Raptors Republic Roundtable: End of Year Contemplations – PART I

A gaggle of Raptor Republicans share their thoughts on where the Toronto Raptors are at and what they anticipate moving forward.

Our time of suffering has finally come to a close. The firing of Nick Nurse not only the finale of a troubling and deeply unsatisfying season, but a fizzling denouement to a Championship era.

A new one, perhaps, now underway.

With some room to breathe and self-soothe, I thought it time to acquire the thoughts of my brilliant RR colleagues. Get their feels for what’s to come.

We can hope for tempered emotions and rational insight from such professional writers, but I promise nothing. We’re all human after all. And fans to boot.

Brace for cynicism and optimism abound.

(PART II out tomorrow.)

Find your contributors on Twitter:

1. From what you observed this season, what CONCERNS you most moving forward?



[Read with highschool cheerleader chant]

Vibes, Vibes, Vibes
That’s our cry
Raptors Vibes
Oh Dear, oh My…

I feel like I live downwind of some noxious manufacturing plant.

Like, I want to go outside and have a crisp lager on the deck, but something very synthetically putrid immediately clogs my airways and I flee. That’s the feels I got with this Raptors team most of the season. Poisoned waters Erin Brockovich type feels.

I want to love them. I do love them. Each and every one of them. They’re all good hoopers. Some All-NBA level. Others, with major potential.

Yet, when it was all put together, it wasn’t a zealous force bounding forward as one united vanguard charging reeling opponents. It was much more a rabble of conscripted pikemen disbanding for the first alehouse on the horizon.

Vibes were off. Masai said it himself, “You could see it throughout the year. There was never that full excitement. There was never that full spirit. There was never that feel of togetherness. We all saw it. You all saw it.”

That’s what worries me most. That’s the kind of interminable disease where no matter how many body parts you lop off the necrosis spreads. Was Nick Nurse’s beheading enough to stop the infection? Maybe.

Maybe he was the sole source. But maybe he was patient zero to a contagion well beyond control.

That worries me much, much more than any roster configuration, coaching uncertainty, salary deliberations.

Bad vibes. Bad times.


Lack of Flexibility.

You have three major free agents all looking for a hefty payday, no pick next year unless it lands top 6, an inability to move picks in the future due to those protections, and then you got guys like Siakam, OG, and Scottie all approaching big extension territory [Editor’s note: deep breath, Brendan, deep breath].

Something’s gotta give… or the Raptors will be footing an extremely large bill for a mediocre team, and hold no viable means of improving it.



I think everything?

If I had to name just one thing, guard depth and guards ability to create at the point of attack. Felt like the guards had a hard time generating advantages and forcing the defense to react and move.


No Go-To.

My concern remains the same as it was coming into the year and coming into the year before that: Who on this team can beat his primary defender off the bounce, get to the rim, and finish there?

Siakam, most of the time. Most teams have more players who can do that than you can count on one hand. The Raptors desperately need more.


Trey Bombs [Lack thereof].

The Raptors finished 27th this season in three-point percentage; the only two teams worse than them were the Houston Rockets and Charlotte Hornets. In today’s NBA, winning without good shooting is hard, even if your team is loaded with talent. 



Over-crowding the mid-range is my biggest concern going into next season. Pascal’s, Scottie’s and Jakob’s spacing issues need to be ironed out. Either through a more constructed offence, through the acquisition of more shooters to surround them, or by Pascal being a more consistent threat from the perimeter.


The Depth.

A concern of mine was the heavy minutes the starters played every game due to the lack of depth from the bench and how often the second unit blew leads. It would be reassuring to have someone similar like Malcolm Brogdon, Bobby Portis Jr., Norman Powell etc. coming off the bench who can carry the second unit while starters rest.

2. From what you observed this season, what COMFORTS you most moving forward?



Ahh to be young.

At the start of the year, Toronto was the 15th youngest team (average age of 25.88 [the average age in the league is 23.14]). The eldest of the core is Boucher at 30. The rest follows:

Freddy: 29
Pascal: 29
Otto Porter: 29
Jak: 27
O.G.: 25
Gary: 24
Precious: 23
Koloko: 22
Scottie: 21

(An average of 25.9 years old).

We forget. We’ve been with this group for so long, we disregard the fact that Freddy, Pascal, Jak, and Boucher are only, now, entering their primes. That Gary and O.G. are only with some peach fuzz on their chins. That Scottie, Precious, and Koloko, while like a trio of Sentinels, are still as raw as WWE Monday Nights.

I can hear the naysayers squawking (I bet Brendan’s already addressed it below). Mennhhh they’ve hit their ceilings. Blehhhh they don’t fit. Blurgghh they’re only the third best players on a championship team.

WHATEVER. Point still stands. With so much room to grow both in their primes and in their potential, this core gives the team some amount of flexibility. Either in trades or in development – yes, the dreaded D-word.

