The Toronto Raptors are an NBA team that had to go under a significant rebuild in the summer and it seems the transition has already started to produce some rather encouraging results for the Canadian franchise.
Indeed, losing star player Kyle Lowry will have hurt the Raptors and left many feeling that there was a lot of work to do, however the arrivals of individuals such as Scottie Barnes, Dalano Banton and Precious Achiuwa will have eased the blow that would have initially been felt.
Furthermore, the fact that the team is currently 7-6 as of November 12, many would not have expected the franchise to have been doing so well with men such as Pascal Siakam having been unavailable for the majority of those games.
A lot of the credit needs to go to the president of the team, Masai Ujiri, as he has managed to turn the team around after a rather poor season last year when the NBA was forced to play in Tampa, Florida. Ujiri has made a number of shrewd moves that have seen the team overperform and surpass the expectations of many, although it would seem that they still have a way to go if the latest NBA odds available are anything to go by as the Raptors’ chances of winning the Eastern Conference are rather slim.
These are just some of the moves that Ujiri has been praised with making by Raptors Rapture:
Acquiring Dalano Banton in the second round
Teams can be rather hit-and-miss when it comes down to trying to pick players in the second round of the draft, with many of them going on to play in the G League for the season or getting a handful of minutes and sinking.
However, Ujiri smashed it out of the park with Banton as the player has become a valuable rotational player for the Raptors this season. Through the first 11 games, the point guard has been able to average 5.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game, making 57% of his shots, thus improving immensely on what he was achieving whilst playing at college. Banton’s performances have been so impressive that Malachi Flynn has been benched.
Gary Trent Jr. locked into a long deal
Ujiri has to take credit for being able to lock Gary Trent Jr. to a long term deal as the youngster is already showing what he can do on the court. Still only 22 years old, he has a number of years to continue to improve and tap into the potential that he has. Indeed, whilst it is still early days, he has shown everyone that he might just do that in the future, as well.
He has already managed to achieve a 15.0 point per game season, which is just one of the reasons why he has been provided with a three-year contract that is worth around $52 million. The major reason, though, is his gameplay, as he has an ability to shoot and create offense, whilst improving significantly defensively.
He has since become an elite defender for the Raptors with his offensive game remaining as high as before. He currently averages 15.2 points per game on 41% shooting from the field and 33% from 3-point range.
There are encouraging signs for the future if he is able to keep his production numbers at the level that they are trending. If he does, and Pascal Siakam can enter the team once again, the team will have to feel that the deal that they have secured Trent Jr. to would be a bargain deal.
Getting Scottie Barnes in the first round of the draft
Nobody had expected the Raptors to be drafting Scottie Barnes as the No. 4 overall pick, as many would have expected Jalen Suggs to be the most likely to be heading to Toronto. However, the inspired pick by Ujiri seems to have paid dividends already.
Whilst Suggs is likely to be a star at Orlando Magic, he has started off slowly, whereas Barnes has blown everyone away with his quality on the court. Through the first 11 games, he had been averaging 16.6 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game whilst also having to put the work in with some rather difficult defensive matchups.
Barnes has been the best player on the court for the Raptors on multiple occasions this season already, thus making him one of the best moves that Ujiri has made this season and one that the franchise can look to build around in the future.
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