Evaluating The 2021 Toronto Raptors

July 15th, 2021

By Alan Lu

Last year, the Raptors surpassed far beyond anyone’s expectations in 2020, and they managed to get it to 7 games before losing to the Boston Celtics in the second round.  This season though, it seemed that expectations just kept kept loftier, and it increased to a point where maybe the Raptors just seemed due for a letdown, as they won just 27 games this season in 2021.

Whether if it is because the Raptors were not allowed to play in Toronto and were forced to make Tampa their substitute home, that the rest of the league caught up to Pascal Siakam so that he is no longer a superstar he appeared to be for most of last year, a lack of cohesion due to the departures of experienced veterans and a failure to incorporate younger players, or some combination of all of the above, the fact was the Raptors simply underachieved this season. 

They will need to figure out the direction of their team and they will need to figure out if they can march ahead to try to vie for the playoffs once again next year, or if they should consider tearing it down and opting for a rebuild altogether.

Kyle Lowry turned in another solid season, even though the Toronto Raptors struggled as a team this past year.
(Photo:
Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images, via KSL Sports)

G Kyle Lowry
2021 (TOR): 46 GP, 17.2 PPG, 7.3 APG, 5.4 RPG, 44 FG%, 40 3PT%, 88 FT%, 16.5 PER, 59 TS%, 4.1 WS, .124 WS48

He had a solid season this past year, as he shot the ball well, and he also excelled as a facilitator and rebounder on the court.  He’s also known to be one of the best defensive players at the point guard position, though he didn’t quite have as much of an impact on that end as he had in previous seasons.  Still, he is a smart, savvy team leader whose all-around skills and high basketball IQ makes him a very good player to have on any team.

2021 Season Grade: B
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting point guard on the Toronto Raptors
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 3 stars

Lowry will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

After having an All-Star season in 2020, Toronto Raptors’ Pascal Siakam did not play nearly as well this past season, and he didn’t shoot nor defend nearly as well as he did last year.
(Photo:
Nick Antaya/Getty Images, via Fansided’s Raptors Rapture)

F-C Pascal Siakam
2021 (TOR): 56 GP, 21.4 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.1 SPG, 45 FG%, 30 3PT%, 83 FT%, 17.7 PER, 55 TS%, 4.2 WS, .101 WS48

Siakam showed more playmaking skills than the year before, and he’s shown that he can be something of a point center.  However, he had a slightly disappointing season, as he didn’t shoot nor defend nearly as well as he did last season, and his inability to consistently knock down outside shots made him and his team easier to guard this year.  It’s clear that he had a down season and that he will need more help on offense, but he also has to get his jump shot back on track.

2021 Season Grade: C
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting center on the Toronto Raptors
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

Toronto Raptors’ guard, Fred VanVleet averaged roughly 20 points and 6 assists per game this past season, but his shooting percentages seemed to take a bit of a hit as he took on a greater scoring load this year.
(Photo:
Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images, via The Athletic)

G Fred VanVleet
2021 (TOR): 52 GP, 19.6 PPG, 6.3 APG, 4.2 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 39 FG%, 37 3PT%, 88 FT%, 16.8 PER, 53 TS%, 4.3 WS, .108 WS48

VanVleet took on a sizable bulk of the scoring load, but it hurt his offensive efficiency a bit, and he struggled to make as big of an impact defensively as he had in previous seasons.  He’s still a s solid player that can shoot, facilitate, and defend, but he seemed to struggle to handle a heavier workload on offense, along with that his team didn’t really get much of an offseason this year.

2021 Season Grade: C
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting guard on the Toronto Raptors
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

Toronto Raptors’ forward, OG Anunoby has a solid set of all-around skills, and he will be a key player for their team next season.
(Photo:
Tim Fuller/USA Today Sports, via SB Nation’s Raptors HQ)

F OG Anunoby
2021 (TOR): 43 GP, 15.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.5 SPG, 48 FG%, 40 3PT%, 78 FT%, 15.4 PER, 60 TS%, 3.1 WS, .104 WS48

Anunoby had a solid season this past year, but he also missed some time due to injuries.  He excelled as a shooter and scorer, and he also continued to play solid defense.  He continued to play well on offense even when given an expanded offensive role, and he will be a key player for the Raptors next season.

