The Raptors Are Making Me Crazy

 I am so thankful that the Raptor won a championship, but I think we may now be at a point where a rebuild might need to happen.  I think Toronto has some good pieces so they might not need a total tear-down rebuild since Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby are under contract for a few more years and rookie Malachi Flynn possibly being at worst a solid point guard.  The Raptors need an athletic centre with size, skill and a solid three-point shot, I do not think the Raptors will get this unless they draft one.  I did an article (Thoughts on the Toronto Raptors Offseason) where I looked at the Raptors off-season moves, based on what I had seen at that time I thought Toronto would have been at least a competitive team. So far this season (only 6 games so far) the Raptors have the second most losses (5) and are tied for the fewest wins (1).  Nick Nurse the head coach must be at his wit's end since he has watched his team's defence and offence fall off a cliff this year.  I know we are only six games into the season and things can turn around, it is very disturbing to see the Raptors struggle so mightily at both ends of the court.  The Raptors have a defensive rating that ranks them ninth out of 30 teams which seems too high considering that the Knicks and 76ers had bad shooting nights.  I have watched all the games and one thing I notice is that the Raptors are giving up a lot of open three-point shots, it is something they did against the Celtics in the playoffs.  The Celtics in the playoffs missed a lot of those three-pointers and it almost cost them the series.  The Raptors play a lot of small ball and I think it hurts them on defence, they are a small team.  Aron Baynes and Alex Len gives the size and bulk they need,  but they have looked too slow and out of place on offence and defence.  One adjustment I think Nick Nurse will need to make is to find a way to work Len and Baynes into useful players on both ends.  I think if the Raptor can use the bulk that Len and Baynes have to their advantage down low.  


Watching the Celtics game illuminated just how much the Raptors are struggling on offence, they have an offensive rating that ranks them 29th out of 30 teams.  That is just plain bad, I thought last season that the Raptors relied too much on three-pointers and it was going to cost them.  The three-pointers almost helped them beat the Celtics in the playoffs, but now when the threes are not going in it is costing them wins.  There is a trend in the NBA right now that three-point shots are a better shot to take than a long two-point shot.  The Raptors lead the league in three-point attempts and they are shooting 33.5% from three which ranks them 25th out of 30 teams.  If you are leading the league in attempts, but near the bottom in the league in success, then maybe they need to adjust their offence.  I do think by the end of the season the Raptors will not be 25th but likely near the middle.  The other problem is Toronto is only shooting 48.9% on their two-point shot attempts which also ranks them 25th out of 30 teams.  The Raptors are rarely getting open or un-contested two-pointers and they struggle scoring near the net, some of that is bad luck but some of that is on Toronto not playing strong.  Nick Nurse during a post-game interview said he thinks the Raptors do not play strong with the ball in their hands, when they attack the basket, they are looking for fouls rather than trying to finish.  The Raptors have struggled with getting calls from the referees this year and some of that is if you attack with the intent to get fouled rather than score unless you are Lebron or James Harden the refs will not give you the call.  The Raptors have struggled all over the court and it is hard to watch a team that you know is capable to struggle so much.  The Raptors have not had that hard of a schedule either, they have not played in any back-to-back games and their opponents apart from Boston have not been that fearsome.  The Raptors are 1-6 because they have failed to execute at both ends of the court and they no longer have the swagger of a team that won it all only two seasons ago.  


The Raptors must start showing some life and start winning games soon or else I fear there will be changes.  I think Nick Nurse is safe, he won coach of the year and he has a good grasp on the team, the players are the issue.  Fred VanVleet has lived up to expectations since signing his big-money deal and Kyle Lowry has been consistent, a little less potent on offence but still putting effort in on both sides of the ball.  OG Anunoby has struggled with his shot and I hope he continues to shoot and be more aggressive attacking the basket, he has the size, strength, and athleticism to finish.  OG has great defensive instincts and has the physical tools to be elite there, but I think he can also be an effective scorer if the Raptors could find a way to get him the ball as he is slashing to the basket.  Pascal Siakam has unfortunately regressed, he is continuing to struggle like he did in the restart bubble.  Siakam is not playing with the same energy of offence and when his shots don't go in, he seems to spiral and gets lost on both sides of the court.  Siakam like OG needs his confidence to built back up and that can only happen if he gets more confidence.  I think the key whether they win or lose in the next few games is to get Siakam and OG more touches on the offensive side of the ball and get them better looks.  Siakam has struggled defensively and I think that is more to do with struggles on offence than an issue with his defence.  Siakam is trying to do too much on defence and he is being too aggressive and making mental mistakes that lead to fouls.  Alex Len and Aron Baynes are another problem altogether, they look slow and unathletic and they are giving up too many rebounds.  Baynes has struggled with his three-point shot and Len has struggled to score and rebound.  Chris Boucher has outplayed both Len and Baynes and he deserves more time, but Boucher is too thin and short to be an effective centre against a lot of teams.  If a trade opens up to get a big, skilled and athletic centre then I think the Raptors should do it, if there are no trade options then I think the Raptors need to draft one.  It is unfortunate that Baynes and Len have not worked out and I think us losing Gasol and Ibaka has affected the team chemistry more than anyone expected.  The only good thing about being 1-5 is that Toronto can be bold and adjust their game plans and see if they can make adjustments to their offence and defence to break them out of this spiral.  Toronto is better than 1-5 and they should be a middle of the pack offensive team, they need to get easier attempts and not force as many contested shots as they have done so far.  On the defensive end, the Raptors are struggling with giving up too many open shots and not rebounding.  I think the Raptors need to adjust their defensive scheme and double-team less in an effort to keep the open three-point attempts down.  

If the Raptors are out of contention to win it all (not just make the playoffs and lose in round one) I think they will need to trade Lowry and give him another shot at a Championship.  If Lowry wants to stay and help next year, I think we should bring him back but if he wants to make another run then we owe it to him to send him somewhere he can win.  The Raptors should not shy away from trying to get better but if they cannot find a piece that meets their needs (not James Harden) then they need to start planning for next season.  Move pieces for draft picks and try to get a draft pick that fits the needs of the team.  There is a lot of work to do and I know the team will try but they are running out of time to fix their issues.  There is plenty of time to right the ship, but fans are getting worried that our competitive window has closed and that we now need to start a mini-rebuild.  A mini rebuild would be just about adding a few pieces to a roster that already has some key players in Anunoby, Siakam and VanVleet.  If it were easy to sign a key free agent, I would suggest they try to get better through free agency, but that has always been a struggle for Toronto as elite players do not want to play here.  I hope things turn around and fans can be excited to see Toronto in the playoffs again.  

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