Darko Rajakovic may have been handed some very interesting assets when he was named head coach of the Toronto Raptors, as a big three of potential All-Star candidate Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, and OG Anunoby is lethal. However, he is still just a rookie head coach trying to figure things out as he goes along.
While Rajakovic has tried his best to give the Raptors some identity, he has found himself set back by a roster that cannot properly execute his offensive vision. When blended with his own stubbornness and inability to make wholesale changes, you get the same problems haunting this team every night.
The Raptors' 125-104 loss to the Atlanta Hawks at home, which snapped a five-game losing streak for their foes, showed off the worst parts of this Toronto team. Free throw shooting was pathetic once again, as the Raptors made just 14 of their 25 attempts, and that helped them create another insurmountable deficit.
The Raptors have now trailed by at least 10 points in 18 of their 25 games this season, showing they are lucky to have as many wins as they do, thanks to two miraculous comebacks against bottom-feeders in San Antonio and Washington. Rajakovic's Raptors dig big holes, brick shots when trying to escape those holes, and repeat the process the next game.
The Toronto Raptors lost to the Hawks due to bad free throw shooting and getting down big early.
The Raptors came into this game ranked 29th in free throw percentage, with only the reigning champion Denver Nuggets ranked beneath them. Toronto doesn't have the most multi-faceted big man to ever play the game in Nikola Jokic to make up for that.
Siakam and Barnes might be the only players who can consistently score for themselves in half-court situations, and Dennis Schroder is the one truly exceptional shooter from the charity stripe on this team. Toronto can stick up as many Noah video boards as they want, but it won't help so many objectively bad shooters suddenly wake up.
The worst part about the Raptors shooting so poorly once again is the fact there are some genuinely solid performances being wasted. Scottie Barnes led the way with 23 points and eight assists, and Anunoby has played his way into being almost untradeable despite more buzz. None of that matters when you shoot yourself in the foot and can't tape up the wound.
Even after a Siakam trade, this roster will still be primarily composed of players who are outhustled from the opening tip and lack the silky touch to get back into games when needed. Mix that with some Rajakovic stubbornness, and you get a minimum-viable basketball product.