A RAPTORS TEAM IN LIMBO

2023-11-27 · 3 min read · NBA/Basketball
Pascal Siakam and Toronto Raptors

David Richard/USA TODAY Sports | Dan Hamilton

Ask any Toronto Raptors fan and probably tell you that this year's iteration of the team, if nothing else, is much more fun to watch and follow then last year's disaster of a season.
At 8-9, the results haven't painted much of a picture of change thus far, but the eye test definitely looks different, and the team is playing with more spirit under new head coach Darko Rajakovic.  The defense has returned somewhat to the level that the franchise has become accustomed too; using length to get deflections and cause turnovers, and just wreak havoc in general.  Toronto currently sits 12th in defensive rating, and 9th in steals.
The offense (while still bad) has been a bit better of late as well.  After a dismal start to the campaign in which the Raps ranked in the bottom 5 in offensive rating, they’ve crept up to 22nd in that regard.  They also rank 4th in the league in assists, so at least the ball is moving.
Another positive is 3rd year forward Scottie Barnes, who is finally starting to look like the player many thought he could become.  Barnes has impressive splits of 19.0 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 5.6 apg with a field goal percentage of 46.5% and a 3 point field goal percentage of 37.5%.  His defense has also been outstanding, consistently guarding the opposing team’s second best player, while averaging 1.6 steals and 1.3 blocks per game.
It should also be noted that Toronto has had the 9th toughest strength of schedule thus far.  Out of their 17 games, they’ve already played Boston twice, Philly twice, Milwaukee twice, Dallas, Orlando, Minnesota and Indiana.  All of whom are top 10 teams so far this season.
If you were to look at that schedule heading into the year and say they'd come out of it 8-9, you probably would have taken that.  Once the schedule turns in their favor, they could be a candidate to sneak up the standings a little bit to potentially try to grab the 6th seed in the East.
But despite all those positives,  there's a bigger question hanging over this team and this franchise right now.  Who do they want to be?
Even with the new vibe around the team, the best possible outcome for this season is a middle of the pack playoff team and a first round exit.  And with a ceiling like that, it might be more prudent to trade the likes of Pascal Siakam, who continues to put up monster numbers, and OG Anunoby, in order to replenish their draft stock and start a rebuild that's seemed inevitable for 2 years now.
The issue is, Toronto doesn’t own this year’s first round pick, so they really have no incentive to tank.  Plus, they’re a little bit too good to bottom out.  But that’s exactly where you don’t want to be as a franchise; too good for a high pick but not good enough for serious contention.  And that’s where Masai Ujiri finds himself right now.
What they do moving forward, will be very interesting to watch.
Sports Tree Profile

By: Eddie Huband

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