Raptors: 3 areas where Toronto is already better than last year

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 04: Scottie Barnes #4 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 04: Scottie Barnes #4 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) /
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Toronto Raptors, Scottie Barnes
Oct 9, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Toronto Raptors forward Scottie Barnes (4) past Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) during the first half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports /

The Toronto Raptors went 3-2 in the preseason, dispatching the Washington Wizards ahead of their season-opening matchup back in Toronto on Wednesday night. Considering how lethargic this team looked at the tail end of last season, the energy provided by the likes of Scottie Barnes and OG Anunoby was palpable.

This team looked ready to cause havoc on the defensive end and attack the rim on offense, which should be the formula that helps get this team back to the postseason after being exiled away from Toronto for a full season. What may ultimately determine their ceiling is their ability to fix their 2020-21 issues.

Due to some misplaced trust in free agency and poor injury luck, the Raptors were bullied in the paint, and their inability to match opponents blow for blow on offense contributed to a late-season slide that pushed them higher up in the lottery. Barring the catastrophic, the Raptors don’t appear to be on course for another season like that.

Based on what we’ve seen in preseason play, the Raptors are already making strides in these key areas. Continued improvement here should put them on track to end up with one of the final postseason spots in the East.

3. Passing the ball

The Raptors finished ninth in preseason play with 25.4 assists per game. Despite losing Kyle Lowry when the offseason began, that is above the team’s 24.1 assists per game tally, which ranked 20th across the league. Being positionless means less iso ball and more distribution, and Toronto has taken to that initiative.

In addition to Barnes looking like a seasoned veteran with some of his passes, Fred VanVleet managed five assists per game in his limited time and rookie Dalano Banton made himself at home with three dimes per night. The ball was rarely static and was constantly on the move, which is exactly what Toronto wants on offense.

The Toronto Raptors appear more willing to share the ball.

Trevor Gleeson brought the flex offense with him from Australia, and this requires players to be unselfish, mobile, and attentive in order to be executed properly. So far, the Raptors have to like this scheme, as it’s letting players like Barnes and VanVleet conduct the offense while getting open perimeter shots for some of their guards.

The Raptors are far from a finished product on the offensive end, and their lack of tremendous shooting talent could come back to bite them at the worst time, but this offense will be much improved from what we saw last year, and that’s all fans can ask for right now.