Over the next two days we’ll be taking a look at the best and worst case scenario for the Toronto Raptors for the 2023-24 season.
We’ll start with the best case scenario for Toronto. The Raptors decided not to blow up their roster this offseason after they lost Fred VanVleet to the Houston Rockets in free agency.
The Raptors still have Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby. Two players who were in many trade rumors this summer.
For the Raptors to see success this season it’s simple, they need player development to be at the forefront. Lucky for them first-time head coach Darko Rajakovic’s strength is exactly that.
The Raptors are going to need to have internal growth on their team from the likes of Precious Achiuwa, OG Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr. and Scottie Barnes.
Scottie Barnes’ development
Scottie Barnes may be the biggest piece to the puzzle for the Raptors. He will enter his third season as a pro and many are expecting Barnes to take that giant leap this season. After an underwhelming sophomore season, Barnes looks to put together his best season yet.
In a perfect world, Barnes takes a big third year leap. With an increased role on offense, his scoring average increases from 15.3 to over 20 point per game and his rebounds increase from 6.6 to 8 a game. While he shoots it at 50 percent from the field and closer to 35 percent from three.
If he can put up these numbers while Pascal Siakam has another All-NBA type season and both show they can co-exit then the Raptors are in business.
The other guys
Outside of Barnes, Gary Trent Jr. and OG Anunoby increase their scoring averages with more touches dedicated to them. Also, Dennis Schroder carries over his FIBA success to his new team and has a breakout season.
Schroder is another big factor. He was brought in as VanVleet’s replacement. If he can make up the bulk of VanVleet’s production, that would be huge for the Raptors. Schroder just won gold for Germany and won the FIBA World Cup MVP. He averaged an impressive 19.1 points and 6.1 assists per game.
It’s hard to expect Schroder to put up these numbers with the Raptors, but if he can average closer to 16-17 points per game that will help. Also Schroder will be able to jumpstart the Raptors’ stagnant halfcourt offense with his speed and playmaking ability.
In this best case scenario the Raptors bench unit also steps up. The Raptors have some nice pieces from off the bench. If Schroder starts, Malachi Flynn should be given some time running the second unit and Gary Trent Jr should be the team’s Sixth Man. Raptors will also have Jalen McDaniels who was a solid signing, the return of 3-and-D man Otto Porter Jr., Chris Boucher, Precious Achiuwa and rookie Gradey Dick. There’s some good talent there.
One of the biggest flacks when it came to former head coach Nick Nurse was that he didn’t give players, especially the younger ones ample opportunities. That should change with Rajakovic.
The Raptors defense should be solid, but their offense will be the biggest question mark with no VanVleet. However, if Barnes, Schroder, Trent Jr. and Anunoby all increase their scoring with a balanced bench attack, that should make up for the missing offensive production.
Where do the Raptors finish in the east?
In this best case scenario the Raptors exceed expectations and outperform the 36 wins predicted by ESPN.
The Eastern Conference is going to be tough. There are teams like the Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic that appear to be on the rise. However, if things go the Raptors way they should be able to be better than a handful of teams in the conference.
The Raptors win a few more games than a season ago and finish 45-37. This gives them the 6th spot in the Eastern Conference and a guaranteed playoff berth.
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