2021 Season Grade: B
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting forward on the Toronto Raptors
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars (3 stars)

G Gary Trent Jr.
2021 (POR/TOR): 58 GP, 15.3 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1 SPG, 41 FG%, 38 3PT%, 78 FT%, 12.1 PER, 53 TS%, 1.7 WS, .045 WS48

Trent has played significantly more this year, and he is a proven shooter that can score the basketball.  However, his offensive efficiency went down as he received a larger share of the scoring load, and he’s struggled to defend or to make plays in the non-shooting or scoring related elements of the game.  Still, his ability to space the floor and score makes him a valuable role player for the Raptors to have in the future.

2021 Season Grade: C+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on the Toronto Raptors
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars (2.5 stars potential)

Trent will be a restricted free agent at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

Toronto Raptors’ big men, Chris Boucher turned in a strong, all-around season this past year.
(Photo:
Julio Aguilar/Getty Images, via Fansided’s Raptors Rapture)

F-C Chris Boucher
2021 (TOR): 60 GP, 13.6 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.9 BPG, 1.1 APG, 51 FG%, 38 3PT%, 79 FT%, 21.9 PER, 63 TS%, 6.1 WS, .201 WS48

Boucher had a terrific season, and he went above and beyond the call to help the Raptors this season.  He excelled as a shooter and as an interior player, and he also did a great job of blocking shots. 

He’s proved he can space the floor, score on offense, and also be a defensive anchor of the team.  The only downside was that his team finished with a losing record this year, so it may be questionable as to how big his defensive impact was this past year.  He’ll be counted on again to bring major production to his team next season.

2021 Season Grade: A
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starter or good bench player on the Toronto Raptors
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

Boucher is on a non-guaranteed contract for next season.

G Malachi Flynn
2021 (TOR): 47 GP, 7.5 PPG, 2.9 APG, 2.5 RPG, 37 FG%, 32 3PT%, 80 FT%, 10.9 PER, 48 TS%, 0.8 WS, .041 WS48

After having a very good preseason, Flynn was struggling to get minutes early on, and Raptors’ fans were confused as to why he wasn’t playing that much.   After the Raptors made some moves during the middle of the season, Flynn was finally able to get some playing time.

The results were rather mixed.  Flynn showed off solid playmaking skills, he rebounded the ball well, and he played adequate defense, but he didn’t shoot the ball nearly as well as expected.  If his jump shot comes around as expected though, Flynn could be a good backup point guard for the Raptors next season.

2021 Season Grade: C-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on the Toronto Raptors
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars (2.5 stars potential)

F DeAndre’ Bembry
2021 (TOR): 51 GP, 5.7 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1 SPG, 51 FG%, 26 3PT%, 68 FT%, 11.2 PER, 57 TS%, 1.2 WS, .059 WS48

Bembry was able to get consistent playing time for the Raptors this season, which was surprising considering he didn’t shoot the ball very well on some downtrodden Hawks’ teams previously. 

He turned in a fairly solid season, as he excelled at attacking the hoop to score the basketball, and Bembry also passed and defended well when he was on the court.  He may never really be much of a shooter nor scorer in the NBA, but his much improved shot selection will enable him to be a reliable role player off the bench in this league.

2021 Season Grade: B+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on the Toronto Raptors
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars

Bembry is on a non-guaranteed contract for next season.

