The Toronto Raptors may have fired Nick Nurse, hired a coach with a history in player development in Darko Rajakovic, and saw Fred VanVleet leave the team to join the Houston Rockets, but Masai Ujiri is still trying to put together a team who could make it to the postseason.
In an Eastern Conference that is much deeper than it has been in years, the Raptors are not expected to move the needle. After crashing out of the play-in last year at the hands of Diar DeRozan, her father DeMar, and the Chicago Bulls, the general vibes surrounding this team have been off.
The Raptors needed to make wholesale changes to how the team operates if they wanted any shot at making it to the postseason, and they have done a solid job at starting that remaking by swapping out Nurse and VanVleet with Rajakovic and the team’s brand-new backcourt.
The Raptors will have no shot of making the postseason if they are unable to accomplish these tasks. If Rajakovic can implement these schematic changes, and if Ujiri can practice patience in the front office when teams start calling, the postseason may not be an unreasonable goal.
3 things the Toronto Raptors must do to get to the playoffs.
3. Make Scottie Barnes the point guard
The Raptors were the subject of a good deal of offseason mockery when they signed Dennis Schroder following VanVleet’s departure, as many (correctly) view him as a major step down at the point guard position. However, Schroder may not have been signed to be the primary point guard.
One of the main reasons Toronto picked Barnes No. 4 overall was the fact that he is a ridiculously good passer for a player his size. Why would Toronto choose to once again make him a traditional frontcourt player instead of letting him be the main offensive juggernaut?
The Toronto Raptors must lean on Scottie Barnes.
The Raptors’ moves in the last two seasons have all been centered around making sure that Barnes has all the tools at his disposal needed to evolve into a genuine superstar. Toronto will gain nothing by keeping the training wheels on their prized possession.
A starting lineup with Barnes and Gary Trent Jr. in the backcourt, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam as the two forward spots, and Jakob Poeltl at the center spot might be the best and most effective way to get the Raptors performing well on the offensive side of the ball under Rajakovic.