The Toronto Raptors are operating without a clear plan for the future

Toronto Raptors OG Anunoby (Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)
Toronto Raptors OG Anunoby (Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Toronto Raptors dipped to a 41-41 overall record and missed the playoffs for the 2nd time in 3 years. What is their direction moving forward? 

The actions of the Toronto Raptors since the 2023 trade deadline have been nothing short of strange. Rumors circled around their two best players, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam, possibly being moved at the deadline.

Not only did that not happen, but they chose to buy in February and bring center Jakob Poeltl back. The team marginally improved but still fell short in their play-in game vs. the Chicago Bulls, where they struggled to close the game.

Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri can receive praise for bringing long and lengthy players onto his basketball team, but eventually, there has to be consistent shot creation and shooting. That is what the Raptors lack desperately. It’s also been some time since the Kawhi Leonard move to Toronto their first championship.

Former coach of the year Nick Nurse decided to exit Toronto and move on to the Philadelphia 76ers instead. It says a lot that a coach like Nurse would enter uncharted territory in Philadelphia rather than stay with an organization he won a championship with.

Scottie Barnes regressed in his sophomore season, and considering the Raptors were not interested in putting him in a possible Kevin Durant deal, it leaves us to wonder what direction Ujiri is trying to go in.

What is the Toronto Raptors’ plan?

Does he want to contend or re-build?

It’s also head-scratching when he could have moved Fred VanVleet at the trade deadline but chose to keep the veteran guard and lose him to the Houston Rockets for nothing.

VanVleet was one of Ujiri’s best finds. He was un-drafted and grew from a solid role player to a competitive starter, to an all-star. VanVleet, even in a down year, could’ve gained some value for the organization, but Ujiri didn’t see the point.

It seems like Ujiri is becoming very stingy with his stars in negotiations. There seems to be a value he sees that no other organization sees.

For example, The Raptors reportedly declined a three-first-round pick offer for Anunoby from the Memphis Grizzlies and Indiana Pacers. Anunoby is a good player, but that amount of first-round picks are typically for players who have at least made all-star teams.

Siakam also gained much interest and had a strong season, but it’s clear his fit is cluttering the development of Barnes. The Raptors are asking for more in a reportedly big Atlanta Hawks offer that would include De’Andre Hunter, AJ Griffin, and draft compensation. That’s a hefty pay for a guy who couldn’t take a team with talent to the playoffs.

It’s understandable that Ujiri would want the best deal possible for his players, and making a move now doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right one. Maybe his plan is to drive the price so high for Siakam and Anunoby that teams will be more open to offers when he lowers them.

There was also a report Siakam wouldn’t sign an extension to any team he’s traded to, so maybe he’s just happy in Toronto. However, it’s been some time now, and there is no excuse for losing VanVleet when he easily could’ve been traded for future assets at the deadline.

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When Ujiri has a plan, it usually bolds well for the organization’s fan base. However, their situation looks very odd now.