gave him 36 minutes this would be his stat line, but it definitely means he should be getting more than 22 minutes a game. He’s also a much better defender than Aaron Baynes and gives the Raptors more of what they had last year.
No easy buckets 😂 pic.twitter.com/dbVBsGJZTZ
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) October 18, 2018
Come the end of the year, I’d be shocked if the Raptors are still dwelling in the basement of the NBA. It’s still pretty likely the Raptors will be retooling at least and maybe even rebuilding going forward. Ujiri is one of the best, and Raptors fans should trust him going forward, even if it hurts.