Title: Will the ‘best (bench) in the league’ matter less come playoff time for Raptors?
Date: December 4, 2017
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I looked at whether the Raptors having an elite bench will matter much come playoff time.
This is part three of a three-part mini-series on the Raptors’ bench. A statistical look at the group can be found here, and a look at the bench’s construction can be found here.
In the time since this mini-series started, the Toronto Raptors’ starting lineup has begun figuring things out, if a three-game sample can be trusted. They own a net rating of 23.5 over the last three games, playing against a good offence, a bad offence, and a middling offence. It’s a fairly representative sample, in other words, and even the Serge Ibaka-Jonas Valanciunas pairing has proven tenable on defence of late.
This is important. Starting games (and third quarters) well is, objectively, a good thing for a team to do, no matter how good their bench is. During the three-game winning streak, the Raptors’ bench — “Best In The League,” he bellows — has shifted its role some, then. Instead of bailing out the starters with a comeback, they’ve been a stabilizing force, holding or extending leads like a second unit is more traditionally asked to do. Against Atlanta, every rotation bench piece was between plus-seven and plus-26. Against Charlotte, plus-minus god Fred VanVleet and Lucas Nogueira had big contributions. Against Indiana, four of the five bench pieces had a better plus-minus than any starter.
Same as it ever was, in other words.