Darko Rajakovic and the Toronto Raptors are trying to completely change their style of play overnight, as they will transition from a Nick Nurse-led system that lacks creativity to one that is more frenetic and up-tempo. Rajakovic debuted his offense against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Early on, the much-heralded Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, and the Raptors looked a bit discombobulated at times. Changing the whole philosophy of the offense while trying to get to the rim against arguably the league’s best defensive center in Rudy Gobert isn’t easy for even the most experienced lineup.
The Raptors ultimately won this low-scoring, grinding contest 97-94 thanks to a sparkling debut from Dennis Schroder and some very timely makes down the stretch from Siakam. Starting the year off with a win against a quality opponent is one way to get the vibes trending in the right direction.
While it might take a bit of time before Rajakovic can put together a fully functioning offense in his preferred image, the team is already showing signs that suggest they will be a much better-performing offensive club than they were with Nurse and Fred VanVleet at the helm last year.
Darko Rajakovic improves Toronto Raptors’ offense in win vs. Timberwolves.
The biggest positive takeaway from this game has to be the transition offense. Rajakovic discovered the best way to use a bunch of promising, if occasionally raw, athletes is to get them out in space and on the move.
The lack of ball movement was pitiful at times last year, as the iso-heavy scheme left much to be desired. With 27 assists on 36 made field goals, Toronto has shown a commitment to passing the ball around more this year. The efficiency was poor, but the process was solid for most of the night.
While Nurse’s half-court offense had flaws, the fact that Toronto lacked half-court creators made things even more difficult. That issue hasn’t been fixed just yet, as there was some nasty shot selection when things slowed down, but it’s hard to fix an entire offense in just a few offseason months and a handful of exhibition games.
Minnesota has a ton of star power in the lineup and size throughout the roster, which makes them very tough to experiment against on the fly. Despite all that, Rajakovic was able to grind out the first of what should be many solid victories against playoff hopefuls.