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Toronto Raptors: 2023/24 regular season outlook

Thanks to the All-Star weekend, Toronto Raptors have had a much-needed week off as they look to decide how to close out their season after opting to sell ahead of the trade deadline.

We look into three key talking points regarding the Raptors’ season so far, how they will look to end the campaign and what their plans are going forward. 

How do the new-look Raptors line up?

Toronto sent shockwaves through the NBA at the end of 2023 when they traded their best defender OG Anunoby, as well as young pieces Precious Achiuwa and Malachi Flynn to the New York Knicks for RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley. 

Shortly after, former All-Star Pascal Siakam was traded away to Indiana for mainly draft capital, as well as Kira Lewis Jr, Bruce Brown and Jordan Nwora, before the Raptors’ head office made the decision to cash in on Lewis and Otto Porter Junior for Kelly Olynyk and Ochai Agbaji. 

A starting five of Gary Trent Jr, Barrett, Quickley, Scottie Barnes and Poeltl has been the go to for the Raptors so far, but after one win from four games and Olynyk on the bench, the line up could be swapped and experimented with throughout the remainder of the campaign. 

The fit of the new assets seem fine and Barrett in particular has improved massively since moving north of the border, averaging 2.3 more points per game and making 12.6 percent more field goals, while Quickley has also seen his averages improve, albeit at the expense of efficiency. 

However, with the Raptors some way out of the playoff picture, or even the play-in spots, the remainder of this season could be used to experiment ahead of next term. 

What are the aims for next season?

With the amount of changes in Toronto’s roster this season, you could expect the front office to slow down in the upcoming off-season, but it is unlikely they will as they look to acquire more pieces and build a strong team for the future. 

Barnes, Quickley and Barrett are all 24 years old or younger and the Raptors, who have a potential two first-round picks and one second-round selection for the 2024 draft, will be keen to build around their trio of young stars. 

Olynyk and Chris Boucher are the wrong side of 30 in the eyes of the Raptors’ front office but, with the former’s contract up in the summer and the latter on a high salary for his performance level, there is every chance both will be out of Toronto by next year’s trade deadline at the latest. 

That would suggest that the playoffs may be off the radar for another year as they just try to put together the right squad to challenge once their key players reach their peak, although fans will be eager to see at least a better performance than the Raptors’ current 19-36 record.

Playoffs are always the aim for the 2019 NBA Champions, but another year of rebuilding and growth might not do them too much damage. 

Is Scottie Barnes ready to be the franchise player?

With OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam no longer in Toronto, the onus is left with Scottie Barnes to lead the Raptors for years to come. 

Barnes, who went to Florida State, was selected fourth by the Raptors in the 2021 Draft as a shock pick ahead of Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs, but it did not take long for 6 '7 Guard/Forward to prove Toronto were right to pick him. 

He averaged 15.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as the Raptors shocked many to finish fifth in the Eastern Conference and Barnes, who ranked highest in win share (6.6) and value over replacement player (1.9) among rookies, was subsequently named the 2021/22 Rookie of the Year. 

He did not quite progress as expected last season but he has shown serious signs of improvement this time around as, despite Toronto’s struggles this year, Barnes has still seen his statistics rise significantly. 

He has averaged 20.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game this season while also becoming a more accomplished three-point shooter, making 35.3% of his shots from beyond the arc this term, which led to him being called up to the 2024 All-Star game as one of the replacements for injured pair Julius Randle and Joel Embiid. 

That improvement in stats under Rajakovic has been one of the rare positives in a difficult season for Toronto and it bodes well for the future, as Barnes is beginning to show he may be good enough to lead his franchise to a second-ever title in the years to come. 

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