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3 things that went wrong for Toronto Raptors in the 2020-21 NBA season

Toronto Raptors leader Kyle Lowry with head coach Nick Nurse
Toronto Raptors leader Kyle Lowry with head coach Nick Nurse
Miles Lockhart

The Toronto Raptors historically lifted their first NBA championship less than two years ago. Prior to that campaign, they finished at the top of the Eastern Conference in the regular season with 59 wins. However, it appears that the 2020-21 season marks the end of an extremely successful period in the franchise's brief history.

After a 2-10 start to the campaign, the Raptors' season didn't exactly improve and they finished on a 27-45 record, their worst since the 2011-12 season. Had Kyle Lowry left midseason, as was heavily rumored, they may even have finished worse off.

Heading into their first offseason without playoff basketball since 2013, the Toronto Raptors will be focusing on their young stars and how to build the team around them.

Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet have continued their development as the side's leaders, while rookies Malachi Flynn and Freddie Gillespie have both impressed.

They will need to address their issues in the paint though, which is something we will discuss in this article.

3 reasons the Toronto Raptors have gone from the 2nd seed to 12th in one year

The Toronto Raptors have been one of the most dominant forces in the Eastern Conference over the past decade. In his first year as head coach, Nick Nurse led the franchise on an unbelievable title run that saw them topple the Golden State Warriors in the finals. Last season, they finished second in the East, and Nurse was named NBA Coach of the Year.

Nurse and his backroom staff have struggled in the 2020-21 campaign and will be looking at the offseason to rebuild ahead of next year.

Let's take a look back at three reasons why the Toronto Raptors had such a disappointing season.

#1. Moving to Tampa

Amalie Arena has been the home of the Toronto Raptors this season
Amalie Arena has been the home of the Toronto Raptors this season

Forced to move from their home in Canada due to the country's COVID-19 travel restrictions, the Toronto Raptors were forced to call the Amalie Arena in Tampa their home this season. The transition was meant to be a short-term fix. However, they ended up playing in Florida for the full campaign, which inevitably affected their results.

Transporting a full organization over 2,000km south will have had a massive effect not only on the players but also the staff and their families. Having to adjust to a new life, new surroundings, new training routines, all while hoping their loved ones can settle into a new environment, is incredibly difficult.

The move amounted to an uphill struggle from the beginning, with the Toronto Raptors going 2-10 in their opening twelve games. Out of their home fixtures, the Raptors finished with 16 wins and 20 losses.

#2. Failure to address issues at center

Toronto Raptors preseason acquisition Aron Baynes
Toronto Raptors preseason acquisition Aron Baynes

Another reason why the Toronto Raptors missed out on the playoffs this year was their struggles at the center position.

The team's struggles arose after Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol were allowed to depart in the offseason and were largely the fault of franchise president Masai Ujiri and GM Bobby Webster.

The Raptors are ranked second-bottom this year for total rebounds and defensive rebounds per game. Last year, they ranked 11th, with Ibaka and Gasol averaging over 15 boards between them.

It was hoped that their replacement, Aron Baynes, could continue to improve his scoring while providing a dominant presence in the paint. However, neither was the case.

In fact, Baynes is having his least efficient scoring year (per 36 minutes) since 2017 and has grabbed the third-least rebounds of his career.

Although Chris Boucher has provided some additional help in the paint, it took until the back end of the season for the Toronto Raptors to address the problem.

Khem Birch has come in and is averaging over seven boards a night in his 18 games, while G-League talent Freddie Gillespie has taken advantage of his opportunities off the bench to earn a two-year contract.

#3. Covid-19 protocols

Toronto Raptors star Pascal Siakam
Toronto Raptors star Pascal Siakam

There is no doubt that the Toronto Raptors were one of the worst-affected sides by the coronavirus pandemic. In a season where nothing has been as it should be, the Raptors have not only had to deal with moving arenas but have also lost players and staff to the league's health and safety protocols.

After a win over the Philadelphia 76ers in February, the Toronto Raptors went one game above .500. However, just five days later, Nick Nurse, five of his coaching staff and Pascal Siakam all had to miss a game against the Houston Rockets due to COVID-related concerns. They won that game 122-111.

The franchise then had to postpone their next game. Over the following 14 games, they lost 13 times.

While that run had an adverse effect on the Toronto Raptors' record, it also took a massive toll on the players who returned after considerable time off. They came off the break with a record of 18-30 and were too far behind to recover their playoff hopes, winning nine of their remaining 24 games.


Edited by Rachel Syiemlieh

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