3 huge problems Raptors must fix amid shaky start to 2022-23

MIAMI, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 22: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors drives against Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 22: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors drives against Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images) /
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The Toronto Raptors were one of the most surprising teams in the league last year, thanks to a 48-win season that established the fraudulent nature of their Tampa performance. Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and O.G. Anunoby entered this season with tons of promise, but their team hasn’t been as dominant as some may have expected.

Toronto has played three top-eight seeds from last year in the Cavaliers, Nets, and Heat. While they narrowly edged out a home win against Cleveland, a late comeback by Brooklyn and a pain-inducing first half against Miami have helped them slip to 1-2 on the season.

The Raptors were certainly done no favors thanks to a very difficult schedule to start off, but this team has some issues that would pop up against even the worst teams in the league. Nick Nurse has made a reputation for himself as a great problem solver, and it’s on him to fix things.

These three issues have been glaringly obvious in the first few games of the season, and they could evolve into even larger problems if Nurse doesn’t smooth things over in the next few games. The schedule is going to get more challenging, but that shouldn’t be an excuse.

3 Toronto Raptors problems that must be fixed

3. Fred VanVleet’s passiveness on offense

VanVleet has taken on more of a facilitating role this year than what we saw at the beginning of last year, likely aimed at getting players like Scottie Barnes and Anunoby the requisite number of offensive touches. That sounds good in theory, but VanVleet needs to be more assertive.

VanVleet has taken just 28 shots in the first three games of the season, even going scoreless in the first half against Miami with just a handful of shots from the field. This is a guy who was scoring 25 points per game with regularity last season, and he needs to be treated as such.

The Toronto Raptors need to lean on Fred VanVleet.

While his Miami game was a disaster for large chunks, VanVleet was effective in close fourth-quarter situations against Cleveland and Brooklyn. There was a period in the middle of last season where VanVleet carried an injured roster with his clutch shooting. If Fred went into games demanding 15 shots, no one would look at him strangely.

VanVleet might not be the most versatile scorer in the world, given his size limitations, but the Raptors need to make sure VanVleet is firing on all cylinders. Since 2019, the Raptors are 31-18 when VanVleet takes at least 15 attempts from the field and makes 40% of his 3-pointers.