We are soon turning the page on 2023, and heading into 2024.
Not very often does the Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog depart from it’s core topics focused on Personal Injury Law in the Province of Ontario.
But, when we do, we like to discuss the our beloved Toronto Raptors basketball team. This is one of those occasions where we will discuss, in depth, what we hope to see from the Toronto Raptors in the new year.
Let’s put things into context with quick look back on the past 4 years to Toronto Raptors Basketball.
2019/2020: A season from heaven! A championship year. You can’t ask for anything more from a franchise. A dream come true.
2020/21: Defending the championship. They still had a championship glow, despite Kawhi leaving. They had the best record in the NBA when the season was shut down due to COVID. Raptors end up losing in Game 7 to the Celtics in the playoffs in the Bubble. Solid and entertaining season. A season to be proud of and showed the world that they weren’t just all about Kawhi. They were a real team, with a real identity, along with a championship pedigree.
2021/22: Kyle leaves in a sign and trade. Let’s see what a Kyle-less Raptor team looks like. It’s obvious they are putting all of their marbles in the wing position; without a true centre or backup PG. Every player seems to be a 6″9 wing player. That means while every player can hypothetically play every position on the floor, it also means that they can play no position on the floor effectively. There are just 2 competent guards on the team, no reputable back up point guard, no centre, and nobody on the roster can shoot with any real consistency. That means that the floor spacing is poor. Everyone is also defending up, or defending down, meaning everyone is defending out of position. It’s obvious from the start to the end of this season that the roster construction is weird. But, let’s see if this vision 6’9 thing works out, because the front office has a proven track record of success and has earned it.
2022/23 We are going to do the exact same thing as above, but only this time, we’ve added a true centre in Jacob Poeltl. Same thing. Same result. Poor guard play. Poor shooting. Sometimes I just want to get out there and jack up some 3’s for this team.
2023/24 We are going to do the exact same thing as above, but only this time, we have a new coach and a new point guard who has traditionally be a career backup. Same result. Poor guard play. Poor shooting. Sometimes I just ant to get out there and jack up some 3’s for this team.
It’s obvious to any casual observer of the Toronto Raptors that over the past 3 seasons:
- They can’t shoot with any consistency
- Opposing teams pack the paint against their offence knowing the Raptors are a poor shooting team
- They have the worst guard depth in the NBA
- They have a glaring amount of redundancies at the wing position
- If you are good 6’9 athlete, you will likely get a look from the Raptors, even if you’ve never seen or played basketball before because they have been so committed to the Vision 6’9 philosophy.
It’s obvious that the team needs guards, and needs shooting. The vision 6’9 philosophy hasn’t worked out for one reason, or another. That’s not to say that it cannot work. But, it’s painfully obvious that the team does not have the talent to make it work. Just because a player is 6’9 should not automatically mean that the player deserves a look in the NBA, let alone a roster spot built on length and the perceived ability to guard multiple positions. At some point in time, you need NBA calibre basketball players on your NBA basketball roster. The game is about more than just being tall and athletic.
This all comes down to the architects of to team, who are sitting in the front office. Masai Urjiri and Bobby Webster get a pass for 1 or 2 years because of the championship from the 2019 season. But, this doesn’t mean that their experiment in insufferably can last forever. At some point in time, they need to make changes, or be held accountable for the uninspired basketball Raptor fans have been exposed to.
I think the front office needs to accept that guards matter, and have always mattered. They also need to accept that just because a player does not tick all of their physical trait boxes, does not mean that the player can’t fit onto a roster or make a meaningful impact for the team.
Here are two prime examples of players who were passed up by other teams because they didn’t fit the physical mold of your prototypical NBA player, but went on to have amazingly great NBA careers.
Fred Van Fleet. Undrafted out of Wichita State. He certainly does not have a stereotypical NBA body. He is exactly what the Raptors stopped looking for after they got him. Wrong height. Poor length. Not the quickest, nor the fastest. But smart, skilled, super competitive and really understood the game of basketball. Look at what he’s done.
Norman Powell. Second round pick passed up by the entire league until the Raptors scooped him up with the 46th pick in the draft. Only 6’4 which is not tall for NBA guard or small forward standards. But he had some talent that few players had. He could score and he could compete at a very high level despite of his lack of size. And that ability to score, coupled with his ability to compete at a high level has led to an NBA championship along with a fantastic NBA career.
Neither of these players fit the 6’9 mold. But they brought something to the table something other than size or length that you can’t make in a lab.
Variety is the spice of life. When building a team, it’s important to have players who bring different sets of skills to the table. Not everyone can do the same thing. When a team is too one dimensional, or overly reliant on one or two players, they are predictable and easy to defend. The Raptors of the past 2-3 years have been trying ad nauseum to create a monocrop basketball team identifying players who fit into a mold despite having substandard skills; hoping that other basketball skills would develop. The experiment has failed. This has come at the expense of ignoring other positions entirely (guard and centre) and developing talent at these positions.
It’s my hope moving forward, that the Raptors will depart from this Vision 6’9 philosophy and find a variety of true hoopers, instead of a group of men who fit a mold. Raptors beat the Bucks in the 2019 playoffs because they were malleable. They moved to a Jumbo lineup with 2 centres to fluster Giannis. Would the current Raptors be able to put out an effective Jumbo lineup today? Would they be able to go to an effective 2 PG lineup like they did with Fred and Kyle? As currently constructed, the Raptors are a one trick pony, which isn’t good enough for the NBA.