Nick Nurse and the Toronto Raptors have tried to make themselves a defense-first team that leans on a bunch of versatile wings like Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby. Unfortunately, the whole “Vision 6-9” philosophy has shown some cracks lately.
Toronto has won just four games in December, with the defense giving up 116 points per game in a six-game losing streak. As illustrated in a loss against the Los Angeles Clippers, Toronto just can’t keep pace with the rest of the NBA from beyond the 3-point line on both ends.
Brilliant individual performances from Siakam and Scottie Barnes are being wasted in these lackluster games. The construction of Toronto’s roster makes it very difficult for Nurse to use any different method of attack. At least Nurse is aware of the fact that this team is flailing right now.
Nurse said that the team’s subpar performance from 3-point range is contributing to the poor defensive numbers. The constant misses are putting them at a constant disadvantage in transition. Toronto’s half-court defense is intriguing, but their turnover-creation skills are nullified when they can’t hit the broad side of a barn.
Nick Nurse and the Toronto Raptors are struggling on defense.
One other factor working against Nurse in the last few weeks is his overreliance on stars like Siakam and Anunoby. Pascal, OG, and point guard Fred VanVleet all rank in the top 10 in minutes per game, meaning that they are often running on empty when the fourth quarter comes around.
The style of play Toronto wants to instill in their players uses a ton of energy. There are two ways to counteract that. Option No. 1 is to go 10-deep on the bench regularly, but Toronto’s well-known bench issues and struggles with staying healthy make that next to impossible.
The other way is to be a more effective shooting team, thus slowing the game down and allowing the team’s half-court defense to shine. Right now, teams are taking advantage of a tired Raptors team that consistently lacks the energy to defend the perimeter.
This recent stretch of futility has underscored the need for Masai Ujiri to make a trade and find a player that can shoot from 3-point range. That hypothetical name would not only improve the worst half-court and 3-point shooting offense in the league, but the defense would reciprocate that injection of energy by performing more consistently.