Toronto Raptors 2019-20 NBA Season Review

The Toronto Raptors finished with the second-best regular-season record in the NBA. Their championship-pedigree and toughness allowed them to be one of the top East contenders. A big part of their success was their defense and their ability to limit star players to limited points. They also had tremendous depth throughout the regular season and even the playoffs.

2019-20 Season Review for the Toronto Raptors

Strengths

Defense

The Raptors’ defense is their biggest attribute. They had the best defensive rating of any team in the bubble during the regular season according to stats.nba.com. They also had the second-best defensive rating of all teams in the regular season.

Their defense was also good in the NBA playoffs. Marc Gasol had a defensive rating of 103.7, this was followed by Kyle Lowry with 105.3, Serge Ibaka with 106.1, Pascal Siakam 106.4, and OG Anunoby had 107.1.

There were other Raptors players above them on this list but they did not get much playing time in the NBA playoffs. The only notable one was Matt Thomas, who had a defensive rating of 84.3. These great individual defensive ratings were reflected in their team defense as they had the best defensive rating of all NBA playoff teams.

Anunoby was the best player for the Raptors defense in the season part of the bubble. Marc Gasol and Oshae Brissett had the best defensive rating of the Raptors in the 2019-20 NBA season. The Raptors were also ranked second in steals, seventh in defensive rebounds, and 13th in blocks in the 2019-20 NBA season.

The Emergence of Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet

It was a big loss losing Kawhi Leonard after the conclusion of the 2019 NBA playoffs. However, as a result, both Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam got a lot more opportunities to shoot. This is what Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said about the improvement of players compared to the 2018-19 NBA Season according to BarDown Staff:

“Pascal Siakam has taken a step up. Fred VanVleet has taken a step up. Serge Ibaka’s a step up. OG Anunoby’s reinserted, he almost missed last year because of various reasons. Guys are getting better and they believe in themselves.”

VanVleet and Siakam have improved the most out of anyone. In the 2019-20 NBA season, VanVleet averaged 17.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, 6.6 assists, and 1.9 steals. All of these are career-highs for the sharp-shooter.

Also, Siakam averaged 22.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.0 steal per game in the 2019-20 NBA season. These are all career-highs for Siakam. As a result, he made the 2020 All-NBA Second Team and the NBA All-Star Game. These two players are the future of the organization.

Ibaka also stepped up, having a career-high in assists, points, and rebounds. According to Oren Weinfeld of raptorsrepublic.com, Ibaka credits Gasol for his improved passing ability.

The Depth of the Toronto Raptors

The depth is one of the biggest strengths of the Raptors. Yes, they were ranked 25th in bench points in the 2019-20 NBA season. However, that does not take into account the number of injuries the Raptors had endured. Many times, throughout the season, the bench was forced to start because of injuries to players like Lowry and VanVleet.

A prime example was against the Dallas Mavericks on December 22. Lowry gave credit to bench players like Chris Boucher, Terence Davis, Malcolm Miller, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. This is what Lowry said according to Yahoo Sports Canada:

“We had a great team effort and Malcolm, Terence Davis, Ronde, Chris Boucher I give them all the credit today they won that game for us.”

Lowry would, later on, say this:

“Malcolm got plenty a few steals TD had a couple of big threes Chris was his deflections and block shot blocks around David is put back some hustle effort.”

Boucher had 21 points and seven rebounds, and Hollis-Jefferson had 18 points, nine rebounds, and two assists. Miller had a few steals in the game and Davis got a couple of big threes. Lastly, Lowry had a double-double with 32 points and 10 assists, in addition to eight rebounds.

Lastly, Davis was voted to the 2019-20 NBA All-Rookie Second Team. Furthermore, the Toronto Raptors bench did step up in the playoffs. They ranked second in the offensive rating of all NBA playoff teams. This includes scoring an NBA record 100 points in one playoff game against the Brooklyn Nets.

