Changing your head coach is a big step to take. That’s just what Toronto Raptors did earlier this year but has appointing a new coach worked for them?
2024 will be five years since the Raptors shocked American basketball fans by winning the NBA Finals. No one is really expecting them to repeat that feat this season. Winning more games than they lose would be an improvement on their 2022-23 performance. Finishing bottom of the Atlantic Division again is to be avoided at all costs.
January is going to be an important month for the Raptors. There will still be a lot of games before the knockout stages of the 2023-24 NBA season are played. However, when the new year begins, they’d prefer to see themselves achieve a strong position to reach the play-offs, rather than the play-ins or even miss out altogether.
Last season saw the Raptors make their way into the Eastern Conference play-in tournament as the ninth seeds with a 41-41 record. Qualifying for the play-offs was not to be as they gave away a 19-point lead and were defeated by the Chicago Bulls. That loss was a big surprise for those betting on NBA games which remains hugely popular.
That early loss caused unwanted history as it was the first time in franchise history the Raptors hadn’t made the play-offs.
Change had to come and on April 21 Nick Nurse was removed from his position as head coach. He was replaced by Darko Rajaković who is in his first job as head coach of an NBA team after being assistant at Memphis, Oklahoma and Phoenix.
The new season has seen little evidence that the Raptors are going to be in contention for any titles. Losing three out of four games in October was not an ideal start for the new coach.
Just ensuring that the play-ins are reached is going to be a key target for the new coach. It’d be unthinkable and probably job costing for Rajaković if the Raptors season ended even earlier than last term.
January’s fixture list does include some games against sides also at the wrong end of the overall table. A bit of revenge on Chicago would go down well after what happened last season. The Bulls visit Toronto on January 18th and then end a busy month by hosting them at the United Center on the last day of the month.
Cleveland is also having an inconsistent season. 2024 will begin with a home game against the Cavaliers, so hopefully it’ll be a happy new year for the Raptors.
A lot can change in a month with the NBA schedule as busy as ever. 2023 hasn’t been a year to remember for the Raptors. The hope is that 2024 can bring some stability and see them moving forwards not backwards.