Have the Toronto Raptors done enough to fix their rebounding issues?

TAMPA, FLORIDA - MAY 11: Khem Birch #24 of the Toronto Raptors. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FLORIDA - MAY 11: Khem Birch #24 of the Toronto Raptors. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

After finishing third last in rebounding last season, the Toronto Raptors are heading into the season with Khem Birch and Precious Achiuwa as the only centers on the team. Only three of the league’s bottom 10 rebounding teams (Dallas, Miami, Phoenix) made the playoffs last year.

Conversely, seven of the league’s top 10 rebounding teams made the playoffs. The focus for Masai Ujiri and the organization this offseason has been acquiring young, positionless players with upside, Achiuwa and Scottie Barnes especially.

The Raptors are looking to evaluate young talent this year and probably aren’t too worried about contending for a championship, but they will still be eyeing a return to the postseason after such a lackluster campaign in 2021, and some added skill down in the post is a big reason why they are on the comeback trail.

While Ujiri’s roster-building looks good “on paper”, players like Alex Len and Aron Baynes had some appeal “on paper” before their play on the court exposed them as poor fits for Nick Nurse’s schematics. Did Ujiri do enough to protect that Achilles heel in 2021?

Are the Toronto Raptors a better rebounding team?

The organization has tried to sell us on Freddie Gillespie as a hybrid forward that could potentially fill a backup center role. Gillespie is a tad undersized, limited offensively, and hasn’t looked great at center in Summer League play. He isn’t the answer.

There’s still a possibility the Raptors will pick up another young center, they could make a move before the trade deadline. Regardless, rebounding should still be one of the biggest challenges for the team this season. 11 players on the roster are listed between 6-7 and 6-9, with no one is over 6-9.

On paper, the roster isn’t built to outrebound other teams.

Aron Baynes’ inability to be a consistent rebounder last season was a flaw that turned a lot of Raptors nation against him. Birch will have the center role this year, but will he be able to hold up for the entire season? Nick Nurse would have to play mostly small-ball lineups if he struggles.

It will be interesting to see what Nurse’s plan is. The Raptors will have to find a way to keep guys like Joel Embiid, Rudy Gobert, and Clint Capela from dominating the offensive boards and limiting the Raptors’ second-chance points.

They couldn’t do it last year, and I would bet against them doing it this year. Nurse will also have to think about the health of his stars. We will see if Siakam, currently rehabbing a shoulder injury. and Anunoby can stay healthy and offer assistance in this area.

I think rebounding will be a problem for the team all season. However, if the Toronto Raptors can shoot well, push the pace, and defend, they should be able to withstand losing the rebounding battle most nights.

One thing is guaranteed, the Raptors will be a high-energy team that’s always moving on defense. There are no statues on this roster. This will be the most unique Raptors team in a while, as the days of Jonas Valanciunas and Marc Gasol holding down the paint for the Raptors are long gone.

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