2. Team chemistry and leadership
2021/22 is the season that Fred VanVleet will be given the reigns to running the Raptors’ offense after the departure of Kyle Lowry, the former heart and soul of the team. Last month, Lowry was signed and traded to the Heat for Precious Achiuwa and Goran Dragic.
This coming season, VanVleet’s leadership and influence on the Raptors’ offense will be on full display. Even with the turnover that’s affected the Raptors’ roster, it was by design, and the team maintains a quality core of players, including VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Chris Boucher, and OG Anunoby.
Philadelphia cannot boast the same thing. When asked if Ben Simmons could be the point guard on a championship Philly team, Head coach Rivers said:
"“I don’t know the answer to that right now,”"
This could make for a very frosty situation if Simmons isn’t traded.
Is Joel Embiid a true leader?
There are also questions about the MVP caliber player on this team in Joel Embiid. He did average a double-double in three contests vs. Toronto in 2021, and has dominated basically every great big at least once, but he has struggled mightily in recent years vs. the Raptors and sometimes disappears when the lights shine brightest on the grandest stage.
Jimmy Butler, a former 76er, was asked about the work effort of the team from Philadelphia, and his response was:
"“Everybody don’t work like that. That’s just what it is.”"
After missing both his rookie and sophomore seasons due to a severe foot injury, Embiid has yet to play more than 70 games in any season for Philadelphia since 2016, even though the past two seasons have been shortened to 72 games.
Tobias Harris, who signed a five-year $180 million contract extension with Philadelphia in 2019, hasn’t been a consistent performer either. He was 2-15 on three-balls in the playoffs during the Disney Bubble.
There is talent in Philadelphia, but whether it’s the coaching or the players, it just hasn’t gelled well as of yet despite ample time together. Let’s say Toronto gets hot from beyond the 3-point line. Why couldn’t they steal a few games here and there against a less-than harmonious situation?