The Youth Movement is Here: New-Look Raptors Set to Kick off New Era
After a 3-2 preseason all sights are set on the NBA season.
The young Toronto Raptors will feature a number of new faces this year as they are set to enter uncharted territory. For the first time in a decade, the Raptors can no longer rely on Kyle Lowry to be the team’s unquestioned leader and extension of the coaching staff.
This will all feel very different, but this is the beginning of a new era in Toronto Raptors basketball.
On Sunday morning, the Raptors made their final roster cut, moving on from Ishmail Wainright. The offseason signee averaged 4.5 points and 3.0 rebounds in 11.7 minutes per contest during the team’s preseason. With this most recent move, the Raptors roster now stands at the league maximum of 15, with two additional two-way player spots filled. That means, the team’s opening night roster will look something like this:
- PG: Fred VanVleet, Goran Dragic, Malachi Flynn
- SG: Gary Trent Jr., Svi Mykhailiuk, David Johnson (two-way player)
- SF: OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Sam Dekker, Justin Champagnie (two-way player)
- PF: Pascal Siakam, Chris Boucher, Yuta Watanabe, Isaac Bonga
- C: Khem Birch, Precious Achiuwa
Off-roster names Alex Antetokounmpo and Josh Hall are expected to be relegated to the team’s G-League team in Mississauga. Rexdale native and the team’s second round selection Delano Banton has shown flashes of potential throughout an exciting preseason but will also begin the season on the Raptors 905 squad.
Now, two years removed from a run to the NBA championship, the Raptors are ready to kick off the new season against the Washington Wizards on October 20.
Despite the lack of veteran leadership, the Raptors should still remain true to the core principles that Nick Nurse has preached since day one. Hustle and the ability to outwork their opponent is still intertwined in the team’s blueprint and with a roster filled with athletic, switchable, and long players, the Raptors have a strong likelihood of being one of the better defensive teams in the Eastern Conference. The team is expected to kick off the season without Siakam and Boucher, but defensively, they will still be able to present a number of different looks to opposing teams which is bound to create offensive struggles.
The questions for this young Raptors team is on the offensive end.
The Raptors are coming off a year where they ranked 20th in true shooting percentage and 21st in effective field goal percentage. Of course, health played a large part in the team’s offensive lapses, but if the Raptors hope to compete with some of the better teams in the conference, they will require more fluidity and consistency on the offensive side of the ball.
Over the offseason, the Raptors brought in assistant coach Trevor Gleeson who has revolutionized offensive basketball overseas and the Raptors hope he could help provide the spark the team needs to jumpstart what was the 16th ranked offence in the NBA just a year ago.
Another sore spot for the Raptors last season was their poor rebounding.
Ranked 28th in the entire league in rebounding percentage, the Raptors will hope that Birch and Achiuwa help resolve the issue that ultimately was one of the team’s major Achilles heels last season.
At the end of the day, this is sure to be one of the more interesting Raptors seasons in recent memory. There will be growing pains along the way, but this will be a year that lays down the foundation for the next era of Raptors basketball. The team will rely heavily on Siakam, Anunoby, and VanVleet to take further steps in their development and lead a very young roster and if everything is to come together, this is a team that may just have an outside chance and returning to the postseason.