Option 1: The Raptors miss the payoffs
The Raptors are a team with a lot of young pieces, plus a lack of a definitive All-Star, so fans have to consider the possibility that we may be on the short side of .500 in 2021-22.
A lot would have to go wrong. The team should be in a better place this year than it was was last year, at least by virtue of returning to Canada. Hopefully, the Raptors won’t have to fight through so many injuries, and then there’s just the fact that we’ll be playing half our games at home.
We can play devil’s advocate all day. What if Siakam’s injury lingers? What if Anunoby never takes a leap out of the “star role player” designation? The negativity game is great, but it’s not always productive.
That said, there are some genuine concerns entering the 2021-22 season, starting with the team’s lack of shooting. The recent acquisition of Svi Mykhailiuk should help matters, but even then he’s more of a catch-and-shoot guy. The fact of the matter is that outside of VanVleet and sometimes Trent, the Raptors have no 3-point creators.
This is a product of the Raptors being a team built for the future, not the present. The obvious roster flaws exist because Masai Ujiri isn’t trying to build a title contender this year. He’d rather trot out a bunch of talented young guys who may not totally fit together with the goal of being a contender down the line.
You can’t undersell the loss of Kyle Lowry
The one other undeniable truth is this. Kyle Lowry is gone. Everyone knows why he was so important to this team and this franchise, but we still can’t walk into next year and expect not to feel the loss of Lowry in the win-loss column.
There are the obvious ramifications of losing a perennial All-Star. The lack of a big game closer, the shot creation, the energy, the leadership, the pedigree, etc. But it’ll also be interesting to see how VanVleet can fill his shoes.
Until now, VanVleet’s job has been to get buckets and defend the other team’s point guard. Now he’s about to shoulder a lot more offensive responsibility. He’s shifting to a true lead guard, in charge of getting shots for others as well as himself. It’s a much more difficult transition than one might think.
If VanVleet can’t make that shift, then there’ll be a trickle-down effect throughout the team. If the Raptors are going to bottom out this year, that’s the only way I see it happening, save for a glut of injuries.