Toronto Raptors show growing pains through first three games

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 19: Jerian Grant
TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 19: Jerian Grant /

The Toronto Raptors are in the process of retooling their offence, and while some signs are encouraging, the growing pains still show.

Three games into the new season, the Toronto Raptors are showing that change is possible. Dwane Casey & co. are doing an admirable job in modifying their isolation-heavy offence from last season, but the results are mixed.

There’s no doubt ball movement has improved. Looking at the basics, assists are up and focus on the 3-pointer is strong. This is a trend in the right direction, but the new system is far from a finished product.

While it’s still early, the miscues and inefficiencies are apparent. Game one went fairly well, with the team shooting 44.8 percent from deep, but things have derailed since.

We got vintage DeMar DeRozan in game two, which buoyed the team to victory. But of course, you can leave it to the San Antonio Spurs to expose your weaknesses.

Toronto’s rebounding disappeared. Open 3-pointers didn’t find the net. Toronto Raptors beat reporter Josh Lewenberg tweeted out a highlight of their woes:

Yet, the Raptors managed to stay in the game, mainly by forcing turnovers; they racked up 11 steals to the Spurs’ four.

However, rather than utilize their extra possessions, they often wasted them on bad transition plays. Talk about Jekyll and Hyde.

The bright side

On the bright side, the intensity shown by some of the young guns is promising. Jakob Poeltl might have had his best game as a Raptor, registering a double-double (10 points, 12 rebounds), and looking fundamentally sound.

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Norman Powell, although having a rough shooting night, still brought the hustle with three of the Raptors’ 11 steals. With time, one can only hope the continued effort will yield results.

Even more promising is looking at some advanced team stats in comparison with the rest of the league. Over the first two games of the season, the Raptors’ rank within the top-10 in pace factor, a stat that tracks possessions per 48 minutes.

In addition, they sit in the top-five for defensive efficiency, which will need to be maintained in order to match up against elite teams. Here’s hoping that Casey never forgets his defensive roots.

Next: Raptors excited but tempering expectations for OG Anunoby

As we all know, it’s a long season. Players will rise, players will fall, and ultimately, the Toronto Raptors should still be a top-four team in the Eastern Conference. What is to be seen is if they can finally make that next step, a step into the realm of competing with the Cleveland Cavaliers.