The Toronto Raptors missed the playoffs for just the second time in the last decade in 2023, but they have a talented roster with the potential to finish in the top six in the Eastern Conference. Losing Fred VanVleet in free agency (subscription required) hurt, but they quickly inked Dennis Schroder as his replacement. Fans have heard the Pascal Siakam rumors, but a massive trade looks like the only way their roster will significantly change before training camp.
Fans know Masai Ujiri drives a difficult bargain in trade talks, so do not expect a Siakam trade anytime soon. The Raptors are currently focused on staying in contention and doing what is necessary to improve their championship odds. They won’t be actively buying on the trade market until February’s deadline, but Toronto is closer than fans think to the title picture.
A few minor tweaks may be all the Raptors need to be back in the playoffs with a shot at making a deep run. The Eastern Conference is wide open, especially after the Celtics’ moves this offseason and the 76ers dealing with James Harden’s trade request. The Bucks and Heat will be back in the hunt, but there is room for Toronto to return to the playoffs and make a deep run if things break right.
Pieces Toronto Raptors must find to become true title contenders
5. Defensive identity
Despite missing the playoffs, the Raptors finished 11th in defensive rating last season. They have a ton of length and athletic ability, which allowed former head coach Nick Nurse to reach deep into his bag of tricks on the defensive end of the floor.
How will things change under new head coach Darko Rajakovic? The 44-year-old talked about his philosophy during his introductory press conference, and he noted that he wants input from the players. Toronto’s goals will be to protect the paint and limit corner threes.
Can they find a defensive identity that the entire team buys into? It is an important piece of any title-contending squad. The Denver Nuggets finished 15th in defensive rating last season, which is a rarity. Nearly every year, the champion finishes inside the top ten, and the Toronto Raptors need to get there if they plan on being true title challengers.