Amidst the 2021-22 NBA regular season that saw various surges in the second half, it was Toronto RaptorsThe late season run was among the best. They went 25-11 and jumped out to the #5 seed in the Eastern Conference at 48-34. During that span, they were fifth in the defensive rating and eighth in the net rating. On the year, they finished 10th in defense overall and 10th in half-court defense, according to Cleaning The Glass. The glut of convertible and stackable wings produced better swings than any other team and did just enough to seal the paint to hide size deficiencies.
Despite losing 4-2 in the first round to Philadelphia Seventy Sixers In the NBA Playoffs, optimism seemed to run rampant across Toronto under the belief that connection and identity had been formed during the 36-game lockout. A season full of standouts in Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, and Scottie Barnes understanding each other’s games can translate to success right from the start. It won’t be playing catch-up after a tough start.
After seven months, the raptors are 21-27 and tied with Washington Wizards In eleventh place in the East. They are two games behind the eighth seed Chicago Bulls And five games behind No. 6 Miami Heat. While the hurdles continued offensively, this team’s vision was to mount an efficient attack to balance a menacing defence. Unlike last year, this did not manifest itself.
Toronto is 13 offensively (Siacam is a really good drive!) and 18 defensive, including 22 in the halffield. It continues the league’s rhythm in an opposing turnover. But everything else is shattered and that is glaringly evident when fast food is not secured. It allows for the eighth-highest rim frequency (18th last year) and the eighth-highest three-point frequency (ninth). She is 22nd in opposing edge field goal percentage (22) and 28th in opposing three-point percentage (18).
The only team that receives a worse and more effective field goal percentage is San Antonio Spurs, which ranks last in the defensive rankings at more than 1.5 points per 100 possessions. Outdoor shooting luck doesn’t greatly affect birds of prey either. According to Cleaning The Glass, their target percentage for expected effective target ranked 27th. Spin-offs insulate them from being the bottom of the barrel. Avoid coups against this club and favorite shots abound.
The team building ethos in Toronto is built on the wings big and mobile. The only player on the list taller than 6-foot-9 is 7-foot-1 rookie center Christian Koloko. The goal is to prevent teams from reaching the edge, often via steals or deflections and rude assists on the nail or from hard corners. Such a pattern offers little margin for error at the point of attack and calls for a bunch of threes (30 in the opposing corner an average of three points two years in a row). I worked in 2021-22. It didn’t happen this season.
Opponents get to the edge more often. The difference between an open and closed driving lane is minimal. Defense is not static or the type of skill that can be relied on constantly and is only affected by the efforts of each individual. Year-to-year performance should be seen as volatile similar to shooting variance. The past two years in Toronto demonstrate that.
The Raptors are worrisomely disorganized for a team with eight remaining from last season’s rotation. They routinely foul switches in a switch-heavy scheme, miscommunicate on ball screens and miss weak cutouts. The help of the low man is intermittent. Even as late as January, they’re still not engaged on a regular basis. They look unfamiliar with each other.
The reason for their lack of coherence is likely to be cyclical. Their scheme is based on gambling for theft and aggressive cover-up to alleviate their domestic problems. This gets them into scramble mode all the time. Running like this and setting the required courses on the fly is mentally and physically exhausting. Physical and mental exhaustion breed health errors and concerns.
Toronto’s depth is also very poor, with head coach Nick Nurse playing with his men for several minutes. Each player logs a minimum of 32.9 minutes per game. Siakam, Anunoby, and Fred VanVleet play 36.5 or more each night. This frantic game plan, combined with loading minutes, leads to injuries, throwing different players into the rotation. When formations are constantly changing, coherence is difficult to achieve. Synergy is essential to every defense, especially one like Toronto, and it simply wasn’t there this year.
Both the front office and coaching staff are guilty. The menu is very flawed and not deep. As a result, the rotation is poor and the defensive scheme is chaotic. Injuries occur. Problems pile up. Disappointing results are shown in the 2022-23 season. Every game, every possession, every interaction is mercurial.
The Raptors’ point offense defense has also struggled this season. Presumably due to various injuries, VanVleet’s lateral velocity and cutting on the ball declined. Because he’s so vulnerable on offense, he no longer looks like a defensive man of the team’s caliber of the past few years. His crossover of fluid screen navigation, strength on offense and feisty assist on the nail was vital when he was healthy last season. Its slope is a vital part of these warts.
Barnes is also regularly given duties on the ball and is poorly equipped. Others, such as Siakam and Gary Trent Jr., also practice. , pressing too hard in hopes of derailing takeaways or mustering the task handle, leading to crashes. The demand for select ball players in the entire field is also sure to be high. This is risky, especially in this edge protection environment, and tiring.
They don’t have a backend tool to clear bugs and defend multiple guys at once and restore order to suppress advantages. Malfunctions expand after they begin. It is rarely put out. There is no one inside to anchor everything and provide stability. Every team needs a goalkeeper. The birds of prey are missing. Chaos is the core of their defense and it is not sustainable.
When someone makes a turn downhill, nothing will deter them or force the offense to reconsider its decision. Even if not every 7-footer is the same defensively, the sheer size, to massive degrees, will give people pause. This does not happen against Toronto due to the lack of intimidation.
Protecting Toronto’s vulnerable edge is the undercurrent of the collective’s inner inefficiencies. She is 20th in defensive rebound rate and 25th in opposing free throw rate. Offenses encounter little bounce by venturing into the paint if they are protecting the ball. Upon their arrival, the Raptors resort to frantic assist-side runs, many of which conclude with free throws.
They can’t handle volume efficiently, and that was confirmed by Joel Embiid’s dominant first round last spring. There’s no variety in the chart, though they’ve played more drop coverage this season. Just because the likes of Siakam, Anunoby, Barnes, and Precious Achiuwa can switch between one-on-one matches doesn’t mean the entire defense is ready for any stylistic match; None of them are full-time 5s, essential rim guards or anchors for an effective defensive rebounding set.
Versatility exists in many conceptual terms. Toronto embodies it in certain aspects and completely avoids it in others. His flexibility is limited by his penchant for versatile wings. This archetype is valuable and practical, but any focus on a single archetype, however flexible, will generate an incomplete list. The Raptors are a defense geared towards generating rotation to fuel their transmission. They can’t adjust to protect the coating or the arc when needed. This is deadlock.
Toronto doesn’t pull the rim or downsize the three-point. When teams find those picks, they enjoy big profits from the higher value spots on the floor. This is a disastrous combination, no matter how many shifts the team or troops make.
A 13th-ranked offense could suffice — a 16th-ranked offense I did last year. heat (26-22), Milwaukee Bucks (30-17) f Los Angeles Clippers (25-24) are all 22nd or worse in the offensive rating, while holding the top six seed and a .500+ record. They each promote a Top 10 defense, with Milwaukee (2nd) and Miami (4th) rounding out the top 5. They all started as actual centers. Milwaukee and Miami are fairly versatile plan-wise, too. These funds are not located in Toronto.
Last season, the Raptors defense had a mediocre offense and won 48 games; Even going 25-11 in the playoffs, the offense is ranked 20th. But the reverse isn’t viable for them. With poor shooting and depth of ball handling, the offensive roof is covered. The top ten defense in 2021-22 relied on flops that have since turned into nighttime frenzy.
There’s still about three months to ramp up the issues plaguing them, but it’s increasingly difficult to count on that score. Roster building and training doesn’t give this group much room at either end. He’s eluded them two years in a row and is at the center of Toronto’s troubles.