While it hasn't always been pretty for Darko Rajakovic, Scottie Barnes, and the Toronto Raptors in the 2023-24 season, as they have had to overcome a grueling schedule to begin the year on top of some offensive growing pains, fans have to look at their 16-game record and be reasonably pleased with some of the strides made in certain areas.
After playing against a brutal schedule featuring a good chunk of their games against a collection of the league's best defenses, normalcy seems to have returned after a handful of matchups with teams at the other end of the spectrum. The offense finally looks like a competent attack.
While having Nick Nurse as a head coach certainly does have its merit, the Raptors clearly weren't meshing with the rest of the Toronto roster. Rajakovic may not win a ring this year, but he is doing everything he can to instill a culture of winning and success in this team.
The Raptors are by no means a lock to improve upon their 41 wins from last year, but there are several encouraging trends working in their favor. Rajakovic needs to be given credit for taking the Raptors forward in these three key areas.
3 areas where Darko Rajakovic has improved the 2023-24 Toronto Raptors.
Rajakovic's "0.5 offense" is based entirely on making quick passes and trying to move the ball constantly. This philosophy helped Toronto break their franchise record for assists in a game during a win against the Pistons while providing 32 assists on 44 made shots against the Bulls.
The Raptors are currently second in assists per game in the NBA at 28.8 per game, with the only team above them being a Pacers team that is purposefully trying to let opponents score points to run a cartoonish lightspeed offense. Rajakovic mentioned that he is trying to aim for 30 assists per game every night after the Chicago win.
The Toronto Raptors pass the ball more under Darko Rajakovic.
While Nurse built a tremendous defensive juggernaut in Toronto, his offense sometimes seemed to stagnate. There was too much isolation going on, and that, combined with a sluggish pace and general lack of juice from the roster, had the offense stuck in neutral all season long.
When shooters like OG Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr. are on fire from the jump, the shooting is good enough to make this offense work. There is great balance in this offense as well, as three Raptors are averaging more than five assists per game, while seven have two assists per game or more.