Toronto Raptors Reach Halfway Point With more Questions than Answers about Direction

January 11, 2023

The Toronto Raptors have played 41 games so far this season; how could it not be better than what they had in store for fans in the first half of the campaign?


It’s been a strange journey, with highs that are as few and far between as you’d expect from a squad that has yet to win three consecutive games. It started in training camp when many knowledgeable NBA observers—and the Raptors themselves—Toronto was expected to be a force in the improved Eastern Conference after a good finish last season.


As the ideal comma, the Raptors revealed on Tuesday that Otto Porter Jr.’s left foot’s dislocated second toe underwent season-ending surgery.


Porter Jr. was one of the causes of hope before the season. Porter Jr.’s absence from the regular season’s first seven games and the exhibition season combined for an eight-game stretch during which the Raptors went 4-4. Fittingly, he averaged 5 points per game on 50% shooting in 18 points and 3 minutes while getting back to full speed before missing the following two months due to a toe injury.


Although the 29-year-old was coming off a strong season with the Golden State Warriors, he did show some of the intelligence and shooting that Toronto expected when they signed him to a two-year, $12.3 million contract. But who knows?


“It’s depressing. He feels let down”. According to Raptors head coach Nick Nurse, “we believed we had found someone who truly fit what we needed: length, great shooting, veteran experience, solid defense, and good rebounding. Many things are present. “


The prospect of Porter Jr. is similar to the Raptors’ season thus far. It was much more interesting than reality.


On Tuesday, they reached the halfway point of the season with their 132-120 victory over the visiting Charlotte Hornets. Until the halfway point of the fourth quarter, when Toronto went on a 14-0 run highlighted by two threes from O, the game was close most of the time. G. With three minutes left, the Raptors were up 15 points thanks to Anunoby’s basket, two more from Fred VanVleet, and a field goal by Pascal Siakam.


Toronto’s record now stands at 16-23 with 41 games remaining after their second consecutive victory. The Hornets record now stands at 11-31.


The MVP of the first half for Toronto, Pascal Siakam, led the team with 28 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists. Gary Trent Jr. and O. G. Anunoby contributed 24 and 22 points each. LaMelo Ball scored 24 points and had 14 assists, while Terry Rozier scored 33 for the opposing team.


The Raptors executed their game plan to a T: they outshot their opponents (91-86), outrebounded them (18-6), and committed fewer turnovers (11-2). The critical statistic, however, was their season-high 20 made three-pointers (on 44 attempts), which had previously been absent for the league’s worst three-point shooting team.


The league’s worst offense (and second-worst club in three-point shooting) shot 54.7% against the Raptors and 15 of 35 from beyond the arc, keeping with form.


Toronto will host Thursday’s second game of their two-game miniseries at Scotiabank Arena.


The Raptors have been clamoring for this kind of schedule break. The Hornets finished last in offense, 26th in defense, and tied for last in wins. After winning 43 games the previous season, the Hornets intended to be something other than a draft lottery team. However, due to injuries to LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward, as well as Miles Bridges’ legal issues, they are now in a solid position to secure a top draft pick. However, given their dismal draft history, it is still being determined what they will do with it.


Given that they have yet to sweep a two-game series this season, Toronto will need to take care of business if they want to start the second half of the year with even a slight sense of momentum.


What is there to interpret, though?


What should be a weak spot in a challenging schedule for the Raptors instead may be a trap due to the team’s disappointing and frustrating first half.


Two victories over the lottery-bound Hornets could make it even harder for the Raptors to enter the Victor Wembanyama lottery, as teams in the bottom quarter of the league compete to be in the best position to select the 7-foot-4 French phenom.


How much to commit to a team whose potential is so difficult to perceive from here at this time will be the critical decision for those in charge, especially since everyone at the top of the Raptors rotation will face contract constraints in some way or another.


Toronto is, after all, just as likely to end up with a bottom-four record and the associated lottery odds as they are to climb the standings and finish sixth, securing the final playoff spot that comes with it.


Nevertheless, success breeds optimism. VanVleet, who led the Raptors with eight assists, said, “What’s behind this is behind us, we got to look to the future, and hopefully, our best basketball is in front of us.”. “If you put something together, no one will recall how the season’s first half appeared. “


Indeed, the Raptors are better than their first-half performance would indicate. Injury has been a problem for Toronto, who have used 18 different starting lineups and have only recently experienced a run of their top six or seven players being fully healthy.


Regarding opponent quality, the Raptors had the most challenging first-half schedule; overall, the teams they faced had the highest winning percentage in the league (dot530).


Could the Raptors have a run like last year when they went 26-15 in their final 41 games in the second half of the season?


It is possible. According to data by John Schumann of the NBA, their opponents’ winning percentage in the first half was .483 – the ‘easiest’ league-wide. This will help them in their cause.


The Raptors will have a greater chance of success than their rivals. They need to stay healthy; if they do, Nurse will probably have to rely heavily on his starters. In terms of minutes played per game last year, four of the Raptors’ five starters would have placed in the top 10. G. Anunoby had sufficient game time to be eligible. Gary Trent Jr., Siakam, and VanVleet were tied for the league lead. A distant 14th-place finisher.


Siakam VanVleet, Anunoby, and Trent Jr. are in the top three players this season in terms of minutes played per game. Barnes is rising, too.


The Raptors bench has been chiefly a non-factor this season because it ranks 29th in both effective field goal % and opponents’ effective field goal percentage (up from 30th last season), even though those rankings are consistent with the club as a whole.


Nurse’s bench play has a chicken-and-egg quality; perhaps they would perform better if he trusted them more. He would have more faith in them if they performed better.


A great example of how it might work was on Tuesday when Precious Achiuwa and Chris Boucher led the way with 13 and 12 points, respectively, and all of the starters played at most 36 minutes (Siakam was the exception).


After missing 24 games due to an ankle injury, Achiuwa said, “I think it’s all about trust and rhythm.” He looked good with three triples and is working his way back into top form. “Once the bench settles into a rhythm, a lot of guys don’t have to overdo stuff, don’t have to put a lot of pressure on their bodies, or minutes, to log that many minutes, you know you have guys who are going to do the same thing as any of the starters when they come out of the game.”


The likelihood is that Nurse will stick with the tried and true, though the window of opportunity to make a run is closing.


We, Nurse, said, “I think we are who we are. The main thing I’m concerned about is if we can sit down and assess our current situation to address any challenges, address the issues, enhance the areas that require improvement, utilize our strengths, and do all those things.”


It’s going to take many of the guys playing better individually. The main characters and all that stuff are given a lot of attention. Many things need to come together both individually and as a team, and many guys need to not only get back to where they were, but they’re also supposed to be getting better. I’ll tell you the truth. “


What would a strong finish against a light schedule made possible by heavily relying on an overworked group of starters mean, and if it does, can you trust it?


The Raptors did that last year, remaining unmoved during the offseason, believing they had discovered something. Look at where they are right now.


It might be the best time to try something new.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.