The Toronto Raptors are banking on a complete overhaul of their scheme as they try to get back in the postseason, parting ways with champion Nick Nurse and hiring a first-timer in Darko Rajakovic who has bounced around the league as an assistant for a decade.
The Raptors added Rajakovic with the expectation that his expertise as an offensive-minded coach would be the shot in the arm this team needs. Rajakovic is already hard at work devising ways to get some of Toronto’s new additions and impact players more important time on the floor.
When asked about the possibility of new signing Dennis Schroder starting, Rajakovic was noncommittal. No matter where Schroder ends up playing, Rajakovic needs to have a plan for starters like OG Anunoby and Jakob Poeltl. He’s got that covered as well.
While Rajakovic mentioned that he wanted to use Anunoby more as a cutter and screener in pick-and-roll actions, he also implied that OG would be deployed as a shooter more frequently than he was under Nurse. Rajakovic also wants Poeltl to be used as an above-the-break creator more this season, taking advantage of his tremendous passing skills.
Toronto Raptors’ Darko Rajakovic has big plans for OG Anunoby, Jakob Poeltl.
Rajakovic singled out above-the-break 3-pointers as an area where OG will likely need to improve. Anunoby made just under 39% of his 3-pointers on 5.5 attempts per game last season, but he connected on just 34% of ATB triples. This signals that pace and space will be at the heart of everything Toronto wants to do.
While the $80 million man Poeltl’s value lies primarily in his defensive skills, very few 7-footers in the NBA can claim to possess his combination of expert finishing ability close to the rim and making plays for his teammates as a passer.
While Nurse’s scheme was outdated, and a new face in the room was needed, Rajakovic needs to take what worked from Nurse’s final season with Toronto and keep that in place. Poeltl made an impact as a passer and shot-blocker, and Anunoby’s shooting is elite. Lean into it!
Suppose Rajakovic can implement a system that gets Poeltl cooking on offense and Anunoby wide open on the perimeter. In that case, he should have no trouble making Pascal Siakam one of the best players in the game and ensuring that Scottie Barnes starts turning his vast reservoir of potential into tangible successes.