3 Raptors who deserve blame after disheartening play-in exit

MIAMI, FLORIDA - JANUARY 29: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - JANUARY 29: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images) /
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Very few teams in the NBA can claim to have had a more disappointing season than the Toronto Raptors, who were very quickly dispatched from the play-in tournament after blowing a 19-point lead at home and missing 18 free throws. Players like Fred VanVleet and the lackluster bench, coaches like Nick Nurse, and the front office all deserve blame.

The Raptors now have three of their six best players willing to test the open market in free agency and rumors that Nurse could bolt this team in favor of joining the Houston Rockets. To be quite frank, Toronto’s situation is not desirable in the slightest despite all their premier talent.

While the Raptors’ finish to 2023 might prompt some significant changes, they must first analyze where things went wrong as they try to get back on track and figure out how to avoid the same mistakes from yesteryear best. As such, they must figure out who the main culprits for the team’s poor finish ended up being.

These 3 parties should be viewed as the main reasons the Raptors are where they are, and they must be held accountable for those failings in some form or fashion. They were not the only reason Toronto struggled, but they did their bit to help things deteriorate.

3 Toronto Raptors are to blame for early playoff exit.

3. Fred VanVleet

I know, I know. VanVleet at his best is an excellent shooter and leader that can set the pace of the game, and Toronto definitely won some games they should not have thanks to his presence. That being said, he shouldn’t escape all of the criticism that he has coming his way.

VanVleet’s lack of efficiency and propensity for chucking up tons of shots when the situation did not call for it are bad enough, but the fact that Pascal Siakam and Scottie Barnes are often pushed to the side in crunch time while VanVleet gets the shine could stunt the growth of this team.

Fred VanVleet wasn’t at his best for the Toronto Raptors.

While the Raptors should be considered the favorites to retain VanVleet in free agency, teams like the Rockets (who will have tons of cap space) and the Magic (who were linked to VanVleet before the trade deadline) will likely give Toronto a run for their money here.

VanVleet can be a clutch leader that will hit shots from the locker room when he’s hot. At his worst, he plays like someone who is continually trying to impress the hot girls who just walked into the gym in the middle of a pickup game. That energy might not be best for the 2023-24 squad.