After starting their season 0-3, the Toronto Raptors have dug themselves a hole.
If the New Orleans game was an anomaly and the San Antonio game was an unlucky bounce, the Philadelphia game proved that the Toronto Raptors aren’t going to coast to another cushy playoff spot in 2020-2021.
Up by 14 at one point, Toronto watched as Joel Embiid went to work for the 76ers. The Kansas product, who once upon a time was locked down by Marc Gasol en route to a Raptors championship, had his way on the inside, which left former Raptor Danny Green and Seth Curry open for perimeter shots.
So what have we learned from the Raptors’ slow start? Let’s discuss.
The five is still a weakness
Let’s get one thing straight. Gasol and Serge Ibaka were going to be missed, no matter who the Raptors brought in to replace them. We just didn’t know it was going to be this rough.
Through three games, Aron Baynes has seen the lion’s share of playing time at centre, and is on track for a career-low in field goal percentage, as well as a career-high in turnovers. Toronto’s other free agent signing, Alex Len, has only factored into one game, in which he played 21 minutes and only mustered two points. Chris Boucher has provided some nice scoring off the bench, but at 6’9, is grossly undersized for the position.
The team’s glaring hole at centre was perfectly encapsulated by two possessions late in the fourth quarter of the Raptors’ 119-114 loss to the Spurs. Down the stretch, Nick Nurse opted to play Boucher at the five.
The Canadian was late to close out DeMar DeRozan on a three that brought the Spurs within one (8:20), and then was out-rebounded by LaMarcus Aldridge on a critical play that gave the Spurs a lead they’d never relinquish (8:32).
If you could meld Baynes’ physicality, Len’s size and Boucher’s scoring together in some sort of basketball mad scientist laboratory, you’d be talking about the Raptors’ next great centre. Unfortunately, Baynes nor Len nor Boucher are complete players.
While one of these three is on the floor, the Raptors will be missing the traits that the others possess.