Toronto Raptors: After a poor start to the season, is it time to panic?

Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

Is it time for the Toronto Raptors to panic?

Is this slow start for the Toronto Raptors a sign?

Their fall from being title contenders has naturally occurred. Losing Kawhi Leonard was a lot to overcome last season, but after losing more of that championship-winning core this past offseason, a playoff appearance now becomes a question.

The glue remains intact on this Toronto team. Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam are steady and strong on both ends of the floor, but the latter has got off to a puzzling slow start offensively.

Their both best suited as complementary players. Kyle Lowry‘s presence itself makes this Raptors team a tough out, but at 34 his best days may just be behind him. O.G. Anunoby is developing into one of the better two-way players in the league, while Chris Boucher is responding well to more playing time, posting career highs across the board.

Beyond these five players, the roster is relatively thin. Norman Powell is solid, but counting on unproven players like Matt Thomas and Terence Davis to play bigger roles may become troublesome. Toronto has already been feeling the losses of Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol, as their defense has noticeably taken a step back.

The results returned so far this season haven’t been positive. They were blitzed by the New Orleans Pelicans in the second half of the season opener, as they were overmatched by the young, fiery Alvin Gentry-led squad.

Siakam’s shortcomings would allow DeMar DeRozan to lead the San Antonio Spurs to a victory over his former squad. A scoreless fourth quarter from VanVleet and a nice balance of Joel Embiid and timing 3-point shooting led to a third straight loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Raptors ended 2020 on a good note, but another poor performance from Spicy P led to another loss to the Pelicans. There are a few notable red flags early. Former NBA Executive of the Year Masai Ujiri may need to shuffle the cards a bit, because the Eastern Conference itself may have outgrown this Raptors team.

The top of the East will almost certainly look different come April. The Brooklyn Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks will most likely be honing top four seeds. The tandem of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown looks even stronger and it’s only a matter of time before the Boston Celtics get Kemba Walker back. The Philadelphia 76ers are still led by Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, but they’ve improved all-around, as they brought in a few shooters and finally upgraded their head coaching position.

The defending Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat should still be in the picture as well. The Indiana Pacers are thriving with Domantis Sabonis back healthy in all-star form, while Victor Oladipo and Malcolm Brogdon arguably form the best backcourt in the East. Steve Clifford continues to coach this Orlando Magic team up, and after a hot start, a third straight postseason appearance is likely.

There are also a few up-and-coming teams within the conference as well. The Atlanta Hawks are real, as Trae Young is playing at an MVP level. The Cleveland Cavaliers have been a pleasant surprise, and the Washington Wizards should be much better soon. The duo of Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook is too talented to write off so soon, even after a slow start. There’s also no telling what any of these other young Eastern Conference teams in could do.

The same grit, glue, and core are still around, but the teams around them have drastically improved. Lowry and VanVleet will be enough to get it done some nights, but there’s a glaring lack of firepower within this roster. Playing in a new location with no true home games may factor into things as well. Their top core players are meant to be complementary pieces, so maybe a deadline deal from Masai Ujiri get’s the ball rolling a bit.

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Missing the postseason after such a period of consistency is a scary possibility. To a lesser extent, this happened to the San Antonio Spurs last season. They missed the playoffs after such a long run of consistency. The stretch isn’t nearly as long for Toronto, but their days of hovering over the East may just be over.