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Toronto Raptors season update: Raptors break even but tournament hopes dashed

Despite the NBA season being just over a month old, the Toronto Raptors have already felt plenty of highs and lows in this campaign.

The Raptors have had an odd 2023 and their path forward does seem a little unclear, as is their short-term ambitions for this campaign.

While free agency questions hang in the air and a debutant coach gets to grips with the big chair, the Raptors still have talent capable of making some noise.

They’ve wound up two places lower through 16 games than they finished last term, sitting in 11th now after finishing ninth a year ago.

The Raptors have won eight and lost eight following Friday’s victory over the Chicago Bulls. However, that wasn’t enough to keep them in the In-Season Tournament, following losses to the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic.

Record:8-9
Standing:10th in Eastern Conference
In-Season Tournament Record:1-2

Key wins:

  • 11/01/23: 130-111 vs Milwaukee Bucks
  • 11/08/23: 127-116 vs Dallas Mavericks
  • 11/22/23: 132-131 vs Indiana Pacers

Key losses:

  • 10/27/23: 104-103 OT vs Chicago Bulls
  • 11/11/23: 117-94 vs Boston Celtics
  • 11/21/23: 126-107 vs Orlando Magic

Key Statistical Leaders

Points Per Game

  • Pascal Siakam: 20.1
  • Scottie Barnes: 19.3
  • Dennis Schroder: 16.9

Assists Per Game

  • Dennis Schroder: 6.6
  • Scottie Barnes: 5.8
  • Pascal Siakam: 5.3

Rebounds

  • Scottie Barnes: 9.1
  • Jakob Poeltl: 8.3
  • Pascal Siakam: 6.8

Steals Per Game

  • Scottie Barnes: 1.7
  • OG Anunoby: 1.2
  • Jaokb Poeltl: 0.9

Blocks Per Game

  • Scottie Barnes: 1.3
  • Jakob Poeltl: 1
  • OG Anunoby: 0.7

Three-Point Percentage (minimum 1 attempt per game)

  • Otto Porter Jr: 46.7%
  • OG Anunoby: 41%
  • Chris Boucher: 40%

NBA Team Stat Rankings (out of 30)

Points Per Game:18
Rebounds Per Game:9
Assists Per Game:2
Offensive Rating:23
Defensive Rating:11
Assist Percentage:3
Assist to Turnover Ratio:11

Top Performers

There’s no doubt that Scottie Barnes has taken a huge step forward in his third year in the NBA. He features in five of the six categories above, while his three-point shooting has arguably been his standout improvement.

After winning Rookie of the Year in 2022, Barnes didn’t offer up much progression in his game in his sophomore season. However, he’s now a key figure in this side at both ends of the court.

Barnes shot at just 28% from three last term on three attempts per game, while he’s taking 5.3 shots from deep per night this season, making 38.3 percent. That extra dimension will really help his game, giving him multiple avenues to score.

The issue for the Raptors has been dovetailing the displays of Barnes with Pascal Siakam, their two-time All-NBA forward. Siakam is a pending free agent and he was the standout player last season.

The panic over Siakam’s displays has been slightly overblown, considering that he’s also playing less. The forward led the league in minutes in each of the last two seasons, something Rajakovic has promised to address. 

Considering that, his points per game tally dipping from 24.2 last season to 20.1 this term isn’t a huge drop as a result of him playing four minutes fewer per contest.

OG Anunoby has also had an incredibly effective season, with his defensive input invaluable to the Raptors. He’s making strides as a three-point shooter too, the only downside for the Raptors is he’s likely to hit free agency this summer on the back of a stellar season.

Odds

To win Eastern Conference:+8000
To win NBA Championship:+20000

Verdict

The Raptors are currently on course for a repeat of last season, with a .500 record and a spot in the Play-In Tournament. They have yet to string three consecutive wins together, while losses to the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers prove they’re some way short of the East’s elite.

They’re 4-2 against the rest of the East, which shows that this is a solid team. However, they are likely to top out with a First Round exit in the playoffs at best without a big acquisition.

Given that three of the top six players in their rotation are set for free agency in the summer, staying the course to an early Playoff exit doesn’t look like the best course of action.

The Raptors have another two months before trade talks really begin to sizzle, but if they’re still in and around .500, it may be time to pivot. The market seems short on upgrades for the Raptors right now, which may offer some leverage if they head into the trade deadline as sellers.

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