2023-24 NBA Season Preview: Toronto Raptors

Published October 24, 2023, 12:00 PMPolo Bustamante

The Raptors will look to Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam to lead the way this season.

The NBA Season is back! Just like your favorite superhero story, the NBA brings fun, entertainment, and a lot of uncanny subplots to unpack. That’s why NBA.com Philippines decided to preview the new season comic-book style. We pick out fantastic characters that will take the stage and new amazing arcs to watch out for. Bang! Pow! Boom! Let’s go!

What’s their superpower?

The Toronto Raptors have a type. You know what I’m talking about. A prototypical Raptor stands at around 6’8” or 6’9” with a slender build and long wingspan. These types of players make up nearly 80 percent of their roster. Next season Toronto will trot out guys like Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby, Gradey Dick, Chris Boucher, and Precious Achiuwa. All long, lanky forwards.

Beyond the height, the Raptors also have a knack for versatility. All those players listed have multiple skills that they can showcase on the court. Siakam can score, but he can also facilitate. Barnes is a walking triple-double. Anunoby is the ideal 3DA player. Their versatility allows them to be plugged and played in any situation.

It may be funny to think that when you mention the Toronto Raptors, a type of player instantly comes to mind. What’s not funny is when they trot out five players who are all tall, long, and very skilled.

What’s their kryptonite?

The Raptors have always relied on their continuity to help them get by. When Kawhi Leonard left, Siakam picked up the reins. When Lowry was traded, Fred Van Vleet took over the starting point guard spot and there was virtually no dropoff. When Dwayne Casey was fired, Nick Nurse took over.

This season there are several new faces on the team that were imported from the outside. The Raptors brought in the Memphis Grizzlies’ assistant coach, Drako Rajakovic to succeed Nurse. They signed free agent point guard Dennis Schroder after Fred Van Vleet bolted in free agency.

Unlike before, the Raptors can’t rely on continuity to keep things running smoothly. With new key personnel coming in with a whole new system and skills that the core group hasn’t gotten used to yet, there will be jagged edges that will need smoothing. That will happen throughout the season and could end up costing the team some key wins.

Who is their biggest hero?

Right now, the best player in Toronto is Siakam. He’s proven to be a worthy leader. But it’s Barnes that should be highlighted by the team because of his potential. He’s a do-it-all forward that was utilized several different ways last season, most notably as the point guard when the team’s floor generals were out due to injuries.

Barnes can make that leap from young player into young All-Star this coming season with Van Vleet out of the way. He can assume the main playmaker role even as a small forward, similar to how the Nuggets run their offense through Nikola Jokic. Barnes has proven that he’s one of the most talented young players in the league, primed to take that next step into stardom.

Who is their biggest villain?

What Barnes hasn’t proven is if he has the drive to make that leap.

In his two years in Toronto, he’s earned a reputation as a lazy player coasting on his talent. The numbers kind of prove it. Barnes’ production did not move from his rookie year to his second year in the league. In fact, he got slightly worse in terms of efficiency.

That’s a big problem for the Raptors because they’re expecting Barnes to be the type of player that can carry a heavy, superstar-worthy workload. If Barnes shies away from the amount of work that will be given to him, then everything that Toronto is doing is moot. Their success this season is dependent on how good Barnes can be.

Can he rise to the occasion and be the All-Star that the team had hoped he would be? Or is he happy being a 15-7-5 playing second-fiddle to Siakam?

How does their story play out?

The Raptors are far from the best team out in the East. But, they’re also far from being the worst. This franchise will never completely be out of the playoff picture. They can hang around the fourth or fifth seed. But they’re definitely not in the championship picture anymore. With how they’re currently built, Toronto is driving straight back into the play-in.

This upcoming season could be the litmus test whether the Raptors should keep going at it or if it’s time to blow things up.