You should NOT sleep on the Toronto Raptors. Seriously, don’t: they’ll take your team’s soul if you’re not careful. Nick Nurse’s team has been one of the best outfits in the league since the All-Star break. After an inconsistent first half of the season, the team has leaned into their wacky identity and started bamboozling the rest of the league with their length.

When you talk about the Raptors this season, the one thing most people point to is their defense. That has been their calling card since Nurse’s installation as the head coach in 2018. They play smart, hard defense that focuses on keying in on the opponent’s stars and limiting paint points. It’s frenetic, high-energy, controlled chaos that keeps their opponents guessing.

However, talking about their great defense could be doing a disservice to the one thing they’ve been pretty good at this season. It’s time to talk about the REAL reason why this Toronto Raptors team is a true matchup nightmare for anyone in the Eastern Conference.

The true reason why Pascal Siakam, Raptors could be unstoppable in the 2022 NBA playoffs

Yes, the defense is top-notch. The Raptors are quick, adaptable, and have a bevy of defensive schemes they can deploy against different offenses. However, one underrated aspect of Toronto’s season is their versatility on the other side of the ball. It’s high time we talk about the Raptors’ incredibly potent attack.

Most offenses in the NBA today rely on a “helio-centric” model of sorts. What it means is that these teams have one singular star that does all the playmaking, while being surrounded by elite role-players and/or complementary stars. A few examples of these are James Harden’s Rockets of old, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, and LeBron James and the 2020 Lakers.

While it’s proven to be extremely successful over the last few years, one caveat of this successful roster is the need for a game-breaking star. The Raptors… don’t exactly have that star in their team. Instead, however, Toronto has decided to divvy up their scoring around their main guys. These are Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr, Scottie Barnes, and OG Anunoby.

These five Raptors have one thing in common: all of them are averaging over 15 points per game this season. Siakam leads the way with 22.8, while Barnes clocks in at 15.3. This has been a consistent theme for the Raptors since Kawhi Leonard’s departure from the team: they were able to do this last season and the 2019 season as well.

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Now, it’s possible for other teams that rely on one star to have this distributed production as well. However, what sets the Raptors apart from these other teams are the skillsets of these players. All five of them are capable isolation scorers in their own right. However, they are able to plug and play into different sets in the offense. They’re also able to be the focal point of the offense if need be.

While some teams have to stagger their players and surround them with less capable playmakers, the Raptors are able to not do that. In theory, they will be able to field at least two of these five players in any lineup, making things a lot easier for their bench + one/two starter lineups.

No one person is required to shoulder all of the offensive playmaking and scoring, because all five of them can. Barnes, in particular, has been mighty impressive as a rookie. He carried the Raptors unit at times with his speed and playmaking. His versatility allows the team to theoretically field a two-man combination featuring him, Siakam, and VanVleet at any point.

A good omen

Over the last few years, the Raptors have built up a reputation as one of the best-run organizations in the league. Masai Ujiri’s appointment as general manager sparked a big change in the franchise for the better. He turned the moribund Bryan Colangelo-led franchise into a top-tier organization in the NBA.

There’s no better proof of their winning ways than this trend of the Raptors we talked about. Over the three seasons we mentioned above, the only constants during those periods were Nick Nurse, Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, and OG Anunoby. Anunoby wasn’t a 15 point scorer in 2019, and now he’s at 18 PPG.

There’s also the fact that Nurse has been able to incorporate different players into his schemes seamlessly. Trent Jr. went to the Raptors and immediately became a big-time contributor for them. Same goes for Barnes. Other players that didn’t crack the 15-point barrier also have integrated into the lineup cleanly.

That consistency is encouraging for Raptors fans everywhere. It’s proof that no matter who the players on the team are, they will always, ALWAYS find a way to score. It also bodes well for their playoff chances this year: even if one guy gets shut down, there will always be someone to pick up the slack.