As the Toronto Raptors hit the quarter-mark of their season, there are issues plaguing the team which will take time to get right.
When a team goes on a long trip, you get a true sense of where they are thriving and struggling. The Toronto Raptors just completed a six-game road trip where they 2-4 where some glaring issues were exposed.
Toronto is also 20 games into the season and find themselves 12th in the Eastern Conference with a 9-11 record. No one expected the Raptors to be pushing with the top teams in the East so realistically, being in the hunt makes sense.
This is a team that is giving fourth overall pick Scottie Barnes legitimate minutes partly because of injuries to Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby. The Raptors already had a young team to begin with and on top of that, they are also lacking the depth from past years.
Again, this team hasn’t been able to play at full strength which impacts how they run the lineup. The good thing for the Raptors is that a season is not won or lost after 20 games.
There is a learning curve with a team that has made significant changes and trying to get players to take what they have learned and execute it on the court.
"“We might be the best practice team in the world. We look like champions in practice and shootarounds and all that, when we can coach and keep everything sharp,” Fred VanVleet explained to Doug Smith of the Toronto Star. But when you get out there on that floor, it’s just us out there and there’s not much help that the coaches can give us.”"
We have seen glimpses of the potential these players bring with VanVleet, Barnes, Gary Trent Jr. and even Pascal Siakam trying to make the right decisions in the right moments.
Offensively, this team will eventually find their identity as long as the top players find a way to execute plays. Where the real issue lies is with the defence.
Toronto Raptors need to find continuity and consistency on defence
As Sportsnet’s Steven Loung mentioned, the Raptors allowed 117.3 points per 100 possessions on their recent road trip. You would think that this is an area of concern for head coach Nick Nurse.
from a player standpoint, they aren’t happy with how things are going defensively and are looking to find ways to improve.
"“I’ve been searching for some of the answers, we’ve found some, we haven’t found all of them, but I think it just comes down to manning up and guarding your yard, taking pride in the defensive end of the floor, staying locked in the game plan,” VanVleet explained. “The coaching staff, they give us great game plans every game, we’re prepared, and it’s up to the players to go out there and execute that, to be locked in and we haven’t done that the last however many games, 10 games? Our defence has taken a slide so we gotta find a way to get that back but I’m confident that we will.”"
It would be easy to suggest that by playing with more focus and attention at certain points in the game would be a good start to fixing the defence. Building chemistry on the floor will be important as there is a foundation to work with.
At the start of the season, the Raptors showed they are a solid defensive unit, but part of the challenge is remaining disciplined. Without being engaged, the opposing team is going to pick apart a player who isn’t focused on the defensive assignment.
What are your thoughts on the Raptors at the quarter-mark of the season? Let us know in the comments below.