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Toronto Temperature: Raptors players certainly had their moments, but none of it was enough in a losing week

Winnable games slipped through the Raptors fingers — are there ways to reverse course?

Toronto Raptors v Portland Trail Blazers
OG Anunoby pours in a big 1st half against the Trail Blazers.
Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Death, taxes and falling victim to the Dwane Casey Revenge Tour. The 127-121 loss to the Detroit Pistons was certainly a lowlight in another losing week for the Toronto Raptors, but unlike last week, we’re not left with a deluge of silver linings. Yes, there were a couple here and there, but it’s becoming apparent that there may need to be some changes to this roster if Toronto is going to be in any kind of contention for the playoffs. Perhaps a better-than-serviceable centre is in the Raptors’ future? Who’s to say?

Let’s take the temperature

Who’s Hot

Not One, But Many On Occasion

Since there wasn’t a single Raptor who put together a stellar week, let’s lightning-round a handful who had stand-out games.

Fred VanVleet

Feast your eyes on a Canadian Heritage moment — the Raptors beating the 76ers with VanVleet hitting the Big Balls Dance with Sam Cassell on the 76ers bench as an assistant coach. Oh yeah, he also dropped a tidy 32/6/7 on 50/55/100 shooting splits and picked up a 15k fine. Worth every penny!

Pascal Siakam

Siakam broke out in a big way for the first time on his young season against the Detroit Pistons, going for 25/12/7 on 64% shooting from the field. While fouling out was not ideal, Raptors fans loved to see the old Pascal back in action.

OG Anunoby

A blistering 22-point first half that saw OG absolutely take over the game against the Trail Blazers. Unfortunately, the Blazers made solid adjustments at half-time which contributed to the Raptors going away from the quick-hitting, flow of the offense rhythm that Anuonby had built in favour of laborious back-downs that resulted in a 7-point second half. Anunoby finished with 29/6/2/3 in a loss that probably should have been a win.

Scottie Barnes

Barnes’ week will be remembered for the rookie yips more than the solid stat lines, but he did average 16/8/4 on the four-game swing. He also had this excellent little slide with some help from OG.

Dalano Banton

All right, Banton didn’t have a big, standout game, but he did have this gargantuan block. Good enough for me!

Who’s Not

Raptors Defense, Somebody That We Used To Know

With the way scoring has dropped in the NBA this season thanks to rule changes and — depending on which player you query — a new ball, this next sentence doesn’t feel quite as ridiculous as it would have over the last several seasons. Toronto couldn’t hold a single opponent under 100-points and gave up a whopping 127 points to the Pistons and 118 to the Trail Blazers.

This all loops back to the roster construction that was alluded to at the top of the Temperature. While the roster was built to be something like a cross between a 20-armed octopus and a rat king that could devour any and all angles on defense, the lack in height has become painfully apparent. In each of the four games, the Raptors gave up huge rebounding numbers to individual players. Robert Williams, Andre Drummond and Jerami Grant all feasted on the offensive glass to the tune of 8, 5 and 3 offensive rebounds respectively. Scottie Barnes who, bless his giant heart but much shorter stature, was tasked with guarding Jusuf Nurkic most of the night in Portland. Shockingly, the giant Nurkic reigned in 14 boards.

Is there a small move that could buy Toronto some size on the interior and can defend at Nick Nurse’s expected level, or do the Raptors have to bite the bullet and break a piece off of the core?

Raptors Offense, Pace

On the one hand, the Raptors are currently ranked 8th in ORtg, on the other, they are 29th in pace — the area that Toronto is supposed to be exploiting in order to get easy buckets to avoid getting stuck in the mud in their half-court sets. Now, pace is inextricably linked to defense and, as mentioned above, the Raptors have stunk it up over the last couple of weeks on that end of the floor. Regardless, if Toronto doesn’t get out and run in transition, that ORtg could be in for a bit of a battering.

Goran Dragic, The Situation is Clear

As much as it pains me to say — and the pain is extreme — Dragic could help the Raptors a whole lot right now. Evidenced by his showing against the Pistons, Dragic is ready to play and spell Fred VanVleet during his extreme minutes load. While Malachi Flynn and Dalano Banton have both showed flashes of brilliance, they are not nearly at the point of dependable enough to be tasked with running the show on a game-to-game basis when VanVleet sits.

All that said, it is clear as day that Nurse and maybe the Raptors organization as a whole, will not be going that route, as when VanVleet returned from his one-game absence, Dragic was thrust right back into his familiar role of DNP-CD. Firmly believing that Dragic has sowed this fate for himself doesn’t make it any easier when the team is scuffling like it is.