The Toronto Raptors are viewed by many as a team that is going to regress in 2023-24. With Nick Nurse in Philadelphia and Fred VanVleet in Houston, many are skeptical of Toronto’s plan to replace those two franchise icons with Darko Rajakovic and Dennis Schroder, respectively.
Masai Ujiri, on the other hand, thinks this team is perfectly equipped to be a winner right out of the box. Why else would he refuse to trade VanVleet away before free agency and resist trade offers for many of Toronto’s best players? He thinks this team has made some strides in the right direction.
The Raptors have made some improvements this season, even if the general vibe surrounding this team is one of ambivalence and uncertainty. The team had some noteworthy flaws last year, and the front office has taken steps, incremental as they may be, to fix them.
When one looks at the Raptors’ roster and contrasts it to what they went into last season with, it is abundantly clear that Toronto has taken some steps in the right direction. Look for the team to be much stronger in multiple areas that correspond to winning.
3 areas where the Toronto Raptors improved in 2023-24.
3. Interior Defense
The Raptors were playing like one of the best defensive teams in the league when they finally acquired a true rim-protecting center in Jakob Poeltl at the trade deadline. After a solid half-season stint, Toronto will finally get to unleash him for an entire 82-game campaign after signing him to a four-year contract.
Precious Achiuwa is going to have yet another year under his belt, which should only make one of the best defensive power forwards in the Eastern Conference more feared on that end. The signing of Jalen McDaniels gives Toronto another versatile threat who can slow down wings and bigs alike.
The Toronto Raptors will have a solid defense in 2023-24.
The Raptors ranked as the fourth-best defense in the league in terms of points per game last season. However, the team’s defensive rating showed that they were the 12th-best team in the league. Nick Nurse’s slow, methodical pace made the raw points per game numbers a bit misleading.
While Rajakovic promises to ruin a more exciting, up-tempo attack, it would be a major disappointment if Toronto does not end the season as a Top 10 team in the league in defensive rating. Poeltl will be a big part of this unit, as will OG Anunoby being just as deadly inside the arc as he was last year.