C Khem Birch
2021 (ORL/TOR): 67 GP, 7.2 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.3 APG, 50 FG%, 15.1 PER, 55 TS%, 3.8 WS, .118 WS48

After Birch was released by Orlando, Toronto did a good job of signing Khem Birch to bolster their bench.  Birch excelled as a rebounder and shot blocker this year, and his offensive production was noticeably better than it was in Orlando.  He may have played poorly to warrant getting cut by the Magic, but Birch redeemed his play by consistently playing well for the Raptors to close the season.

2021 Season Grade: C (D w/ORL, B w/TOR)
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars

Birch will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

F Yuta Watanabe
2021 (TOR): 50 GP, 4.4 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 44 FG%, 40 3PT%, 83 FT%, 12.2 PER, 57 TS%, 1.5 WS, .102 WS48

He had a fairly good season with the Raptors.  Though he didn’t take many shots, he excelled as a shooter, rebounder, and defender, and it can be argued that Watanabe should’ve received much more playing time this year.

2021 Season Grade: B+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on the Toronto Raptors
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars

Watanabe is on a non-guaranteed contract for next season.

F-C Freddie Gillespie
2021 (TOR): 20 GP, 5.6 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1 BPG, 52 FG%, 70 FT%, 13.4 PER, 56 TS%, 0.9 WS, .116 WS48
2021 (G-League): 15 GP, 10.5 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 2.3 BPG, 1.8 APG, 1.3 SPG, 57 FG%, 42 FT%, 20.2 PER, 58 TS%, 1.2 WS, .140 WS48

Gillespie latched on with the Raptors late in the season, and he definitely played better than expected.  He was impactful as an interior player, and he especially excelled as a shot blocker this year.  He may have a good chance of being a regular rotation player for them next season.

2021 Season Grade: B+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2 star potential)

F Stanley Johnson
2021 (TOR): 61 GP, 4.4 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.5 APG, 38 FG%, 33 3PT%, 80 FT%, 8.8 PER, 52 TS%, 1 WS, .048 WS48

He received plenty of playing time this past season, as he brought forth some passing skills, and he also defended well when he was on the court.  He didn’t shoot or score very well, and he received minutes to the chagrin of some of the Raptors’ fans.  Johnson may never be the player he was touted to be coming into the draft, but he can come in provide some defense off the bench.

2021 Season Grade: C
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars

Johnson will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

F Rodney Hood
2021 (POR/TOR): 55 GP, 4.5 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 1 APG, 36 FG%, 30 3PT%, 86 FT%, 5.6 PER, 45 TS%, -0.4 WS, -.019 WS48

He missed the most of the 2020 season due to a torn Achilles injury, and it seems that he’s really struggled to come back from it since.  Hood did not shoot the ball well at all this year, and he was a throw-in in a deal that involved Trent and Norman Powell.

Hood is a shooter that shot the ball horribly in 2021.  He’ll need to play much better than how he did this past season, but he could soon be out of the league if he doesn’t.

2021 Season Grade: F+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars

Is on a non-guaranteed contract for next season.

C Aron Baynes
2021 (TOR): 53 GP, 6.1 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 44 FG%, 26 3PT%, 71 FT%, 10.5 PER, 50 TS%, 1 WS, .049 WS48

Baynes really struggled this past season, and he was the cause of much chagrin with the diehard, Toronto Raptors’ fanbase.  Not only did he replace Marc Gasol in the starting lineup this year, but Baynes was really bad as the starting center, and he still didn’t play well when he was demoted to the bench.

He didn’t shoot the ball well at all, and it’s clear that not having much of an offseason combined with the aging process has taken a toll on his body.  Baynes also didn’t defend well to add to his shooting woes, and Nurse’s insistence in playing Baynes so many minutes early on may cause the Toronto faithful to be a little more leery and distrustful in whom he decides to give playing time to next season.

2021 Season Grade: F
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars

Is on a non-guaranteed contract for next season.

