Revisiting 15 predictions for the 2021-22 Raptors: Correct, incorrect and the waiting-to-be-true
Predictions are like opinions, and opinions are like … well, it might be better not to finish this sentence. The point is, everyone has them, and most of them make you look pretty dumb if you expose them too often.
And yet. Making predictions is, indeed, a fool’s errand. Before the season started, I made 15 of them about the Raptors. Most of them weren’t terribly accurate.
In the spirit of trying to be the change I want to see in the world, I’m going to hold myself to account and embarrass myself.
More right than wrong
Health willing, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam and Scotty Barnes will start together at least 20 times.
Health didn’t cooperate, and I was right on this. The Long Three started together each of the 31 times they all were available to play in the regular season. the Raptors were dead set on figuring out what the fit was like between the three players, similar traits be damned.
In all, the Raptors played 673 minutes when the three wings shared the floor, with a slightly positive net rating, sharper on the defensive end than on offense. There wasn’t anything conclusive about the sample, but there were definitely enough good signs that the Raptors can feel comfortable going forward with all three guys on the roster.
Screw it: Scottie Barnes is making first-team All-Rookie.
The All-Rookie teams haven’t been announced yet, but I’m going to give this one to myself. Just a hunch.
Dalano Banton is going to record an unofficial quadruple-double with Raptors 905.
In his G League debut, Banton had 30 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds and eight turnovers against the Westchester Knicks. Given how dumb and unlikely to hit this prediction this was, I’m taking the benefit of the doubt, printing it out on a flag and waving it until training camp in September.
Seriously, the style in which the Raptors try to develop Banton is probably the second-most interesting developmental question on the roster, behind Barnes.
Kyle Lowry will not cry upon his return to Scotiabank Arena.
In a battle of wills, I’m not betting against Lowry.
The Raptors will finish in the top three in both opposing turnover percentage and their own foul rate.
The Raptors were crystal clear with their defensive intentions heading into the year, and they followed through. They were going to use their length and aggressiveness to create a whole bunch of turnovers, and they wound up forcing turnovers on 16.2 percent of opponent possessions. Only Minnesota and Miami were within a percentage point of the Raptors’ league-leading mark.
As the year went on, the Raptors figured out how to be aggressive without hacking away at their opponents. After being in the top 10 for the first month of the season, the Raptors refined their process the rest of the way. Overall, their opponents only shot the 14th-most free throws per field-goal attempt. That is a good trade off for the Raptors.
The Raptors will have a bottom-seven half-court offense and a bottom-10 clutch net rating.
Per Synergy Sports, the Raptors scored 0.943 points per possession in the half court this year, 25th in the league. This was the clear flaw of the team heading into the season, and even if it was the defense that collapsed in the playoffs, figuring it out should remain one of the top priorities for the coaching staff in the offseason. (That figure went up, to 0.969 points per possession, against Philadelphia in the regular season. Siakam is good.)
There is a thought that having a good half-court offense strongly correlates to performance in close games, but that wasn’t the case for the Raptors. The Raptors had the seventh-best net rating in clutch situations — when a team leads by five or fewer points in the last five minutes of a game. They were equally strong on both ends in the clutch, with their offense holding up surprisingly well in moments when the game is supposed to slow down. (The Raptors’ pace of play in and out of clutch situations was identical.)
Gary Trent Jr. will finish second on the team in usage percentage.
I predicted Trent would finish second in usage percentage behind only Siakam. Instead, he was third, behind Siakam and Fred VanVleetcloser to Anunoby in fourth than VanVleet in second.
I was still relatively close, but I think the error came in thinking Trent would be used to prop up second units more than he was. Siakam and VanVleet were so heavily staggered that Trent was rarely the go-to guy in any lineup. Also, Siakam and VanVleet played *crunches numbers* all of the minutes.
The Raptors will trade goran dragic and Chris Boucher before the deadline.
In December, this prediction was looking pretty good — assuming, of course, that the Raptors would be able to move Boucher for anything of value. Boucher had fallen to the very back end of the rotation, the recipient of a DNP-CD on Nov. 28 against Boston. After that, and especially after the calendar turned to 2022, Boucher emerged as perhaps the Raptors’ most important bench player, the personification of the Raptors’ defensive style. In the final three-quarters of the year, the Raptors outscored their opponents by 6.6 points per 100 possessions when Boucher was on the floor, the top mark of any Raptor in the regular rotation. At this point, he is more likely than not to return to the Raptors in free agency.
Thank goodness I didn’t make any other Dragic predictions, because I thought he would have a pretty big role on this team. He was traded for Thaddeus Young at the deadline, and the less said about the rest of the Dragic saga, the better.
More wrong than right
The Raptors will lose in the 9-10 Play-In Tournament game.
I blame it on *check notes* the hawks, NetsKnicks, hornets and pacers. Bunch of underachieving squads, those teams.
The Raptors will play at a top-eight pace.
I was wrong on a lot of fronts, but the most I was wrong was with this prediction. Averaging 96.63 possessions per game, the Raptors played at the fourth-slowest pace in the NBA. Woof, self.
In my defense, the Raptors ran a whole lot, recording one of the highest rates of playing in transition in the league. However, when the Raptors played in the half court, they really played in the half court. Their scrambling defense focused on making their opponents make extra passes, while the Raptors isolated and posted up enough they moved languidly with the ball, too.
OG Anunoby will finish in the top five in Most Improved Player voting, but won’t make an All-Defense team.
Anunoby missed 34 games, and that obviously kept him from any award consideration. Anunoby needs a healthy season badly, and the Raptors would love to see it come next year.
There was some noted improvement as a playmaker, as Anunoby increased his assist percentage and lowered his turnover percentage with a career-high usage percentage. That’s good stuff, and reason for optimism going forward. His scoring efficiency from him took a hit, with his 3-point percentage and free-throw rate dropping dramatically, causing his true shooting percentage to sink more than five percentage points from the last two years. That is something to watch.
No Raptor will make the All-Star Game for the second consecutive season.
Bet on VanVleet, not me.
More than one veteran will take exception to Scottie Barnes’, errr, enthusiasm.
Barnes only had four technical fouls? That can’t be right. Maybe the ones he picked up were just I’m memorable that it seemed like more.
Referees aside, Barnes earned near-universal praise from around the league, from coaches to teammates to opponents. VanVleet admitted he got a little testy on one occasion with Barnes’ hyper-positivity, but he soon let it wash over him. Everyone loves Scottie, it seems. congratulations to Lebron James for unearthing the Rookie of the Year. Great scouting.
The Raptors will be victims of an incorrect out-of-bounds call (or non-call) that they cannot challenge early in the season.
I can admit when I’m wrong. There was no such call, and the Raptors and their fans thought the referees did a great job all year long, without exception.
Not wrong, just early
Drake will be thrown out of his courtside seats for touching an opposing player.
This will happen. This will happen. If I keep trying to will it into existence, this will happen.
(Top photo of Drake and Scottie Barnes: Vaughn Ridley / NBAE via Getty Images)