The Toronto Raptors may have brought in some new and interesting faces, but they will only go as far as the three-headed hydra of Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes, and OG Anunoby take them. With Fred VanVleet now in Houston, they will shoulder even more responsibility.
Siakam is fresh off an All-Star season, Barnes took steps forward as a playmaker, and Anunoby made the All-Defensive team after years of the league constantly underrating him. Even though the vibes were off last year, the Raptors have some positive momentum.
All three of these players will be leaders for the Raptors in the 2023-24 season. Barnes is a heliocentric player the team will build around, but everything after that is totally up in the air. Siakam and Anunoby are impending free agents, which could throw a wrench into Masai Ujiri’s grand plan.
Which players should the Raptors try to prioritize? Which ones should be put into a place of prominence? If the roster construction and finances Toronto is working with prevent them from retaining all three players, which of them is viewed as the most expendable player?
Start, Bench, Cut: Toronto Raptors star forwards
Start: Pascal Siakam
Siakam remains the best player on the team and one of the less heralded scorers in the league. Barnes is going to get his shots, but Darko Rajakovic would not have been hired if he didn’t have a solid gold plan to keep Siakam in the upper echelon of power forwards across the league.
While Siakam was playing the best basketball of his career in the early part of the 2022-23 season, the undue burden of minutes per game that Nick Nurse placed upon him led to his physical consistency wilting away in the later stages of the campaign. Rajakovic and this deeper team should help avoid that.
The Toronto Raptors must retain Pascal Siakam.
At his best, Siakam is a triple-double machine who can orchestrate an offense, play solid interior defense, and score at the rim and from 3-point range with equal degrees of skill. Even if Barnes develops well, Siakam’s ceiling might be out of reach for a few more years.
Trading him might make sense if you really want to take a sledgehammer to this roster, but his impending free agency makes it tough to get good value for him. The Raptors should keep him around and do everything they can to keep him north of the border for the rest of his career.