The Toronto Raptors have taken a somewhat unorthodox approach to team building this summer.
They've almost gone completely away from anything resembling traditional NBA positions and opted for a modern positionless style of play. Aside from Fred VanVleet and Malachi Flynn who will play a more traditional point guard position, almost everyone else on Toronto's roster is a forward between 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-9.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse joked about it during Thursday night's Summer League broadcast saying he's thinking about playing five forwards at a time this year.
What's clear is the Raptors want to be a versatile, defensive team that can switch, create turnovers, and run in transition. They want to have five players who can dribble, shoot, post-up, and play make to create all sorts of mismatches and confusion for opposing defenses.
"It's all about mismatches and taking advantage of the defenses," Precious Achiuwa said Wednesday night. "If you have a team where a lot of guys are versatile, being able to do a lot of things on the floor, that's a great advantage to that team."
One of the big keys for Toronto this season will be its three-point shooting. In an attempt to add versatility and size this summer, the Raptors have some major questions when it comes to spacing the floor. Pascal Siakam is coming off a really disappointing three-point shooting season, rookie Scottie Barnes has significant shooting concerns, Khem Birch is hardly a floor-spacer, and Achiuwa has attempted one career three-pointer. But rather than acquire three-point shooters and turn them into high-end defenders, Toronto's plan is to turn strong and physical defenders into adequate three-point shooters.
Take Birch, for example. The 6-foot-9 small-ball center took more three-pointers in 19 games with Toronto than he did in his previous 188 NBA games in Orlando. Toronto viewed him as a multi-talented player who just needed to develop his shooting to be an impact contributor. Now it appears Achiuwa is on that same path having taken four three-pointers in his first two Summer League games with the Raptors.
"We're encouraging him to shoot that shot if it's in the rhythm of the offense," Raptors Summer League coach Patrick Mutombo said Thursday. "It's something that we work on. You know we love the three, but we also really like the layup. So there's got to be a balance there. He's a guy who can get into the paint as you saw on the first play, [he] was able to rip and go and play with force and slowly adding elements to his game."
Toronto wants to be able to mix things up on opposing defenses. The moment teams start sagging off Birch and Achiuwa, the two bigs need to be able to let it fly with an adequate three-point stroke. If they can improve their shooting this year or at some point down the road, the Raptors will truly have this do-it-all roster that can lock opposing teams down and then score both in transition and eventually in the half-court too.