The Toronto Raptors need more shot-creating this season

Toronto Rpators - Pascal Siakam (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Toronto Rpators - Pascal Siakam (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

Now that Kawhi Leonard has moved on, the Toronto Raptors will need to find some more shot-creating to survive this season.

One of the most valuable traits in basketball is the ability to create one’s own shot. Players are given inches of room to work within, and the ones that are able to leverage those inches into something workable are some of the best players in the NBA. Last season, Kawhi Leonard was that player for the Toronto Raptors.

This season, though, Leonard has moved on. His 2018-19 season with the Raptors will go down in folklore as one of the best seasons in franchise history, if not the best. On the court, Leonard proved to be unstoppable at times. His ability to create space for himself is second to none.

Though his handles looked rigid, they are always tight and Leonard could drop a shoulder and leave a defender for dead or even hit a mean fadeaway jumper. His series-ending buzzer-beater shot over Joel Embiid in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals was a mean fadeaway jump shot, and we saw countless iterations of that in the regular season. Most notably against the Portland Trail Blazers and the Brooklyn Nets.

Leonard led the Raptors with a usage-percentage of 30-percent, taking on the bulk of the scoring for the team, averaging 26.6 points per game on 18.8 field-goal attempts in the regular season. In the playoffs, that scoring load went up.

Scoring 30.5 points per game on 20.7 field-goal attempts, Leonard’s postseason was incredible to watch. His ability to create an inch of room out of nothing was something special, he was the main factor as the Raptors won their first-ever NBA title.

Now, he is gone and the Toronto Raptors are in desperate need of shot-creating. Where will it come from?

The Raptors placed heavy emphasis on ball movement last season, that lead to the team taking 2771 three-pointers during the regular season, the most in team history.

It’s not to say that the Raptors were a one-man team, because that is very far from the truth. What can be said, though, is that a large portion of the Raptors offense ran through Leonard and it’ll be interesting to see how they adjust this season.

Pascal Siakam, in his breakout year, was admittedly incredible. He averaged 16.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game as he won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. Teams were forced to gameplan for Siakam on a regular basis but he still played second fiddle to Leonard.

He’ll need to take a huge step forward this season in terms of shot-creating. On top of finding a way to beat centers, Siakam will likely have to deal with double-teams on a regular basis, as well as dealing with each team’s best defender most nights.

From that front, he’ll have to find ways to improve his shot-creating and build a consistent jump shot, something he was on the way to doing last season.

Everyone who had a mid-level role will also certainly need to find ways to get their shot off too. Kyle Lowry, too, will likely have a large scoring role after averaging 14.2 points last season. With Leonard out of the team, the Raptors primary scorer is gone. How they will adapt is anyone’s guess but Toronto remains home to many talented players.

The likes of Norman Powell and Fred VanVleet will continue to inspire too, both players had big seasons last year. Powell will likely start at the shooting guard spot and has shown that he is capable of attacking off the dribble.

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Whoever steps up to the plate is irrelevant, all that matters is that somebody does. The Raptors can’t survive by pace-and-space alone. Someone needs to take the game by the scruff of the neck.