Raptors Wrap-Up: Shining stars
The NBA hosted the 72nd All-Star Weekend from February 17-19, 2023, where Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam represented the Raptors. Barnes participated in the Jordan Rising Stars event, playing for the winning “Team Pau” and leading the team in the final. Siakam played for the winner of the All-Star game, “Team Giannis,” putting up 12 points and seven rebounds in 15 minutes.
Despite being the only official all-star for the Raptors, Siakam is not the only player on the team who has been performing at an all-star level. Jakob Poeltl has successfully adapted to Head Coach Nick Nurse’s famous defensive system.
Since being traded, Poeltl increased his steals per game by almost one steal and improved his field goal percentage by a significant 15 per cent. The latter has been a crucial component to the Raptors’ positive six-to-four run, as the team is ranked near the bottom of the league in field goal percentage. Poeltl’s standout performance, including a 30-point, nine-rebound, and six-block game against the Orlando Magic, showed fans that he is well worth the first-round pick he was traded for.
While Poeltl has excited fans, Fred VanVleet has been a point of frustration. His season-long inconsistencies continue through his horrible field goal percentage and game-deciding moves.
The guard has also been dealing with a lot off the court. He took a three-game absence from the team because of a death in his family, his birthday, and the birth of his third child. Fans were hopeful for the return of his iconic “dad powers.” He did not disappoint. In a four-game stretch after his return, he averaged double his season assist per game mark.
In those games, the Raptors put on strong performances against key opponents. In the first game, they beat the Chicago Bulls 104-98 with the help of a 19-point performance by Gary Trent Jr. Then, they headed to Washington, where they split a two-game series against the Wizards. The wins against the Wizards and Bulls came at a dire time, with both teams being only a couple of games behind the Raptors for the ninth seed.
The final game of that significant four-game stretch came against likely MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets. The Raptors looked like they were about to win until the final minutes of the fourth quarter, when a miss by Siakam, a turnover by VanVleet, and some controversial foul calls changed the course of the game, leading to a heartbreaking loss.
As the Raptors head into the season’s final games, they face a challenging schedule. With nearly a dozen games remaining, Toronto is set to play against the league’s top four teams six times, making their remaining schedule one of the best in the NBA.