Title: Looking at the race for several Raptors’ starting spots
Date: October 4, 2019
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I looked at the training camp races for the Toronto Raptors’ two open starting roles.
When the “History of the Toronto Raptors” book is written sometime in the future, the word “fluid” may appear more than any other jargon-y term. From Bryan Colangelo’s fluid plan to Dwane Casey’s fluid offence to Nick Nurse’s fluid starting lineups, there’s long been an emphasis on theoretical grace and flow.
The Raptors used 22 different starting lineups on their way to a 58-24 record in 2018-19. Nurse worked quickly to establish a cultural expectation of open-mindedness and flexibility when it came to role, rotating Jonas Valanciunas and Serge Ibaka at centre and, initially, planning to do the same with Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby. The idea was to keep the Raptors lean and agile, knowing that Kawhi Leonard wouldn’t play a full season, that injuries strike and that playoff matchups sometimes require getting out of a comfort zone. The less comfort zone, then, the better. The ideology served them well. Fifteen different players drew at least one start and even the “usual” or preferred starting lineup began just 26 games together.
That the Raptors put a halt in that trend for the postseason made it no less effective. The ascension of Siakam and addition of Marc Gasol made a big-game starting five obvious, and the time Ibaka and Fred VanVleet spent with the starters helped a narrowed, eight-man rotation play with familiarity and helped several young players develop with occasional experience in larger roles.