Even though the Toronto Raptors have suited up for just one preseason game, it’s hard to look at what new head coach Darko Rajakovic did in that game and not come away extremely impressed. The Raptors took home a 112-99 victory against the Sacramento Kings, beating down one of the best teams in the Western Conference.
After Masai Ujiri repeatedly decried the idea of playing “selfish” basketball in his offseason press conferences, he brought in Rajakovic with the goal of establishing a more free-flowing offensive attack. The results after one game have to be very encouraging.
Last year’s Raptors would have slowed the clock down and usually let either the since-departed Fred VanVleet or Pascal Siakam try to make something out of nothing. The Rajakovic-led Raptors were hunting all game long, and the result was so effective it already has Toronto fans jumping for joy.
In an interview that ran during the broadcast of the preseason game, Rajakovic described his “0.5 offense” and how it operates. The core tenant of this scheme is sharp decision-making under pressure, as he said players need to be “ready to attack, to shoot, dribble, or pass the ball.”
Toronto Raptors could thrive in Darko Rajakovic’s “0.5 offense”
The Raptors assisted on 18 of their first 23 made shots and finished with a ridiculous 30 on 39 baskets. This is clearly a positive change, both from an aesthetic and production point of view. This team has quality playmakers, and Rajakovic is unleashing them in full.
Nick Nurse’s offensive system gives players a lot of freedom in isolation situations, but that philosophy is a double-edged sword that can come back to bite Toronto right in the butt. When players get “selfish” or struggle to create for themselves, the offense can make your eyes bleed.
This system, if it operates anything like we saw in the Sacramento game when live bullets start flying, could have an ideal mixture of passing while still letting the stars be stars. Even with this new system, Gary Trent Jr. was cooking off the bench, and the always-important Scottie Barnes was taking it to the rack with ease.
While his offense might not be as egalitarian in the regular season as he leans on his stars, the Raptors are clearly committing to a new style of basketball that prioritizes getting more involved than last year’s iso-heavy dreck. The team has totally bought into what Rajakovic is selling.