The Toronto Raptors are all but mathematically eliminated from the postseason picture, as a loss against Bradley Beal, Russell Westbrook, and the Washington Wizards has them looking at their first season in almost a decade that likely won’t have any playoff basketball. Still, there were some silver linings.
Pascal Siakam’s career-high 44-point outburst was the biggest takeaway from last night, but he was far from the only Raptors player that stepped up in the absence of Kyle Lowry. Fred VanVleet poured in 22 points, and Gary Trent Jr. announced his return to the starting lineup by totaling 25 points.
The Raptors will be in for a serious facelift next offseason, which likely means that Lowry will be ditched in favor of allowing him to join a contender. The most likely lineup for 2021-22 involves VanVleet and Trent as the starting backcourt, OG Anunoby playing small forward, Siakam at the four-spot, and Khem Birch at the five.
If this is any indication of what Nick Nurse and the rest of the team will be able to lean on over the next few years, Toronto should be very excited about the post-Lowry era on the offensive side of the ball.
The Toronto Raptors’ future looks bright in 2021.
Assuming that Lowry ends up leaving, which is likely going to be the move everyone expects to happen, the Raptors will likely unveil a lineup that looks very similar to the combination they exhibited against Washington. While they have had plenty of non-Lowry minutes to fool around with this season, this offense looks like they’ve played together for weeks.
VanVleet was able to play like a complete facsimile of Lowry, as he was pulling up from deep, penetrating into the lane, and kicking the ball out with accurate passes. Trent’s pull-up game needs some work, but he remains an elite catch-and-shoot shooting guard. Siakam took the game over, and he’ll need to do this more often next year.
The Raptors took this game to overtime with Lowry out, Anunoby still injured, and Stanley Johnson giving Toronto a whole zero points. With Anunoby and his improved offensive game back in the lineup, this group should equate to more victories, which bodes well for the outlook next season.
The end of last night’s game was hard to stomach, but the Toronto Raptors showed that even without Lowry, the ball can move freely, Siakam can take games over, and they can get contributions off of the bench. Assuming Anunoby is in the starting lineup, this combination might be worth watching once this cursed season concludes.