The Toronto Raptors cover up their four-game journey tonight in Portland. They’re 1-2 on the journey. They’re now 2-7 on the season. Their two wins have actually come versus the New york city Knicks (who shot 3-for-36 from 3) and the Sacramento Kings (who are the Sacramento Kings). You can’t take a great deal of positives from looking at the standings, however the Raptors are beginning to find their identity once again.

Among the recurring issues this season has actually been the contributions from the centre position. In Raptors regular season lore, Marc Gasol holding Joel Embiid to no points ranks amongst the most memorable centre performances in franchise history. On the opposite end would be Aron Baynes and Alex Len combining for one point over 2 losses to Boston and Phoenix last week.

Given, the early season struggles shouldn’t fall entirely on the shoulders of the brand-new centre duo. Baynes has actually underperformed, having a hard time to complete at the basket and shooting listed below 20 percent from 3 after being a near 35 percent 3-point shooter the previous 2 seasons, however he was never ever going to be a core part of this team’s offence. Len is a former lottery game pick who is on his 4th NBA team. The Raptors– who reportedly started their offer to Serge Ibaka at $12 million for this season– are getting what they paid for (or aren’t spending for) at the centre position.

Even though he went through unpleasant battles on offence, Gasol helped raise the Raptors’ ceiling on both ends of the flooring, with his passing and defensive existence. If Gasol raised the ceiling, then Ibaka raised the flooring of this team, particularly on the offending end, where the Raptors have gone through droughts gotten out of a group who is shooting a lot of threes, and not making many of them. Len and Baynes have neither raised the floor or the ceiling on either end of the flooring.

Losing Gasol and Ibaka also eliminated two more pieces from the champion core, and without standout efficiencies from the brand-new centres so far, Nick Nurse has invested the first 3 weeks of the season browsing for any form of a practical five-man lineup. The Raptors were the traditional “whole is greater than the sum of its parts” group in 2015. At their finest, they were connected, specifically on the defensive end. The connectivity was nowhere to be discovered in this group’s first (and hopefully just) go as the Tampa Bay Raptors until Nurse lastly excised Baynes and Len from the rotation in the second half versus Sacramento on Friday, and again on Sunday versus Golden State.

After weeks of searching, Nurse started the core group he might trust versus the Warriors: Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam. Chris Boucher and Yuta Watanabe were the very first bigs off the bench. The Raptors struggled for stretches on offence, which is just a function of the lineup’s restrictions at this point, but they look much better overall, especially on the protective end.

The Raptors have not made any excuses about their circumstances (playing far from house, playing at all throughout a pandemic) so we won’t make any for them, however you might argue it took Nurse about the length of a regular training camp and preseason to sort through his rotation in order to find the right mix. He will tinker once again, and certain matchups will call on Baynes and Len, however at this moment, you would picture they are now situational players.

This brand-new appearance will most likely be the beginning lineup for the foreseeable future (with the possibility of Boucher becoming the starter and Powell moving back into a 6th man role) if the Raptors wish to avoid slipping even more in the standings. Absolutely nothing has actually changed from the start of the season in terms of the elements that will figure out how far this group will go. Siakam– who has looked a lot more like himself on this trip– needs to play up to the All-Star level he revealed in the routine season last year. Lowry and VanVleet have to be one of the best backcourts in the league. Anunoby has to raise his ceiling on offence and continue to be an elite perimeter protector. But the Raptors have at least found out one problem and looked after it, in the meantime.

The issue with a slow start is that you do not actually have time to count moral victories, so even an encouraging performance against Phoenix and a perky resurgence versus Golden State seem like losses the Raptors may regret in a couple of months. The favorable, for now, is that the Raptors appear to have actually landed on a lineup and are uncovering the identity that made them so great last season. Now, they’ll need to string together a couple of wins to turn this frustrating start into an afterthought.