The Toronto Raptors are banking on player development for the 2023-24 NBA season. That’s why the franchise hired head coach Darko Rajakovic on June 13.
There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Raptors heading into this season, but there’s optimism for eternal growth.
Here are a few players on the Raptors who can elevate their game for the 2023-24 season.
Gary Trent Jr.
Gary Trent Jr. is coming off an up-and-down season. He was called out by former Raptors head coach Nick Nurse for his bad defensive effort and spent most of last season coming off the bench.
Trent Jr. opted into the final year of his contract with the Toronto Raptors, Sportsnet’s Michael Grange confirmed on June 20.
He saw his scoring average dip last season as he averaged 17.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game.
Trent Jr. should benefit from a fresh start with a new coach. If Barnes runs the point, Trent Jr. should be slated beside him as the team’s starting shooting guard.
Trent Jr. should be one of the Raptors best scorers and Rajakovic should be able to optimize his usage.
OG Anunoby is an elite defender and his offensive game continues to improve.
There’s a reason why OG Anunoby is constantly in the rumour mill.
A player like him doesn’t grow on trees. He’s one of the most underrated players in the league and Masai Ujiri is bullish on Anunoby’s potential.
Can OG Anunoby breakout as a scorer like Mikal Bridges?
The Suns limited Bridges to a 3-and-D role. After he got traded to the Nets he saw a bigger role and his scoring average soared to 26 points per game.
With Fred VanVleet now a member of the Houston Rockets, Anunoby will likely get a bigger role on offence and take a few extra shots.
OG Anunoby could be in line for a major bump and perhaps this is the year his scoring rises to 20 points per game.
This one is an obvious one. With VanVleet’s departure, the Raptors might be ready to unleash point Scottie Barnes.
Rajakovic has already said that he wants the ball in Barnes’ hands a lot more this season and is expecting a breakout season from him:
Darko Rajakovic says on the broadcast he wants to put the ball in Scottie Barnes’ hands a lot more
“Sometimes you need to make a small step back to take a huge leap forward and we’re really hoping for Scottie to have a breakout year for us.”
— Vivek Jacob (@vivekmjacob) July 7, 2023
Barnes is an effective passer, playmaker and has a chance to be one of the better defenders in the league.
However, Barnes needs to get better as a primary ball handler and his pick-and-roll game needs work.
Another area of Barnes’ game that needs to improve is his shooting.
Barnes is shooting 47% from the field and 29% from three for his career. He needs to bump up these percentages if he wants to be an impactful point guard.
Nonetheless, the potential is there for Scottie Barnes to have a big third-year leap.
Raptors player development
It’s simple if the Raptors want to see success this season in a competitive Eastern Conference, they need certain players to take the next step.
If Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby and Scottie Barnes all take leaps this season, then the Raptors will exceed all expectations.
There’s no denying that the Raptors have a lot of talent on their team. Let’s see if this is the year it all comes together for them.
Have you subscribed to the Raptors Nation YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!