Why Toronto fans must believe in Masai Ujiri’s smart rebuild

Raptors preseason
The Raptors are a work in progress. Photo from The Athletic.

This Toronto Raptors team has been through a lot over the past 18 months.

After a win against the Utah Jazz in March 2020 saw them go 46-18 – with a serious chance of retaining the Championship – they faced turmoil, playing the entirety of a Covid-hit season in Tampa Bay.

They lost Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol, Kawhi Leonard, Norman Powell and Kyle Lowry as the front office pivoted to rebuilding mode.

But with a new, clear strategy in place and a Championship-winning genius in Nick Nurse to lead it, there’s every reason to be high on this Toronto outfit.

New-look Raptors

Gone are the days of the traditional 1-5 lineup north of the border – the vast majority of the roster are between 6’7 and 6’9, can guard any position on the court and, for the most part, can all shoot.

If it goes right, it’s a basketball revolution. But it will take time – and Toronto fans must be patient while the franchise works itself out.

It was just two years ago that the Championship flew to the 6ix for the first time. But just four players – Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam and Chris Boucher – remain from the 2019 roster.

With the front office facing difficulty attracting high-profile free agents to Toronto, Masai Ujiri is attempting to shine diamonds in the rough.


Barnes looks a steal

Scottie Barnes – who very few expected the Raptors to take in this year’s draft – has been a revelation. He’s exactly the type of player, along with OG Anunoby, that this strategy will be built around. He’s supplemented by Toronto’s own Dalano Banton – who, at pick 46, is looking like a draft-night steal already.

But there’s others, too. Precious Achiuwa, forever underrated in Miami, is fixing Toronto’s perennial rebounding issues. Gary Trent Jr looks locked in on defence. Khem Birch continues to be a smart pickup, while the likes of Goran Dragic and Svi Mykhailiuk are contributing their experience and sharpshooting off the bench.

The Raptors may have started 1-3, but there’s every reason to believe in this team going forward.

Whether this year ends up as a development season, or if they claw their way into the Play-Offs, Toronto fans can believe again.

We broke down the Raptors roster and previewed the campaign on our podcast, Balling In The 6ix – the number one Toronto Raptors podcast based in the UK. You can find us on TwitterFacebook or our website. You can listen to our latest episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or any major podcast platform.

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