The Toronto Raptors showed how fickle life in the NBA can be over the last few weeks, as they went from a near-unstoppable squad that won five straight games to a unit that limped to a 1-4 record in their next five contests. Even as Pascal Siakam returned to the lineup, OG Anunoby and the rest of the team were unable to grab the win.
The Raptors’ decline could not have come at a worse time. Not only did they give up 127 points in what turned out to be an embarrassing home loss against Dwane Casey and the Pistons, but that gut punch came just days before Toronto was to embark on a long West Coast road trip.
After some mixed results against Eastern Conference foes, Toronto will start a six-game stint with a game against old friend Norman Powell and the Portland Trail Blazers. Subsequent road games against the Jazz, Warriors, and Grizzlies are also coming upon on the schedule.
If the Toronto Raptors play as they have been over the last week, they could easily end up getting hurled further down the standings in a very competitive conference. If these 3 players perform well, the fortunes could be reversed as Toronto looks to get back on the right track.
3 Toronto Raptors who need to step up in the next few weeks.
3. Khem Birch
Birch has proven his value to this team multiple times over, as the Raptors were completely flattened in the post without his usual blend of rebounding and defense. Birch finally made his return against Detroit, but his performance wasn’t exactly dominant despite playing against some inferior competition.
Birch made just one shot from the field and collected five rebounds in 16 minutes. With Precious Achiuwa questionable against Portland and likely not at full strength for the first few games of the trip, Birch’s ability to vacuum rebounds and defend in the post will become even more valuable.
The Toronto Raptors could be buoyed by Khem Birch.
The Raptors will have to contend with players like Jusuf Nurkic, Rudy Gobert, and Steven Adams throughout this road trip. Achiuwa would get pushed to the side with minimal effort by players that big, and Siakam would be a less than ideal matchup given his wiry frame.
Birch will never be expected to be a high-level contributor on the offensive end for this team. However, as long as he can be as effective on the defensive side of affairs, Toronto should be able to withstand the opening salvo from a parade of quality bigs.