With so few games under their belt, it would be far too premature and somewhat foolish to make any definitive judgments on the 2023 Raptors under rookie head coach Darko Rajakovic.
Coming back from a 20-point hole and ultimately prevailing in overtime on the road must be commended, but at the same time it was shocking that Toronto’s opponent Sunday in San Antonio was able to jump on the visitors so thoroughly and so decisively.
While Wemby-mania continues to run wild in the NBA, the rookie phenom Victor Wembanyama did emerge with a minus-16 in the loss, the most in his young season.
He also blocked a season-high five shots, but Wembanyama also missed an opportunity to control a defensive rebound late, which allowed the Raptors an extra possession they fully capitalized by making a game-tying bucket.
Scottie Barnes has taken his game to another level in this his third season, a defining moment arriving in San Antonio when he buried a step-back three-pointer to illuminate his expanding game.
Rookie Gradey Dick has had a few moments, including a baseline feed he made on the button when he whisked a pass from the right corner.
At 3-4 and with a date in Dallas up next on Wednesday, the Raptors are pretty much where most observers expected the team to be this early in the season.
There was the blown lead in Chicago, but that was matched by Sunday’s comeback win.
There were the two losses against the 76ers, but each tip was played in the back end of a back-to-back set.
The one loss that sticks out was Toronto’s home setback to Portland, but that could easily be brushed aside considering the Raptors bounced back to beat Milwaukee and its highly touted two-headed monster.
Seven games into an 82-game season and what has taken many aback has been the play of Pascal Siakam.
It’s far too early, but something appears to be amiss with Spicy P as he adjusts to the new surrounding and new role.
With the evolution of Barnes and his ability, especially down the stretch of games, Siakam is no longer the go-to guy.
In basketball, the ball usually finds the best player, but so far it has eluded Siakam.
Consider Sunday and how Siakam had more turnovers (3) than baskets (2).
For the first time in quite some time, Siakam was held to single-digit scoring (8 points).
Late in regulation, he was called for a defensive foul deep in the corner baseline with San Antonio in frantic mode late in the shot clock.
Even in real time, it appeared Siakam didn’t have to be that aggressive when he should have known the time and circumstance realizing Keldon Johnson was basically boxed in with no viable options.
Instead, two free throws were awarded once video review upheld the foul and the Spurs led by two with 14.1 ticks remaining in regulation after Johnson converted from the line.
Every starter not named Siakam scored at least 16 points in Toronto’s 123-116 OT win.
The only starter to play fewer minutes than Siakam (36) was Jakob Poeltl (29).
Six rebounds would be posted, five assists and one steal recorded, but more must be summoned by Siakam.
It was an off-season of trade rumors with teams and players bandied about, but no deal.
No extension was offered because the Raptors said they weren’t ready to commit to the team’s longest-tenured player and now Siakam begins his eighth season in what can be described as residing in basketball limbo.
Barnes’ emergence has clearly changed the entire narrative surrounding the Raptors, who must now build around the kid and either develop pieces or acquire assets to suit his skill set.
Time, it would seem, is ticking on the Siakam era in Toronto.
The Raptors got virtually nothing when they agreed to the sign and trade deal that sent Kyle Lowry to Miami unless one believes Precious Achiuwa can amount to something other than an intriguing player who runs the floor and is capable of defending multiple positions when he’s actually in uniform.
His deal wasn’t extended and Achiuwa looms as one of a handful of Raptors eligible for restricted free agency next summer.
Nothing was acquired when Fred VanVleet bolted to Houston in free agency.
And now one is left to wonder what kind of package can the Raptors attract for Siakam, whose stock isn’t exactly high based on the early season.
Mind you, a lot can change, but as long as Barnes is capable of resorting to bully-ball when matched up against smaller defenders and dunking on them or stepping outside and draining three-pointers, the Raptors remain his team.
It’s as though Siakam has been lost in the shuffle.
To his credit, he plays hard and will make winning plays that aren’t necessary reflected in the box score, but the man known as Spicy P has lost a bit of his flavour as the Raptors remake themselves around Barnes.
Heading into Wednesday’s date against the Mavs, Barnes has scored at least 20 points in six straight games.
The numbers are easy to denote, but it’s his stage presence that has separated Barnes from the likes of a Siakam.
It was almost a given the Raptors would move to a Barnes-centric roster building approach, but no one could have envisioned the timeline being moved up this dramatically, which only speaks to Barnes’ maturity and willingness to handle more of the load.
What isn’t sure is the kind of deal the Raptors can engineer involving Siakam.
As it stands right now, Siakam’s days are numbered.
Based on the first seven games, it doesn’t appear anything will change.