Well, that was probably the worst way to end a season. The Toronto Raptors held a 19-point advantage over the Chicago Bulls at one point, and they seemed destined to advance to the final stage of the Play-In Tournament. What happened next, instead, was a total disaster for Toronto. They choked away the lead, and despite their best efforts, they fell to the Bulls.
Much has been made about the Raptors’ free-throw shooting woes during the game. And indeed, those missed freebies doomed Toronto’s chances. However, even if they advanced past the Bulls and made it all the way to the playoffs, they wouldn’t have gotten anywhere. There are just too many issues on the roster for them to be a playoff contender.
Let’s take a look at what changes the Raptors need to employ in order to make it to the 2024 playoffs. Word of warning: it’s a lot.
1. Trade for more shooting
If the Raptors want to make the Pascal Siakam-Scottie Barnes pairing work, it needs to focus on opening up space for both players to work. Siakam is one of the better inside finishers in the league. He’s able to post up and bully smaller defenders, and also use his quickness to get by centers switched onto him. However, his ability to finish is greatly diminished if teams are able to double him without fear of consequences.
Barnes is also a talented playmaker in his own right. When he’s aggressive, the Raptors star can score at will against most players. However, he’s an atrocious three-point shooter, and his penchant for working inside, makes him an unnatural fit alongside Pascal Siakam.
Of course, both Barnes and Siakam need to improve their deep shooting themselves. However, it would also greatly benefit the Raptors if they traded for better shooters around their star players in the offseason. O.G Anunoby is elite from the outside, but outside of him and Gary Trent Jr, Toronto doesn’t really have any other shooters to play around. Fred VanVleet is so-and-so from the outside. Otto Porter Jr and Malachi Flynn are the other shooters above 35%, but the former played only 8 games, and the latter plays only 11.3 minutes per game.
That brings us to our next point, which is…
2. Bench depth
This problem is something that Raptors fans have been screaming since the last offseason. The pride and glory of Toronto’s 2019 playoff run was the sheer depth they had from the bench. They had a strong starting five, for sure. However, you could take any player from their bench that year, and they’d be a serviceable player at worst. Norman Powell, Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka all had contributions that year. O.G Anunoby was solid in the regular season, too.
Over the last few years, though, the Raptors’ bench slowly but surely started to get depleted. Kyle Lowry’s trade meant FVV moved to the starting PG role. Powell, Ibaka, Marc Gasol, and Danny Green found better opportunities elsewhere. It didn’t help that Toronto barely made moves to bolster their bench. The result is a top-heavy roster that routinely plays more minutes than anyone in the league.
If the Raptors want to make it back to the playoffs next year, they need to take a serious look at their bench and adjust accordingly. The trade for Jakob Poeltl means that Masai Ujiri’s hard stance on long forwards is softening ever-so-slightly. Having a reliable bench will mean less minutes for guys like Siakam and FVV (who are in the top five in minutes played per game). That hopefully will translate to better play, as they won’t get gassed that easily.
3. Trade either FVV or OG Anuoby
Truth be told, the Raptors’ best option in the offseason might be to blow it up and forego a playoff spot next year. The Play-In Tournament was the only reason Toronto was able to contend for a playoff spot in the first place. Even if Toronto managed to win against Chicago and then beat the Hawks (another bad matchup for them), winning even a game against the Bucks would’ve been near-impossible.
If they still want to compete for a title, though, they have one avenue to address their woes: a trade. Competing for 2024 means that Siakam and Barnes are off the table. Their next most valuable assets, then, are Fred VanVleet and O.G Anunoby. Trading just one of them should net them some pieces that could potentially bolster their depth.
The case for trading FVV is easy: Toronto is grooming Barnes to be their point guard of the future. VanVleet is also valuable to contending teams as a secondary/tertiary playmaker behind their star. As for Anunoby, the Raptors forward has been involved in trade talks for most of his career. A trade involving Anunoby as the centerpiece could net Toronto some valuable players.
The post 3 major offseason fixes Raptors must make to reach 2024 NBA Playoffs appeared first on ClutchPoints.