With the 2022–2023 NBA season set to tip off soon, the Toronto Raptors are hungrier than ever. Proving pundits wrong and silencing critics, the Raptors hope to improve upon their 48-34 record from last season.
After a disappointing first-round exit to the Philadelphia 76ers, the Raptors have focused on developing from within, instead of making flashy off-season signings and acquisitions. The Raptors were not extremely aggressive during the off-season, drafting Christian Koloko in the second round of the 2022 NBA draft and signing role players Otto Porter Jr., Juancho Hernangómez, and Josh Jackson in free agency. While these players will most likely remain a part of the bench unit, they will provide much needed relief for a shallow roster.
The off-season could have been more exciting, as the Raptors were a potential trading partner for former MVP Kevin Durant. However, that saga ended with the two-time champion committing to staying with the Brooklyn Nets.
Because the roster has not seen much change, this season’s success will heavily rely on the progression of key cornerstones of the franchise. All eyes will be on the 2021–2022 Rookie of the Year, Scottie Barnes, who hopes to have a sophomore year better than his previous year. All-Star Fred VanVleet and All-NBA Pascal Siakam are also expected to continue their stellar performance, while last season’s breakout players Gary Trent Jr. and OG Anunoby hope to take the next step in their development.
This development is very much needed. The Raptors have been a force to be reckoned with but their offense has its faults. Offensively, the Raptors were 20th in points, 29th in assists, and are in the bottom half of the league in all shooting efficiencies. Major improvements must be made, both in scoring and in efficiency.
This past season, Siakam and VanVleet combined for 32 per cent of the Raptors’ points. If you include Scottie Barnes and Gary Trent Jr., that number rises to 58.95 per cent. Simply, the bench should be better if the Raptors hope to repeat their success from the 2018–2019 season.
For this upcoming season, the Raptors are predicted to start with Fred Vanvleet, Gary Trent Jr, OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, and Pascal Siakam. Their bench availability is more dependent on how players play during the preseason.
The backup shooting guard position is the weakest point in this team. However, that might be by design. The Raptors’ positionless nature was put on full display during the series with the 76ers, where Raptors’ head coach, Nick Nurse, put out a lineup of one guard and four forwards to accommodate for VanVleet’s injury. Given their lack of guard depth, it seems that the experimental project will be a leading philosophy at the Scotiabank Arena this season.