The losses continue to pile up as the Toronto Raptors are currently in the midst of one of their worst stretches in franchise history, losing 15 of their last 17 games.
There are lots of reasons for the Raptors’ struggles this season; being displaced from Toronto and playing in Tampa, key players missing games due to injury and health and safety protocols. But the biggest on court issue this season has been the lack of consistency at the center position.
Struggling to fill the void
When the Raptors lost Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol in free agency last off-season, we all knew that moves would have to be made to try to fill the massive holes they left. Unfortunately, the Raptors were only able to bring in Alex Len (who was waived from the team earlier this season) and Aron Baynes.
Fast forward to today, Toronto finds itself in a similar situation. The trade deadline came and went, players around the league were bought out and the Raptors are still searching for a big to add to the roster that can fill the void left by Gasol and Ibaka.
Focus on development
Toronto has missed out on a few big names in the buyout market and the prospect of the Raptors landing a center at this point in the season doesn’t look good right now.
They will more likely than not have to make do with what they’ve got and the only silver lining to this reality is that the younger players on the roster will continue to get a chance to get more minutes and develop.
Chris Boucher has made a huge leap forward in his development this season, averaging career highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks per game. Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby have also benefited from the increased responsibility and have seen a lot more minutes at the power forward and even the center spot this season.
Long-term prospect needed
Baynes on the other hand has struggled to produce. Despite being the only true center in the rotation, Baynes hasn’t been able to carve out a consistent role for himself this season. Signing Baynes was more of a temporary fix for the Raptors, and moving forward Toronto should look to find a big that can be a more productive, long-term option.
But young, versatile centers are still a hot commodity in the league that are hard to come by. There aren’t a lot of enticing big men available among the 2021 free agent pool and convincing a restricted free agent like Richaun Holmes or Jarrett Allen to come to Toronto will not only be challenging but pricey as well.
A lottery draft position is becoming more realistic and enticing as the Raptors’ playoff hopes continue to look bleak. Depending on where the Raptors’ first-round pick falls, it might be worthwhile to draft a true center like USC’s Evan Mobley or Texas’ Kai Jones.
As badly as they need it, there is no guarantee that the Raptors will be able to fill their void at the center position before the end of this season or the start of the next. Lots of decisions will have to be made this summer, but if there is anything that can be learned from this season, it’s that you can’t expect to be a competitive team without a reliable starting big man.