Toronto Raptors training camp is right around the corner, meaning that Toronto’s goal to build for a stronger future can officially get kick-started. The 2021-22 season can go in one of several different directions, and getting off to a fast start is integral to this team succeeding in 2021.
Toronto did manage to draft well, adding a class full of high-ceiling talents like Scottie Barnes, and they retained two starters from last year’s second-half push in Gary Trent Jr. and Khem Birch on relatively economical deals.
While the squad will be back in Toronto this season, plenty of question marks surround this team. With Kyle Lowry gone, a rotation that needs to figure out how minutes are assigned, and a smattering of very raw players that need some tutelage before they are ready for primetime, Nick Nurse has his hands full.
Fans and team members alike will be keeping an eye out for these three trends over the course of training camp and the preseason, as they could be the difference between a surprisingly efficient start and another season spent at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.
3 biggest areas of focus at Toronto Raptors training camp
3. Development of the rookies
The Raptors definitely opted for versatility and long-term potential over immediate scoring growth, as they followed up the selection of Barnes by taking Nebraska guard and Native Canadian Dalano Banton right before they added Louisville’s David Johnson. All three fit Ujiri’s vision of a long, defensively sound team.
However, none of the three are projected to be particularly good shooters as rookies. Barnes’ biggest flaw is his jumper, though he made strides in Summer League. Banton was objectively poor as a shooter with the Cornhuskers, and while Johnson was the best of the three in college, his Vegas stats weren’t jaw-dropping.
How will the rookies help out Toronto Raptors?
While Johnson and UDFA Justin Champagnie, also not a fantastic shooter, will likely get a ton of reps in the G League to start the season by way of their two-way deals. Banton will likely be on the end of the bench, while Barnes stands to be one of the first guys off of it in his rookie season.
If they start showing gradual improvement over the course of Toronto’s camp and preseason schedule, Ujiri’s scouting knowledge and penchant for risk-taking could pay off once again. If Barnes can create his own shot and a 6-9 guard like Banton starts scoring, Toronto’s bench will be just short of elite.