For the first time since 2013, the Toronto Raptors were left watching the NBA playoffs from the sidelines after finishing near the bottom of the Eastern Conference last season. But hope springs anew, and it’s not inconceivable to think the Raptors can get back to the postseason in 2022.
On a team heavy on young talent that’s still developing combined with new arrivals that are still acclimatizing, there are too many unknowns to project how good the Raptors truly could be in 2021-22. This could be the season they rise back up the standings, or it could just be the second year of a retool.
What can be said with certainty is that if Toronto is going to make a big improvement on last season’s 27-45, a number of Raptors will need to perform at levels they never have before.
With six-time All-Star Kyle Lowry traded in the offseason from Toronto to the Miami Heat, there is both a need and opportunity for others to take on a much greater role. The good news is, there are plenty of players capable of doing that for the Raptors in 2021-22.
As a quick note, this list is not including Raptors in their first couple of NBA seasons, as such players will effectively by default have the best years of their nascent careers.
These three Toronto Raptors could have a career year.
3. Chris Boucher
The Montreal product must know this could be a big season for him, as he has made a remarkably speedy recovery after undoing surgery to repair a dislocated finger on his left hand.
At the beginning of October, when Nick Nurse revealed that Boucher had undergone the procedure, the Raptors coach said Boucher would be out three to four weeks, which would have meant the forward being sidelined for at least Toronto’s first few games.
Miraculously, Boucher made his season debut against the Wizards on Wednesday night. With such a pivotal season ahead of him, it’s important for him to get as much time on the floor as possible.
Chris Boucher has tough competition for minutes in the Toronto Raptors.
It’s understandable that Boucher wouldn’t want to miss even a single game, considering the standout performers of the preseason for Toronto, such as Precious Achiuwa and Scottie Barnes, are players that Boucher will ostensibly be competing for minutes with.
Boucher is already coming off what to now has been his finest NBA season, setting career highs across the board, including more than doubling his previous best with an average 13.6 points per game, thanks partly to adding a three-point shot to his arsenal, as he knocked down 90 treys on 235 attempts.
He ranked fifth in the league with 1.9 blocks per game, pulled down 6.7 boards, and had the eighth-best offensive rating in the NBA (127.4). And he did all this while starting less than a quarter of the games he played in (14 of 60) and spending as much time on the bench as on the court (24.2 minutes per game).
Boucher will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, so there is no shortage of motivation for the Oregon alum. He’s a bit behind the eight-ball, having missed all of Toronto’s preseason games, so it will be interesting to see how much Nurse uses Boucher off the cuff.
Boucher can only step it up another level for as much as he is given that opportunity. He could certainly help his cause by eliminating his propensity for getting into foul trouble.
There’s no doubt a role on this team for a 6-9 athlete who can defend on the perimeter and knock down shots from the outside. If he gets the minutes, Boucher could flirt with 15 points per game.