Losing Fred VanVleet, despite all his issues on the court, is going to impact the Toronto Raptors negatively. Fresh off a very disappointing 41-41 season that got Nick Nurse fired, the vibes surrounding this franchise have deteriorated and reached lows that were unthinkable just a year ago.
Toronto was viewed as an ascending contender after taking home a surprising 48 wins in 2021-22, but they have since fallen back to the realm of the mediocre. Even though the front office has been open about trying to win, the national media outlets aren’t buying it.
Bleacher Report projected the Raptors will only win 36 games this season, citing the loss of VanVleet in free agency and the belief that Dennis Schroder is an inadequate replacement. It appears as though the worldwide leader in sports is following this same line of logic.
ESPN has the Raptors finishing 12th in the Eastern Conference with a 36-46 record. Only the Hornets, Pistons, and Wizards rank beneath them in this scenario. While Toronto may not be a title contender, projecting such a calamitous fall might be a bit out of order.
ESPN says the Toronto Raptors will struggle in 2023-24
Without VanVleet on the roster, standout youngster Scottie Barnes will likely have an enhanced role. If he takes a step forward and vacuums up the offensive production VanVleet left in his wake, Toronto will have nothing to worry about.
While this depth is the furthest thing from robust right now, it is undoubtedly much better than it was last year. The recently signed Jakob Poeltl is in town for a full season, rookie standout Gradey Dick has the ability to be a true game-changer due to his 3-point shooting, and new signing Jalen McDaniels figures to play a role in the rotation.
The Raptors know they have to win games in this pivotal campaign, as Masai Ujiri has refused to reboot the roster with a trade and their first-round pick is likely heading to the Spurs. Don’t be surprised if an aggressive Ujiri keeps adding when the deadline comes closer.
The Eastern Conference has gotten better as a whole, and Toronto is only a few victories behind a 39-win Nets team that earned the No. 8 seed in this exercise, but the complete and utter demise of the Raptors has been dramatically exaggerated to this point. At least let Darko Rajakovic show what he can do before pessimism takes over.