Overview of their 2021-2022 season
The Raptors were the most fun team to watch last season, if you liked 6-foot-8 dudes with 7-foot wingspans. Masai Ujiri concocted a roster that would have made any analytics drool. Nick Nurse used the players Ujiri gave him like a French chef uses butter – profusely and unapologetically.
The Raptors, unlike other fun teams, were actually good and dangerous. They finished the regular season fifth in the East with a 48-34 record. Their defense ranked ninth in the league, while their offense lagged a bit at 15th. This lack of offensive juice was the big reason they couldn’t overcome the big bad Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the playoffs.
Last season also had the Raptors run into several injuries to key players like Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and OG Anunoby. Losing Anunoby late in the season, in particular, caused the Raptors to lose some steam in the standings. This season, the Raptors enter with their core relatively healthy and free of drama.
What’s new this season?
The Raptors were quiet both in making roster moves and drama, relative to the rest of the Eastern Conference.
They did snag a couple of free agents that could greatly help them. Otto Porter Jr. was a valuable bench piece for the Golden State Warriors last season. Josh Jackson had an up-and-down season with Detroit, but his highs certainly were tempting enough for the Raptors to take a stab at the former No. 5 overall pick.
Both these guys are also 6-foot-8 and above forwards with plus wingspans. You can’t have too many of those, if Ujiri is to be believed.
Finding THE Guy will be a central question for the Raptors.
Right now, it’s undoubtedly Fred VanVleet. The former undrafted guard made his first All-Star appearance last season and he earned it in a deep pool of Eastern Conference point guards. Throughout the regular season, VanVleet carried Toronto’s offense with averages of 20.3 ppg on 40.3 percent shooting with 6.7 assists and 1.7 steals.
But VanVleet showed why having a 5-foot-10 guy be a team’s best player had not worked out in the NBA. He got worn down as the season went along and, when the playoffs came, he was an easy target for Philly’s offense to exploit.
That's why there’s optimism in having Scottie Barnes take the next step this year. No one expected Barnes to win Rookie of the Year. There were tons of questions as to why the Raptors reached for him.
But we’ve established that the Raptors love them some 6-foot-8 dudes with long wingspans. They confidently took Barnes fourth overall and correctly wagered on his fit with their ethos. Barnes came in and did everything scouts thought he was ready to bring to the NBA – defense, playmaking, and transition scoring. As the season wore on, it became obvious Barnes was capable of more offensively, showing flashes as a creator. He was also was better at defense, legitimately guarding all five positions.
Barnes and players like him are the future of the league. He’s setup to surpass 15.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.1 spg, 0.7 bpg he put up last season. If Barnes evolves into THE Guy for the Raptors this season, that probably means Toronto climbed the rankings.
Sneaky fun guy
Look up “Vince Staples interviews” on YouTube and notice how the rapper from North LA is nonchalant about pretty much everything. Now look up “OG Anunoby fashion”.
Anunoby is the funniest guy in the league and he doesn't really try. He’s top-tier content any time he’s in front of a camera, which is why it’s a shame the Raptors social media team doesn’t do more with him.
He's also a great wing player – the type that fits on any team. He was taking a leap last year, but injuries got in the way. Still, don’t forget about OG.
With Freddy All-Star, Spicy P, and Scottie B on the team, the Raptors should still be up there as one of the most watchable teams in the league. They like playing up-tempo, shooting, and getting on other teams’ faces.
Matt Devlin and Jack Armstrong are also two of the best home panels in the league. They make waking up early for EST Raptors game worth it by themselves. Think of them as Mico Halili and Jason Webb, but with New York accents.
There’s a certain type of fan that instantly falls in love with Raptors basketball. If you like general weirdness, comedic broadcast booths, and a few wins here and there, you’ll love the Raptors.