The Toronto Raptors had a disappointing 2020-21 NBA season, having missed the playoffs for the first time since 2014. It is indeed a steep fall from glory for the 2019 NBA champions as they did not even make the play-in tournament.
It has been a busy 2021 offseason all-round, and the Raptors have also attempted to strengthen their roster. Their president of basketball operations, Masai Ujiri, has put together a winning team in the past, so we cannot put it past him to do the same, despite how “average” they look.
The Toronto Raptors are not considered a threat in the Eastern Conference. However, they are showing promise as the 2019 NBA Most Improved Player, Pascal Siakam, will attempt to restore the franchise from the Great White North to its former glory.
Toronto Raptors’ roster moves so far in the 2021-22 NBA season
The Toronto Raptors moved a lot of pieces around in the 2021 offseason. However, the most intriguing one is the selection of Scottie Barnes in the 2021 NBA draft with the 4th overall pick.
A 27-45 run in the 2020-21 season and a stroke of luck granted the Raptors 4th pick through the draft lottery. Ujiri’s decision to draft Barnes came as a shock to everyone as it was unclear why he’d pass up on a decent shooter.
After Barnes’ selection, the Toronto Raptors also drafted two point guards – David Johnson and Delano Banton – in the second round. Immediately after the trade moratorium was lifted, the Raptors went on a waiving spree, sending home Paul Watson, Rodney Hood, DeAndre’ Bembry and Aaron Baynes.
The Toronto Raptors held on to two players, re-signing Khem Birch and Gary Trent Jr. in free agency. Birch is a young rim-running big man who thrives on both ends of the court. With Trent, the Raptors get a young, decent three-point shooter who can average 20 points in a season.
Kyle Lowry‘s departure will be the highlight of the Toronto Raptors’ offseason as they will be playing without the guard for the first time since 2013. Although he will be missed given the caliber of player he is, they got good value in his trade deal, which saw them acquire Goran Dragic and Precious Achiuwa.
Ishmael Wainwright, Sam Dekker, Isaac Bonga and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk were also acquired in free agency and will be playing for the Toronto Raptors in the 2021-22 season.
Important storylines for the Toronto Raptors’ training camp
#1 Will Scottie Barnes get enough playing time with Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby in the frontcourt?
Selecting Scottie Barnes ahead of Jalen Suggs was a controversial move as it gave room for a lot of speculation. Trade rumors surrounded Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby after the Barnes announcement as it was difficult to imagine the rookie getting playing time with both players available.
However, the Toronto Raptors are looking to make it work as OG and Siakam are cornerstones for the franchise. Barnes has shown what he can bring to the table at the NBA level and will often get called upon as long as he continues to produce.
#2 Who will be the preferred starting center? Khem Birch or Precious Achiuwa?
Khem Birch has shown that he’s a decent two-way player. However, he’s heavily reliant on guards to create shots for him as he excels in pick-and-roll situations. His play could be likened to that of Deandre Ayton, who benefited from Chris Paul’s assists throughout last season.
Achiuwa, on the other hand, is freakishly athletic and provides the same cover as Birch on defense. Offensively, he is a tad more versatile as he can create his shots on occasion. Both players will play significant minutes, but it is unclear who will get the nod to start.
#3 Is Goran Dragic the right replacement for Kyle Lowry?
Replacing a player of Kyle Lowry’s caliber will be difficult, but we commend the Toronto Raptors front office for acquiring veteran Goran Dragic. While he won’t start over Fred VanVleet, he’ll provide a boost from the bench to lead the second unit.
Granted, Dragic will not be as productive. However, he is still an incredible player who can link up with teammates offensively. Whether he is the right fit is yet to be determined, as we will first have to see how he fares on the floor for the Toronto Raptors.
Predicted starting lineup for the Toronto Raptors heading into the 2021-22 NBA season
The Toronto Raptors made a number of changes to their roster in the offseason and will be looking to give them as much playing time as possible. However, they have maintained their core players. Although there will be some changes, it will be more or less movement from old players as opposed to slotting newcomers into the starting lineup.
Here is the potential starting lineup for the Toronto Raptors:
Point Guard – Fred VanVleet | Shooting Guard – Gary Trent Jr. | Small Forward – OG Anunoby | Power Foward – Pascal Siakam | Center – Precious Achiuwa.