The Toronto Raptors have set themselevs up for what could be a potentially explosive 2023-24 season. Even though Nick Nurse and Fred VanVleet, two common sources of irritation last season, are gone, the expectations of a needy fanbase are still quite high.
Toronto could lose three-fifths of their starting lineup to free agency and embark on what could be a lengthy rebuild after years of consistent postseason appearances. Even one or two poorly-timed slip-ups would be enough to send this season off the proverbial deep end.
The Raptors will be a pressure cooker during Darko Rajakovic’s debut season, as Masai Ujiri’s refusal to tear the roster down has come with an implicit directive to get this team back to the postseason in the name of winning now. That will require some big names to step up and play above their station.
These three players will have their every move examined with a fine-toothed comb under Rajakovic. While pressure might turn some players into diamonds, it could also crush some into fine rubble. Which path will this volatile, flawed roster go down early in the 2023 campaign?
3 Toronto Raptors under the most pressure in 2023-24
3. Dennis Schroder
Schroder has been flying high in the last few weeks. Not only is he still basking in the glow of bringing his native Germany a gold medal in the 2023 FIBA World Cup, but the initial Raptors starting lineup in the team’s game against the Sacramento Kings had Schroder in the starting lineup.
This might be Schroder’s last chance to prove he could be a starting point guard in this league. Schroder might be a reliable double-digit scorer, but the main reason Toronto got him on as economical of a deal as they did is an inability to recapture the scoring highs of his Oklahoma City glory days.
Dennis Schroder will be under the microscope for the Toronto Raptors.
While the Raptors will likely let Scottie Barnes get the chance to experiment as a ball-handler who will eventually get the point guard spot locked down in the future, that whole process could take longer than originally anticipated. It will be Schroder’s job to lose for the foreseeable future.
At his best (as he showed with Germany), Schroder proved to be a dynamic playmaker with speed and veteran moxie. At his worst, he is an inconsistent shooter. With age likely to slowly ebb away at his physical gifts, Schroder will be under the microscope all season long.