The Toronto Raptors have always placed the development of their young players at or near the top of their organizational priorities list, but this directive will get kicked into overdrive this season. With 76ers coach Nick Nurse out and Darko Rajakovic in, getting the youngsters to play well will be vital.
With all of the uncertainty surrounding OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam as they prepare to hit free agency after this season, Toronto needs to make sure that Scottie Barnes and 2023 first-round pick Gradey Dick have all the necessary skills needed to become part of the team’s long-term plan.
With Christian Koloko looking to add more skills to his game and unheralded players like Markquis Nowell trying to show they can stick in the league, Rajakovic will have his hands full this season. The progress of this quarter of youngsters will be monitored with great interest.
The Raptors need to make sure all four of their more interesting young players hit these developmental milestones in the 2023-24 season. Given Rajakovic’s strong history working with young players, none of these goals should be viewed as extremely difficult to obtain.
4 goals for Toronto Raptors young players in 2023-24
Christian Koloko: Shoot over 55% from the field
There was a ton to like about what Koloko, who saw some spot starts as a rookie, ut on tape during his first NBA season. His fluidity at 7-1 was extremely impressive, and he has already shown to be a defensive presence that opposing teams need to worry about near the rim. His offense, however, was a different story.
Koloko made just 48% of his shots from the field despite nearly all of his attempts coming within a few feet of the basket and his dunks boosting the figure higher. The lack of tremendous finishing was one of the marks against him at Arizona, and he hasn’t necessarily put all of those concerns to rest.
Christian Koloko must become a good finisher on offense.
Koloko is not guaranteed a shred of playing time this season, as Jakob Poeltl signed a gigantic four-year contract, and neither Precious Achiuwa nor Chris Boucher was moved in the offseason. If Rajakovic feels he hasn’t made strides, Koloko might not get a shred of time outside of mop-up duty.
Rajakovic has a weird history of making tall centers without a very expansive offensive game valuable contributors, as he has helped Steven Adams become a rock-solid starter for years. Koloko might not be in that tier just yet, but Toronto won’t give up on a potential two-way star with so much raw talent that easily.