Besides, with youth comes patience. And patience is fine. Nothing is linear. Sacramento a year ago made the worst trade in human history according to everyone. Now, they’re Pacific Division champs and were a Harry Barnes three away from being up 3-1 on the defending champs.

We’re lucky to have such young promising talent.


Non-Draft Dodger.

The fact that they were at least able to land in the lottery this year is somewhat of a relief. There should be some good players available at 13, and from an asset standpoint it’s far more preferable to have the 1% chance at moving up in a deep lottery compared to the 100% chance that they would’ve lost to the Bucks.

Having that lottery pick and Scottie develop alongside one another will hopefully ease the pain of long term development, but they’ll still need more pieces.


Scottie Barnes is a Raptor. 


A Double Barreled Jumpshotgun.

Pascal Siakam, at his best, can be the best player on any court. Scottie Barnes still has some of the best feel for the in-between game. It’s on the Raptors to weaponize those two things, but at least they’re there to be weaponized.



Masai Ujiri has a never give up attitude. With the way things were going prior to the trade deadline, many expected the Raptors to sell but, instead, we got Poeltl. Although tanking would guarantee a top pick, it doesn’t mean Toronto would land a superstar. It would repeat the timeline of the post-Bosh and pre-Lowry eras.


Nighty Night, Nurse.

Coach Nurse’s firing comforts me. The team was not progressing under his hectic defensive or underwhelming offensive schemes. Nurse’s over-reliance on his starters and the lack of development from the bench were issues that called into question the sustainability of any success going forward.



While Siakam, Poeltl, and VanVleet are all above 27, Scottie Barnes, O.G. Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr. are all 25 & younger.

Scottie showcased his ability to take over games in clutch time and O.G. once again established himself as an elite 3 & D wing. Gary had a good stretch of games before dealing with injuries. On top of this, we have our first-round pick for this year’s draft.

We could have a pretty nice future if the pieces are played right.

3. What do you feel is the MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE to address this offseason?



Roles can mean two different things: where you are on the hierarchy and what duties you have.

This year was about hierarchy. One reason Nurse mighta been booted out the door was his inability to achieve and sustain it. It’s not just choosing who’s the primary, who’s the secondary, and so on. It’s also making sure everyone else is happy with the tier they were assigned.

Safe to say, most Raptors were not.

It was clear that this is Pascal’s team. Freddy contends, but Pascal is the All-NBA guy. Pascal is the one recording numbers mimicking only LeBron and Luka. Pascal is the iso-bucket getter. There were times this year, down the stretch, the ball was not in his hands when it should’ve been. That can’t happen with your Alpha.

Regarding duties, O.G., Gary, nor Scottie seemed to like their assignments. Nor their position in the pecking order, for that matter. Conversely, Boucher and Jak grew accustomed.

The new coach will have to figure it all out. A lotta mouths to feed. A lot of egos to pet. It won’t be easy. It’s gotta be done.



You simply can’t win on a team with such poor shooting and no bench. The 6’9 Experiment is a nice idea, but it’s useless to build a team around physical attributes alone. You need some degree of actual skill with the ball.

Fred VanVleet can’t be a guy taking 20 shots per night when he’s a career sub-40% field goal shooter. Masai is kidding himself if he thinks a new coach alone is going to alleviate these issues. He said changes need to happen on all fronts, and he needs to put his money where his mouth is, swallow his pride, and trade some of his guys that he’s grown attached to.

Whether that’s Siakam, VanVleet, or both, it’s not working out. Get some assets back and rebuild your depth, establish a long term competitive window, then focus on making winning moves in a few years once you’ve actually built a roster capable of sustaining itself on both ends of the floor without being run into the ground every night.

If VanVleet wants a ridiculous bag, let him walk. He was barely a positive asset last deadline if the reported trade offers for him are anything to go by. His value isn’t going to improve when he’s making around 30 million per year on his new contract.



A head coach seems to be the most pressing issue especially in terms of “culture”. 



Building a team that benefits Barnes more. He is almost wasted being asked to create from a standstill, or being asked to stand in the corner. Toronto asked too much of both from him. But there’s so much more to basketball, and that’s where Barnes thrives. Maximizing his moments in those areas would see him and the team benefit massively.


Bench Buoy.

I’m hoping the bench gets solidified in the offseason. Getting Otto Porter Jr. back will be huge and, hopefully, Achiuwa and Trent Jr. can develop into more consistent players. Boucher suffers from inconsistency too; we’ll see if the Raptors bring back Will Barton. I wouldn’t be surprised if they let him walk. 



Are we going to run back the same team, retool, or rebuild?

If we’re going to run back the same team, we need to resign Poeltl who’s an UFA, along with VanVleet and Trent if they decline their player options.

If we’re going to retool, we need to acquire a player who’ll make an impact on the court.

If we’re going to rebuild, the Front Office will have to take offers on Siakam, Van Vleet, and Poeltl and see if they can get any value from them – even if it’s via sign and trade.