The Toronto Raptors ended their 2022-23 campaign with a 41-41 record that seemed to have to fight to get. This despite having one of the most productive players in team history in Fred VanVleet, a perennial All-Star candidate in Pascal Siakam, a perennial All-Defensive candidate in OG Anunoby, dynamic young forward Scottie Barnes and a championship-winning head coach in Nick Nurse.
In the words of Raptors president Masai Ujiri, it wasn’t a fun team to watch, especially with Nurse failing to provide enough structure for his team or hold them accountable enough.
However, Toronto’s prospects for the 2023-24 season may not be much better, with FVV and 3-and-D guard Gary Trent Jr. set to reach free agency if they decline their player options next season.
With that said, the Raptors may be better off without VanVleet considering how well Barnes played as a point-forward. Furthermore, FVV has long been one of the most inefficient volume scorers in the league but can’t stop himself from taking shot after shot. Frankly, one could assume that when Ujiri was talking about selfish players, VanVleet and his 39.3 percent shooting on 16.1 field goal attempts per game came to mind.
Especially when the 6-foot-0 guard is playing 36.7 minutes per game, not only damaging the developmental arch of the guards behind him but reducing the number of impactful lineups the Raptors could put on the court.
How Toronto approaches the 2023 NBA Draft — in which they have the 13th overall pick and the opportunity to add another franchise building block to their roster — will be major for the franchise moving forward. If for no reason than their opportunity to replace at least one seemingly selfish player on Draft Day.
3 early 2023 NBA Draft targets for Raptors with No. 13 lottery slot in first round
Arkansas Razorbacks guard Anthony Black is possibly the most unselfish player on this list, playing a brand of team-ball that not only helps units achieve optimal cohesion but that improves the chemistry on the court and in the locker room as well.
With Black as the starting guard, players like OG Anunoby won’t be worrying about whether they’ll get to take the shots they want. Black is more interested in making the right play than making a play for himself, which can’t truly be said about Toronto Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet.
Speaking of FVV, while his peskiness on the defensive end has long been praised, he’s still a 6-foot-0 guard. For a defense as long and athletic as the Raptors, they should be able to switch as much as possible, but that simply isn’t possible with VanVleet in the lineup.
To that point, Black is 6-foot-7 and 198 pounds, which should allow Toronto to become a better team than last season. Not just because they can play a defensive scheme more suited to their roster as a whole but because Black has a penchant for takeaways, averaging 2.1 steals per game as a true freshman last season.
Indiana Hoosiers point guard Jalen Hood-Schifino has an electrifying style of play and more of a scorer’s mentality that Arkansas Razorbacks guard Anthony Black, but he’s a cerebral passer nonetheless.
Averaging 13.5 points and 3.7 assists per game in 2022-23, Hood-Schifino helped lead the Hoosiers to a 23-12 record and an NCAA Tournament appearance, though they would fall just short of reaching the Sweet Sixteen after losing to the surging Miami Hurricanes.
That said, Hood-Schifino ended his freshman season on somewhat of a high note, tallying 19 points and three assists in their loss to Miami.
It was the 22nd time that season that Hood-Schifino scored in double-figures and probably his best game since his 35-point explosion against the Purdue Boilermakers on Feb. 25.
Like Black, Hood-Schifino will need to sharpen up from 3-point range. Nonetheless, at 6-foot-6 and 213 pounds, he could be a dynamic weapon for the Raptors on both ends.
Where Anthony Black and Jalen Hood-Schifino are more so point guards, Metropolitans 92 rising star Bilal Coulibaly is simply a wing with plenty of potential as a playmaker.
That said, this is an option that will allow the Raptors to give Scottie Barnes even more opportunities as the primary facilitator. Yet it’s also one that should allow Toronto to play more cohesively as a unit, because Coulibaly is far from selfish.
Of course, playing beside the projected first overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft — Victor Wembanyama — helps him keep his role in perspective. Nonetheless, for a player with his blend of athleticism and on-ball playmaking, he doesn’t try to do too much or make the highlight reel play.
He simply plays.
6-foot-6 and 230 pounds, Coulibaly averaged 21.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.6 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game for Metropolitans 92 in the French LNB Espoirs league.
Capable of making an impact on both ends, Coulibaly is also an interesting option for the Raptors if they decide to move on from Pascal Siakam. Barnes, as versatile as he is, could slide down to power forward and continue to play a point-forward role. Coulibaly would then shuffle in as their starting small forward, and Toronto may not miss a beat.
Even if Fred VanVleet remained, as trading away Siakam opens up as many scoring and playmaking opportunities for the Raptors as FVV leaving does.
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