Title: How can Raptors escape rut? Step one: Play better big-man pairings
Date: January 31, 2017
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I looked at the Raptors’ big-man pairings and how they can do themselves a huge favor by eliminating two ineffective ones.
After picking up his third foul, frustrated, Lucas Nogueira takes a seat on the Raptors bench. Occasional foul trouble remains the lone criticism with any real weight on Nogueira in his third season. But he sits after a job well done, having helped the Raptors extend their lead over the Orlando Magic by seven in his brief stint on Sunday night.
But things fall apart soon after. With Nogueira unavailable and faith in recent D-League assignee Jared Sullinger low, head coach Dwane Casey goes back to rookie Pascal Siakam to close out the bulk of the half. The rookie has impressed at times during his freshman campaign. He looks to have a bright future as a high-energy defender at power forward, or even centre, but the team has generally struggled when he’s on the floor.
A large reason why is Siakam has shared the floor with Jonas Valanciunas for 71.8 per cent of his minutes this year, and the pairing is simply untenable. Still, Casey opts to trust it, and after Siakam quickly hits a layup, the Magic go on an unthinkable 19-0 run.
This is not Siakam’s fault, but it is indicative of something the Raptors could be doing a better job of as they find their way through – and out of – this current 1-6 stretch: Their big-man pairings need to be better optimized.