1. Perimeter defense
Even the most casual observer could see that Nurse and Masai Ujiri wanted to form one of the league’s best defenses in the offseason. The decision to draft Barnes and Dalano Banton showed that Nurse wanted a team built around lanky, versatile defenders. Even some vaunted offenses have had issues against Toronto.
Opponents are making 35.5% of their 3-point attempts against Toronto this season, which is a better mark than the 38% average last year’s squad put up. While there have been some bumpy patches, it looks like Nurse’s goal of an elite perimeter defense is starting to be realized.
The Toronto Raptors have played much better defense lately.
Keep in mind, there was a brief stretch right as they embarked on their West Coast trip where they couldn’t stop a college team on the perimeter. Whatever issues the team had on that trip appear to have been corrected given some of the strong performances during their homestand.
Toronto still needs a better rim protector to help a team that ranks seventh in the league in points allowed per game make that next step and become a truly menacing unit. Once that final jigsaw piece is added, the Raptors will be equipped to turn into a playoff mainstay for years to come.