Masai Ujiri and the Toronto Raptors have the misfortune of playing one of the toughest schedules in the league at the beginning of the 2023-24 season, as six of their first 13 games come against contenders like the 76ers, Bucks, and Celtics. The Portland Trail Blazers looked like a needed reprieve.
Not only would Portland be playing without the recently traded Damian Lillard or star guard Anfernee Simons, but they would be on the second night of a back-to-back following a loss in Philadelphia. In true Raptors style, they let Portland take the lead in the second quarter and hang around deep into this game.
In one of the most embarrassing losses any team will suffer this season, a 1-2 Toronto team fell 99-91 to one of the worst squads in the league at home. Toronto shot a pathetic 4-29 from 3-point range, got dominated thoroughly by Deandre Ayton in the paint, and failed to crack 100 points in regulation for the third time in a row.
Ujiri had multiple chances to actually give this team a facelift beyond the Rajakovic hire, as Dennis Schroder and Gradey Dick are the only new additions of any significant ilk. As a result, this Nick Nurse-constructed team is playing like the worst of Nick Nurse’s team from last year, and that’s on management.
Masai Ujiri must take blame for the Toronto Raptors’ awful offensive start.
The worst part about these frustrating early games is the fact that Toronto is losing in the exact same way they did last year despite all this talk of change. Once again, the half-court offense is horrendous, no one can make a 3-point shot when needed, and the bench has been laughably inadequate.
While Dick had some nice moments, the sudden decline of Gary Trent Jr. and the roller coaster play of Chris Boucher make it difficult to expect anything semi-consistently from this unit. Rajakovic can draw up whatever plays he wants, but the team lacks the functionality to execute these plays.
With a brutal schedule to start the year and no 2024 draft picks in their control, the nonstop trade talk that loomed over last season will once again return. Will Pascal Siakam and Trent be on their way out, or will Rajakovic keep trying to make them work? Right now, no one knows, and the fact this situation is even possible is on Ujiri and Bobby Webster.
The Raptors may have put a new coat of paint on their 1964 Plymouth Belvedere, but that doesn’t mean the ride is going to get you where you need to go. Unless the Raptors make a structural roster change or magically become the prime Steph Curry Warriors, expect more defensive slogs and disappointing results.