G Jalen Harris (Two-Way)
2021 (TOR): 13 GP, 7.4 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 1.3 APG, 50 FG%, 47 3PT%, 78 FT%, 15.2 PER, 63 TS%, 0.3 WS, .079 WS48
2021 (G-League): 7 GP, 17.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.1 SPG, 46 FG%, 50 3PT%, 67 FT%, 17.6 PER, 62 TS%, 0.4 WS, .082 WS48

Harris shot the ball very well, especially from beyond the arc, and he’s shown that he can be a very good floor spacer at the NBA level.  He will need to show that he can play well for them for a full season, but he definitely could be worthy of being a regular rotation player for them in the future.

2021 Season Grade: A-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2 stars potential)

Harris is on a non-guaranteed contract for next season. 

Update: Jalen Harris was recently dismissed by the NBA for violating their anti-drug policy.  He can be reinstated after a year.

F Paul Watson
2021 (TOR): 27 GP, 4.1 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 46 FG%, 47 3PT%, 63 FT%, 10.9 PER, 65 TS%, 0.6 WS, .096 WS48

Watson shot the ball very well, as he made 47% of his threes, but he didn’t do much else, and he didn’t get off the bench much this past season.  He could be a sharpshooter, but it’s hard to know for sure, because he got so few minutes this year.

2021 Season Grade: B
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars

Watson is on a non-guaranteed contract for next season.

No Longer with the Team:

F-C Henry Ellenson
2021 (TOR): 2 GP, 7.5 PPG, 6 RPG, 2.5 APG, 36 FG%, 22 3PT%, 75 FT%, 12.8 PER, 48 TS%, 0.1 WS, .127 WS48
2021 (G-League): 15 GP, 21.2 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 2.3 APG, 49 FG%, 42 3PT%, 88 FT%, 22.6 PER, 69 TS%, 1.5 WS, .158 WS48

He’s a tall, floor-spacing big man that played very well in the G-League, but he didn’t make enough of an impression in his two games in the NBA, as he just didn’t shoot well enough in his two-game audition for the Raptors.

2021 Season Grade: D+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Free Agent, Fringe roster player in the NBA (or starter in either the G-League or overseas)
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2 stars potential)

G-F Patrick McCaw
2021 (TOR): 5 GP, 1 PPG, 100 FG%, 12 PER. 1-9 TS%. 0.1 WS, .209 WS48

The former three-time NBA champion barely played for the Raptors before being waived, but it seems that the Raptors just got tired of his presence, and no one else bothered to pick him up this year.

2021 Season Grade: I (I for Incomplete)
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Free Agent, Fringe roster player in the NBA (or starter in either the G-League or overseas)
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars

Head Coach:
Nick Nurse
2021 (TOR): 27-45, missed the playoffs
Coaching Career: 138-88, 23-12 in his playoff career, won 1 NBA championship with the 2019 Toronto Raptors

Everything that could have went wrong just seemed to go wrong for the Toronto Raptors this past season.
(Photo:
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images, via Fansided’s Raptors Rapture)

Nick Nurse may still be a good head coach, but this was his first truly bad season in the NBA.  The Raptors couldn’t go home to Toronto, as they were forced to call Tampa their surrogate home this year, and the Raptors lost a lot of games this season.

They clearly missed having the veteran presence of Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, and Pascal Siakam was not nearly as effective as his team’s primary scorer as he was last season.  Chris Boucher had a standout season, but Nurse made several questionable choices in terms of who to play.  Most notably, one of his worst decisions includes having started Aron Baynes for 31 games this past season, which was an awful move in retrospect.

Nurse still may be a quality head coach in the NBA, but this season was not good for him or his team by any means.  He’ll be the Raptors’ head coach next year, but he and his team will need to find a clear direction of whether or not if they surely want to aim for the playoffs next year, or if they should start their tear-down operation early and move to a rebuilding process instead.

2021 Season Grade: D
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Head Coach of the Toronto Raptors
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

A Brief Summary of the 2020-21 Toronto Raptors’ Season:

The Raptors had a surprisingly successful 2020 season last year, but this season was very disappointing for them.  Not only could they not play any home games in Toronto, but they clearly missed the presence of Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, and 31 games with Aron Baynes as the starting center was a clunker of a move that never really fit their team.

