4 Raptors players who need monster stretch runs to save their job

R.J. Barrett, Toronto Raptors
R.J. Barrett, Toronto Raptors / Mark Blinch/GettyImages
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The stretch run of the NBA season has arrived. The All-Star Break is the rearview mirror and March represents the last full month of NBA games before the regular season ends on April 14th. The Toronto Raptors will play the final 22 games of their season over the next six weeks to close out the 2023-24 season.

With Scottie Barnes sidelined for much, if not all, of that final stretch, making the Play-In Tournament is likely not in the cards for Toronto; they sit four games back of 10th-place Atlanta, with the Brooklyn Nets between them as well. Their postseason hopes are all but extinguished.

That means the rest of this season will largely be a time of evaluation for the players on the roster. Who will the team prioritize building around moving forward? Who will be cut, traded or not retained once the offseason comes around? A strong close to the season could be the difference between securing their future and losing their jobs, either on the Raptors or in the NBA entirely.

Let's look at four players in particular whose futures are up in the air and discuss how a strong final quarter could be necessary to save their job.

No. 4: Jalen McDaniels

Over the summer, one of the small "wins" secured by the Toronto front office was signing Jalen McDaniels, a rangy 6'9" wing who broke out into a solid rotation role with the Charlotte Hornets two seasons ago, then found his way to the Philadelphia 76ers where he struggled last year. The Raptors had bought low on a player with the right set of tools to be a helpful rotation wing.

Instead, McDaniels' time with the Raptors has been a major disappointment. He is averaging just 8.6 minutes per game in 35 appearances, serving as more of an injury-replacement than a full-time rotation player. He is shooting just 32.7 percent from the field overall, a truly atrocious number; of all players in the NBA who have appeared in at least 30 games, that ranks dead last with a bullet.

Scottie Barnes' injury opens the door for some consistent minutes for McDaniels, but he will need to earn them. Whether that's through intense defense, improved shooting or some other means, McDaniels may be on his last shot to prove he is a player worth having on a roster. If not, then he could be relegated to minimum deals fighting just to make a roster.