3 Missing pieces Raptors need to return to title contention

Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors
Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors / Cole Burston/GettyImages
1 of 3

The Toronto Raptors won the title in 2019. To reach the NBA Finals they went toe-to-toe with the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks, then knocked off the dynastic Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. It was the first championship in franchise history.

The roster fit together beautifully, with elite defenders at every position, a Top-10 player in Kawhi Leonard, secondary scorers in Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam, shooters in Danny Green, Norman Powell and Fred VanVleet, and versatile centers in Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka.

Rather than get a chance to defend their title, however, Leonard walked in free agency that summer and the Raptors have been spiraling down to the bottom ever since. After the worst 10-game stretch this team has seen in three decades (followed up by a loss to the last-place Washington Wizards) the Raptors seem as far away from title contention as possible.

As the front office looks at the current roster, what does this team need to build around Scottie Barnes and reclaim a spot on the mountain of contention? What should be the mission ahead of this franchise to get out of the cellar and challenge the likes of Boston and Denver for another crown?

Let's look at three things that this team needs to add in order to return to title contention.

No. 3: Shooting Big

The Raptors saw this need and tried to address it already, trading for Utah Jazz big man Kelly Olynyk and signing him to a contract extension. Olynyk is capable of shooting from outside and is a skilled passer and finisher, and on the surface he would fill the need for a shooting big.

The problem is that he is also a bad rim protector who has been abysmal since joining the Raptors, and unless they significantly change their core it will be difficult to play Olynyk at the same time as players like Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett.

At the same time, a player like Scottie Barnes is going to thrive the most alongside a shooting big. Barnes has shot the ball better but is not a knockdown guy, and more so, he will need a spaced-court to maximize his pick-and-roll game. Put him next to a stretch-big who can also provide some modicum of rim protection and it could unlock his game.

Perhaps that player is Kelly Olynyk bouncing back next season. Perhaps it's Jontay Porter taking a step forward. Most likely, the answer is a player not yet on the roster.