Title: How the Raptors built the ‘best (bench) in the league’
Date: November 30, 2017
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I looked at how the Raptors’ built what they’re calling the “best (bench) in the league.”
This is part two of a three-part mini-series on the Raptors’ bench. A statistical look at the group can be found here. Part three comes Monday.
The Toronto Raptors were low on flexibility. After re-signing Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka and finding no home for Jonas Valanciunas, their salary cap sheet looked bleak. Up against the luxury tax and eventually with a hard-cap triggered, Masai Ujiri and company would need to trust two tenets of an increased focus on player development to fill out the 2017-18 roster: Their ability to find value late in the draft or on the open market, and the ability of their young pieces to step into larger roles.
If there was a concern with the roster construction entering the year, it was that the Raptors would be putting their faith in a lot of youth. Youth is fine, and often good, and the realities of the marketplace made inexpensive talent a necessity. Inexperience also invites inconsistency and risk, and for a team that had eyes on another 50-win season, the first concerns about their depth in this core’s time together felt unnatural.
The depth has, umm, not been an issue. While the bench didn’t dominate again Wednesday against Charlotte, they were needed as a stabilizing force after the starters nearly choked away a 19-point halftime lead in another problematic third quarter. Fred VanVleet was instrumental, and Lucas Nogueira provided a nice boost with two other centers in foul trouble. The Raptors’ four primary starters still have the four worst net ratings on a team outscoring opponents by 7.3 points per-100 possessions, and lineups with at least two bench players on the floor are a plus-10.7 per-100 possessions.
Here’s a look at how the Raptors constructed a bench that C.J. Miles gleefully refers to as the “best in the league.”