After facing an uncertain future after another early playoff exit, the Toronto Raptors have clawed their way back into the top tier of the NBA. With less than a month remaining before the All-Star break, the Raptors are currently 37-15, which places them as the second seed in the Eastern Conference. What factors have contributed to the Raptors success? Will they continue their winning ways? Let’s recap the Raptors’ first half of the season.
Toronto Raptors Mid-Season Report
The Klaw is the Key
Kawhi Leonard’s stint with the Raptors has been a successful one so far. Through 52 games, Leonard averages 27.8 points per game, which is fifth in the NBA. Leonard is also averaging a career-high 7.9 rebounds per game. After being limited to nine games due to injury last season, Leonard has returned to form. He has demonstrated why he is arguably the best two-way player in the NBA.
The Power of Pascal Siakam
Every year in the NBA, there are a handful of players who make a name for themselves despite not being on anyone’s radar. Pascal Siakam is one of those players. As of right now, Siakam is averaging 15.2 points per game and 7.1 rebounds per game, which are career-highs. He is also shooting 56.2 percent. Siakam has enjoyed a fruitful January. He had six double-doubles and scored a career-high 30 points against the Milwaukee Bucks, a team with the best record in the NBA. Siakam found his way into the starting lineup this year and has flourished. He is in the running for Most Improved Player of the Year.
To win in the NBA, you have to score and play great defense. So far, the Raptors have done both. Offensively, the Raptors are ranked sixth overall, averaging 113.1 points per game. The Raptors shoot the ball well. They are eighth in field goal percentage (47.2%). Also, they take care of the basketball, ranking in the top ten in turnovers. The Raptors are a deep team. They have seven players who average at least 10 points per game.
Defensively, the Raptors are ranked ninth overall, allowing 108.5 points per game. The Raptors defend the perimeter well. Opponents only shoot 34.3 percent from three against the Raptors, which is good for fifth in the NBA. If the Raptors can keep these numbers the same, they can push their way to an NBA Finals appearance.
What Needs Improvement
The Raptors are one of the few complete teams in the NBA. However, they have a few holes in their armor. First, their rebounding needs to improve more. The Raptors are ranked 17th overall in both total and opponent rebounds. Their 0.2 rebound differential has to increase. Also, the Raptors are an average three-point shooting team, ranked 20th in percentage (34.5%).
Recently, the Raptors are having trouble late in games. Teams have been able to go toe-to-toe with them. A lot of their games have come down to the fourth quarter. In their last eight games, the Raptors have given up at least 25 points in the fourth quarter. Also, their execution on offense has been a bit erratic.
Second Half Expectations
The Raptors should remain towards the top of the NBA. They have played well overall on both sides of the ball. The Raptors face a tough schedule within the next month. Seven out of their next 10 games are against teams who hold playoff spots. They should not have much trouble, though. The Raptors have proven to be a tough match-up against the top teams of the NBA. As long as Leonard keeps up his MVP-caliber play and they stay healthy, the Raptors will continue their winning ways. Expect the Raptors to lock up a top-three seed in the Eastern Conference.