With the all-star break now in the rear-view mirror, the Toronto Raptors are set to return for the unofficial ‘second-half’ of the season.
Currently sitting in 7th in the Eastern Conference with a record of 32-25, the first half of the year was largely a success for a Raptors team that had trouble fielding a complete lineup. Especially to start the season, injury woes and COVID-protocols ripped through the organization, leaving Nick Nurse left to scramble with a variety of starting lineup combinations that weren’t suitable for sustained success.
As the season wore on past Christmas the Raptors finally began to get healthy and surged their way up the East standings, showing that this team is a force to be reckoned with when their strongest five are on the court. It seemed as if maybe the luck was starting to sway in the Raptors favour.
That was until reports came out Friday morning ahead of the Raptors return against Charlotte.
As he did earlier in the season with an injured hip-pointer, OG Anunoby will miss time due to a ring finger fracture in his right hand, with the worst news being the lack of a timetable to return. With 13 games missed already and health issues plaguing him in previous seasons, injuries are becoming a re-occurring concern for Anunoby who is one of the most important parts of this team.
Anunoby is averaging 17.5 PPG and 5.5 RPG, but every Raptor fan knows his importance lies far beyond the box score. Anunoby is one of the main defensive stoppers on this team; typically guarding the others teams’ top weapons.
The Raptors are 6-9 without Anunoby this year compared to 26-16 with him, and with only 25 games left in the regular season the hope would be that he could return before a possible playoff appearance.
They added a bit of depth in Thaddeus Young at the deadline, but the second unit has been the biggest issue for the Raptors all season, and it’ll get even dicier with Anunoby sidelined. The likely starting lineup moving forward will be Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam and Khem Birch, with Birch moving from the bench to join the starters. This takes one of the key bench cogs away from the reserve unit, and puts a lot of pressure on guys like Precious Achiuwa and Canadian Chris Boucher.
Things will get hectic for the Raptors quickly as they return from the break with six tough games in just eight days, in a stretch that could possibly make or break their season.
It’ll be all-hands-on deck as the injury bug once again rears its ugly glare towards a team that has dealt with so much over the past few seasons. It’s a setback, but no one feels sorry for you in the NBA. It’s time for the other players to step up and get results until Anunoby can be welcomed back into the fold.
The good news for Toronto is that they’re back to playing meaningful late season basketball, and it all kicks off on Friday night against the Hornets