The Raptors had trouble figuring out which players to play off the bench, and their playing time distribution seemed really questionable at times.  On top of it, the rest of the league seems to have caught up to Pascal Siakam, and he ended up regressing as a player.  Maybe the Raptors weren’t as talented as we were led to believe, but that still doesn’t excuse them from losing as many games as they did this past season.

The 2020-21 [NBA Team]’s Season Grade: D

The Toronto Raptors’ Projected 2021-22 NBA Rotation:

Projected Starters:
C Pascal Siakam
F OG Anunoby
The 4th Overall Pick of the 2021 NBA Draft
G Gary Trent Jr.
G Fred VanVleet

Key Reserves:
C Chris Boucher
G Malachi Flynn
F Yuta Watanabe

Others competing for a spot in the rotation next season:
F-C Freddie Gillespie
G-F Paul Watson

Other players that are currently projected to be on their next season’s roster:
The 46th Overall Pick of the 2021 NBA Draft
The 47th Overall Pick of the 2021 NBA Draft

Impending Unrestricted Free Agents:
Kyle Lowry – Not Expected Back
Khem Birch – Not Expected Back
Stanley Johnson – Not Expected Back

The Raptors’ rebuilding plan may likely hinge on whether or not if Kyle Lowry wants to come back to their team or not.  Assuming that he wants to win an NBA championship and that he probably won’t want to come back to a team that just won 27 games this past season, Lowry may opt to sign elsewhere, which could certainly lead Toronto to decide to move to a rebuilding process for next season.

Impending Restricted Free Agents:
Gary Trent Jr. – Expected Back

Other Non-Guaranteed Contracts for Next Season:
Chris Boucher – Expected Back
DeAndre’ Bembry – Not Expected Back
Stanley Johnson – Not Expected Back
Aron Baynes – Not Expected Back
Rodney Hood – Not Expected Back
Freddie Gillespie – Expected Back
Yuta Watanabe – Expected Back
Paul Watson – Expected Back

Banned Players:
Jalen Harris

Projected Offseason Plan for the Toronto Raptors:
The Toronto Raptors have a big decision to make, and it starts with if Kyle Lowry wants to come back to re-sign with them.  If he doesn’t, the Raptors can either elect to splurge in free agency, or to save that money and opt for a rebuild instead.

If Lowry comes back, the Raptors’ money will be tied up, and so they will only be able to sign free agents for the minimum, as well as to bring back their own players.

If Lowry opts not to stay with the Raptors, the Raptors could decide to splurge in free agency.  The Raptors could look to sign an elite scoring point guard that can initiate the offense, or they could opt to sign a talented two-way wing player that can shoot, score, and defend. 

They also could look to fill several holes on their team, as they could look to split the difference to sign two cost-effective, mid-level players at the point and at small forward, and then look to sign other veterans to help bolster their bench.  Another option would be that they could look to sign a center that can space the floor and play solid interior defense to replace Aron Baynes next season.

If Lowry opts to leave and if the Raptors choose not to spend the free agent dollars, they will then look to the draft.  They could opt to take the best player available, or to draft the players that would best fit their team presently.  

They also could look to explore trading Pascal Siakam in a trade, especially if they don’t think that they could win another championship in a few years, as that could net them players and picks in return.

Expected 2022 Toronto Raptors’ Win-Loss Record, Projected 2022 Season Finish:
36-46, 11th in the Eastern Conference

Expected 2022 Season Outcome: 
The Toronto Raptors may look to go to a partial rebuild, but if they keep the current players that will be under contract for next season, they could be talented enough to compete for a playoff spot in the East next year. 

I primarily went to Basketball-Reference and No Trade Clause for research purposes. For those that are interested in my ratings scale in terms of how I rate NBA players and coaches, you can find more information about it here. Thanks for reading.

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