Coming into the 2020-21 NBA season the biggest questions for the Toronto Raptors pertained to their offence. They had finished the 2019-20 season a middling offensive team, ranked 16th in the NBA, per Cleaning the Glass, and most of that offensive firepower had to do with an elite transition offence.
It’s in part why the Raptors brought in assistant coach Chris Finch — now the Minnesota Timberwolves head coach — to help rework Toronto’s offensive schemes. Even so, when Toronto said goodbye to Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka and made no substantial offensive additions, it was fair to wonder if the Raptors’ offence would take a step back this season.
Well, they haven’t.
Toronto’s offence has jumped from the 16th-ranked unit last season to the 10th this season, per Cleaning the Glass, and they’ve improved significantly in some of the most important areas of offensive production.
This season, ironically, it’s the Raptors half-court offence that’s just so-so. They rank 10th in the NBA, according to Cleaning the Glass, a significant step back from last season. A lot of that has to do with an unusual inability to finish at the rim where the Raptors are shooting just 65.3% — the worst in the NBA — in transition.
While Toronto still prides itself primarily on being a team that forces turnovers and scores in transition, the Raptors have seen some growth this season in the half court where they rank 13th on offence this season, per Cleaning the Glass. They’ve improved their pick-and-roll handling this season thanks primarily to massive steps forward from Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, and Pascal Siakam, who all rank well-above-average as pick-and-roll handlers compared to last season when they were just mediocre or below average in that area. And Toronto spot-up shooting has progressed significantly thanks primarily to Chris Boucher becoming an elite pick-and-pop 3-point shooter.
All of this should be good news for Toronto, especially when the playoffs roll around and defences begin go to clamp down on transition scoring and half-court scoring comes at a premium.
If we were grading based on pre-season expectations and gave the Raptors the benefit of the doubt, they’d probably ride a curve all the way up to an A grade, but that seems a little generous for this team. Toronto has certainly shown a lot of offensive progression this season and their strange transition scoring woes should see some positive regression in the second half, but there’s still a ways to go before they’re a truly very good offensive team.
For now, they’ll get a B+. They’re good, but not very good, and there’s certainly room for improvement in the second half of the season.