The Toronto Raptors have sputtered out of the gate since the NBA All-Star break began for them on February 17. Returning to action on February 25 against the Charlotte Hornets, the Raptors have won just two of seven games since, going 0-5 against teams not named the Brooklyn Nets.
Things aren’t completely dire in Toronto, as they’re still sitting seventh in the Eastern Conference and should comfortably still have a place in the NBA’s play-in round. But the alarm bells are definitely still ringing around the Raptors’ recent slide. Here are seven of the biggest issues they are facing right now:
1. Fred VanVleet’s knee injury
More than anything, Toronto is missing their star point guard. Fred VanVleet has missed the last five games with a knee injury, officially listed as soreness.
It’s hard to compete without your best players on the floor, and many of the Raptors’ issues have simply been caused or made worse by VanVleet’s absence.
2. OG Anunoby’s finger injury
Missing all of Toronto’s post-All-Star break games has been OG Anunoby, dealing with a finger fracture. Nick Nurse alluded last week that perhaps the injury had been plaguing Anunoby for an undetermined amount of time before deciding to get it looked at.
Sometimes undervalued in the grand scheme of things with the Raptors, Toronto has been feeling his absence over the last two weeks.
3. Raptors’ free throw misses
The Raptors have shot just 68.7% from the free-throw line over those seven games, compared to a season average up to that point of 75.8%.
In Sunday’s loss 104-96 against Cleveland, Pascal Siakam led the Raptors with 13 foul shot attempts but made just seven of them.
“He probably was a little flat on his,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said Sunday night about Siakam. “He just needs to make a conscious, conscious effort [to make them].”
4. The Raptors lack three-point shooting attempts
Toronto has struggled getting up three-point shots of late, with averages considerably down compared to the rest of the season. Over seven games, they’re averaging 9.4 makes on 29.0 attempts (32.5), compared to 12.3 makes on 34.8 attempts (35.4%) up to the All-Star break.
“You guys saw us it was hard to get a whole lot going from the perimeter,” Nurse added Sunday. “Right? It’s tough to lose 33 to 18 (attempts) at the three-point line.”
5. Gary Trent Jr.’s shooting struggles
If any Raptor has seen their shooting struggles mirror the team, it’d be Gary Trent Jr.
Trent Jr. has hit 30 points or more on eight occasions this season, but has hit 20 just once following the break. Trent’s toughest performance of the season came Friday against Orlando, where he shot just 2-for-12 from the field, including 0-for-9 from three-point range for a total of just four points.
Over the last seven games as a whole, he’s shot just .291, while shooting .222 from beyond the arc. He’s averaged 13.4 points per game over that stretch, compared to 18.6 over the rest of the season.
“Control what you can control, go to the gym, put in the work,” Trent Jr. said Sunday of what he had to do to get back to form. “Whatever happens, happens.”
6. Malachi Flynn’s absence
It’s odd to think that the Raptors are missing a player who was so far down in their rotation for much of the season, but Flynn had his best stretch of the season with four consecutive starts while VanVleet was out, averaging 35 minutes a game.
On Saturday, it came out that Flynn suffered a hamstring injury in Friday’s game, decimating Toronto’s depth chart even further. Flynn will be back in due time, but it’s caused Toronto to experiment with Scottie Barnes as their starting point guard.
7. The Raptors’ unique roster construction
Much has been made of the similarities of Toronto’s roster makeup, with 11 players on the roster being listed between 6’7″ and 6’9″. With the 6’1″ VanVleet and Flynn out of the lineup, the Raptors are often employing five players with similar skillsets on the floor at any given time.
“I’m not saying it can’t work,” Chris Boucher said Sunday night of the challenges of the unique lineups. “We put a lot of work and what we do, and obviously, we’re gonna all get it together eventually. But we definitely need Fred and OG.”
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