By Cole Parkinson
Sunny South News
With the departure of the Greatest Raptor of All Time, Kyle Lowry, this past offseason, it was fairly obvious the Toronto Raptors were turning the page.
Seeing the departure of Lowry was odd, but it’s hard to argue with it.
Kyle wants another ring and the Raptors are in the midst of retooling to get back to contender status. So while it’s tough to see Kyle leave, it’s also great to see him take his talents to South Beach to chase another title.
With his departure though, it leaves the Raps without that big voice in the room. It’s now Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet are now the leaders in the room, and they themselves are still relatively young.
And with OG Anunoby continuing to be a mainstay in the starting five, he too will be relied upon as a leader for the young Toronto locker room.
Precious Achiuwa (who was a part of the package that sent Kyle to Miami), Scottie Barnes (drafted fourth overall by Toronto in the past NBA draft), Malachi Flynn (drafted by Toronto 29th in 2020), and Gary Trent Jr. (acquired from Portland in a package that sent Norm Powell out the door) are all glimpses into what the future could hold for Toronto.
Along with Chris Boucher, I think the Raptors have a fairly formidable team on hand for the 2021-22 season, but those thinking this team will reach the NBA Finals will be disappointed. I fully expect them to challenge for a postseason birth, and I do actually think they’ll get in as a six, seven or eight seed, which would be a great season for them.
Goran Dragic is getting older and is obviously just on the roster because Toronto couldn’t find him another home in the offseason. I’d be shocked if he was still on the roster past the trade deadline. The Raptors also picked up Khem Birch late last season and he’s been able to provide some minutes for the Raps. He’s a pretty decent bench player, which is always needed on the roster.
While the Raptors are still just sitting right around the .500 mark, I don’t think you can speak ill of their effort. Sure they give the ball away a ton, but I think that comes with trying too hard and forcing plays when doing the simple things would work better.
Head coach Nick Nurse has to be happy with the defence the team can bring on their best nights, but the lack of offence is pretty obvious in just watching the first handful of games.
The Raps are in the top five for points allowed, but they’re bottom ten in points per game. They’re also second-last in field goal percentage with 41.3 per cent. While Lowry’s leadership has been talked about, I think his on-court play hasn’t been talked about as much. You could always count on him to hit a big three to stop an opposing teams run or draw a charge to shake momentum.
Right now, the lack of Siam due to injury is very noticeable, and upon his return, Raps fans have to hope he bring some more offence for the team. And while I do really like Pascal, I’m leery on him being the top offensive dog on any team. The Raptors will need every single player to provide some scoring if they want to win enough games to reach the playoffs. They don’t have that number one guy like a Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Anthony Davis, or Giannis Antetokounmpo to single handily win games.
But to be fair, that’s how they were when they won the championship in 2019. I know people love to point and say Kawhi Leonard did everything, but Siakam, Lowry, and VanVleet were all massive cogs to the machine that brought the first NBA title to Canada. So Nurse and the coaching staff still have plenty of work to do, and thankfully, there’s still a ton of games left.
And let’s not forget, while last year was a pretty forgettable season, the team played on the road every game. This year, the return to Toronto and the Scotiabank Arena has to be a massive boost for every single person in the organization. It’s much more fun to even watch the games on TV with the home crowd cheering them on.