Weaknesses

Offense

This is one area where the Toronto Raptors can improve on. In the 2019-20 NBA season, their offensive rating was ranked 13th. This is decent for any NBA team, however, if the Raptors want to improve their chances, becoming better offensively is a must. There are two ways the Raptors can achieve this. One is to sign more offensive-minded players. They are also 12th in offensive rebounds.

For example, Montrezl Harrell of the Los Angeles Clippers is available in the NBA free agency market according to Michael Corvo of ClutchPoints. He is the reigning sixth-man of the year. Harrell and Norman Powell can make the Raptors bench more lethal in the 2020-21 NBA season.

The other way is to have faith in Anunoby, Powell, and VanVleet to improve their games. In his third season, Anunoby averaged 10.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.4 steals per game, which are all career-highs. Lastly, Anunoby had a career-high in three-point shooting percentage, which is at 39.0 percent.

Lastly, Powell has made a huge jump in the 2019-20 NBA season. He averaged 16 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.2 steals per game for the Raptors, which are all career-highs.

If both he and VanVleet improve offensively, there may not be a need to improve the Raptors offense. VanVleet and Powell can make the NBA All-Star Game next year. This is while Anunoby hit one of the biggest shots in Raptors history in game three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Boston Celtics.

Pascal Siakam Struggled in the Bubble

Credit should be given to Siakam. When he is at his best, he is the best player for the Toronto Raptors. Furthermore, he played a big role in the Raptors’ championship run last year. Saying that Siakam struggled in the bubble including the NBA playoffs. As a result, the Raptors were eliminated in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Siakam averaged only 17 points per game in the NBA playoffs. He only had a 39.6 field goal percentage and an 18.9 three-point percentage. Yes, the Celtics were guarding Siakam and are a good defensive team. However, Siakam was missing a lot of shots he normally makes. He was not the player that made the NBA All-Star Game, which was before the bubble.

In the last eight regular-season games in the bubble, Siakam averaged only 16.9 points per game and a 39.4 field goal percentage. He did have a higher three-point percentage, but still not great. He shot 35.6 percent in the regular season part of the bubble.

The Raptors should be in the playoffs next year. Also, expect Siakam to be back to his normal self next season and in the playoffs. The breakup near the end of the 2019-20 NBA season has affected everything. It was inevitable that it would affect some players more than others and that was the case with Siakam.

Overview of the Toronto Raptors 2019-20 NBA Season

Overall, the Toronto Raptors do not need to change much for the offseason. They already have the defenders necessary to win an NBA title. The problem now is finding more offense. They do not need to be NBA All-Star players, but enough that they can impact the Raptors offensively.

However, the Raptors priority should be signing VanVleet, Ibaka and/or Gasol. In particular, VanVleet should be the #1 target for the Raptors, he along with Powell, Anunoby, and Siakam are the future of the Raptors organization. Furthermore, VanVleet has every chance of becoming an NBA All-Star next year and is only 26 years old.

The Raptors should also aim at signing either or both Ibaka or Gasol. However, it may not be possible with a decrease in the salary cap according to Dan Feldman of Yahoo Sports. Lastly, Gasol expressed interest in playing in Europe according to Jovan Alford of Hoops Rumors. Even then, signing both Ibaka and VanVleet would be seen as a win. Gasol is 35 years old and is at the tail-end of his NBA career.

While nothing is a guarantee, the Raptors have most of the pieces to win the NBA championship. Moreover, the growth of VanVleet, Powell, and Anunoby could play a pivotal role in the Raptors winning the NBA championship next year.

It will however be harder to win the NBA championship next year with the Golden State Warriors and the Nets set to become NBA contenders in the 2020-21 NBA season. The Raptors though, have an advantage in chemistry and as a result, had the second-best season record in the NBA.

Lastly, Lowry should be mentioned. He is a six-time NBA All-Star and 2019 NBA Champion for the Toronto Raptors. Lowry averaged 19.4 points, 7.5 assists, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.4 steals per game in the 2019-20 NBA season.

Lowry played a big role in the Raptors memorable Eastern Conference Semifinals game six win against the Celtics. He also played well in their NBA season bubble opener against the Los Angeles Lakers.

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