30 Teams in 30 Days

2021-22 Toronto Raptors season preview: Roster changes, depth chart, key storylines and games to watch

The 2021-22 NBA season is set to tip off on Oct. 19 (ET). In preparation for the upcoming season, we're dedicating one day between now and the start of the season to each team in the league.

Up next is the Toronto Raptors.

2020-21 season record

27-45, 12th in the Eastern Conference

Notable additions

Scottie Barnes, No. 4 pick in 2021 NBA Draft

Dalano Banton, No. 46 pick in 2021 NBA Draft

Precious Achiuwa, sign-and-trade

Goran Dragic, sign-and-trade

Isaac Bonga, free agency

Svi Mykhailiuk, free agency

Notable departures

Kyle Lowry, sign-and-trade

Aron Baynes, waived

DeAndre' Bembry, waived

Rodney Hood, waived

Depth chart

Toronto Raptors depth chart (2021-22)
Starters Second Third
PG Fred VanVleet Goran Dragic Dalano Banton
SG Gary Trent Jr. Malachi Flynn Svi Mykhailiuk
SF OG Anunoby Scottie Barnes Sam Dekker
PF Pascal Siakam* Chris Boucher Yuta Watanabe
C Khem Birch Precious Achiuwa Freddie Gillespie

* Pascal Siakam is currently sidelined after undergoing shoulder surgery and is expected to return sometime in November

Partial guarantee: Yuta Watanabe, Sam Dekker, Ishmail Wainright, Isaac Bonga, Freddie Gillespie

Two-way: Justin Champagnie (forward), David Johnson (guard)

3 key storylines

Can Scottie Barnes win Rookie of the Year?

The Raptors turned heads on draft night by selecting Barnes with the No. 4 overall pick instead of Jalen Suggs. After a few weeks of preseason, his fit on the roster makes complete sense, adding an elite talent to their wing depth.

With Siakam sidelined for the early part of the season as he recovers from shoulder surgery, Barnes is set to receive plenty of playing time, with the versatile forward already showing how his positionless play fits with the Raptors roster.

On defence, he guards everyone from point guards to centers. Offensively, his combination of elite athleticism in transition and his knack for playmaking in the halfcourt has already seen head coach Nick Nurse put a lot of faith in the 20-year-old.

The Raptors have plenty of options on the wings, from Anunoby, Trent Jr. to Siakam, but Barnes brings something different to the table. While he won't be handed the keys to the franchise like Detroit's Cade Cunningham or Houston's Jalen Green, Barnes is in position to be a big contributor on a team fighting for a playoff spot.

What do they have in Precious Achiuwa?

Achiuwa arrived in Toronto as part of the deal that sent franchise legend Lowry to Miami. While the deal was centred around Dragic, Achiuwa is poised to be a key factor for the Raptors this season.

At 6-foot-8 and without a reliable 3-point shot, Achiuwa's fit as a small ball center poses an interesting question for Nurse, who has assembled a cast of long, athletic wing players and reliable shooting from the perimeter.

From what we've seen in preseason, his energy running the floor, pushing the ball in transition and activity on the glass meshes well with the likes of Anunoby, Barnes, Trent Jr. and Siakam in a positionless free-flowing lineup.

Birch, who impressed in his 19 games last season (17 starts) with averages of 11.9 points and 7.6 rebounds, will likely get the nod to start the season and at 6-foot-9 offers more size and defence inside, but don't be surprised if Achiuwa's minutes steadily rise as the season unfolds.

Back home in Toronto

It's been 19 months since the Raptors had their home fans in the arena cheering them on and after COVID-19 uprooted the team, this season they'll have a lot more normality.

Between the bubble and spending last season in their temporary home in Tampa, the Raptors were the team most affected by the pandemic. Not only does the return to Toronto give the players back their routine, but it also gives them back one of the best homecourt advantages in the league.

"It sure feels good to be back," coach Nick Nurse said after their first preseason game. "There's a buzz, a level of comfort. There's an energy that translates from that crowd to the players. It does feel good.

"We didn't think it was that bad down [in Tampa], but it feels a heck of a lot better to be back, let's put it that way. I think the buzz in the place was probably a little bit more than you're expecting in the preseason."

5 games to watch

Oct. 29 vs. Orlando Magic

Every matchup between Barnes and Suggs is going to grab the headlines. Many expected Toronto to take Suggs with the No. 4 pick in the draft, electing to go with Barnes instead.

There's no doubt Suggs will want to make an impression against the Raptors. Their first meeting of the regular season is definitely one to watch.

Side note: In their last meeting in February, VanVleet dropped a career-high and franchise-record 54 points!

Nov. 1 at New York Knicks

The Raptors will visit Madison Square Garden for a special NBA 75th Anniversary Game against the Knicks.

The matchup commemorates the NBA's 75th anniversary when the Toronto Huskies played the Knicks on Nov. 1 back in 1946 and is sure to be an entertaining game full of nostalgia between two Atlantic Division rivals.

Dec. 28 vs. Philadelphia 76ers

It will be a happy homecoming for Danny Green, who will return to Toronto to receive his championship ring.

It's hard to believe that Green, a member of their 2019 title run, is still waiting to get his ring, but the pandemic forced the long wait, between the bubble and the Raptors temporarily relocating to Tampa last season, meaning Green hasn't had the opportunity to play at Scotiabank Arena in front of the Toronto fans since he left.

Dec. 31 vs. LA Clippers

Just a few days after one former Raptor returns, two will be in the house for this one in the form of Kawhi Leonard and Serge Ibaka.

While it's unclear if Leonard will be available as he recovers from ACL surgery, he and Ibaka, both of whom helped the Raptors win the 2019 NBA championship, will no doubt receive a warm welcome from the home fans.

Feb. 3 vs. Miami Heat

The Raptors will play the Heat twice before this game, but their third matchup of the season will be the first in Toronto in what will be an emotional night with the return of Lowry.

Lowry, arguably the greatest Raptors ever, won a championship in 2019, earned six All-Star selections and is the franchise leader in assists, steals and 3-pointers.

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