Despite wins, Raptors need to improve bench play to lessen load on Lowry, VanVleet

Title: Despite wins, Raptors need to improve bench play to lessen load on Lowry, VanVleet
Date: October 31, 2019
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I wrote about an underlying concern within the Raptors’ strong start.

Lou Williams is not walking through that door. It does not appear that Fred VanVleet is going to concede his starting spot any time soon. Lucas Nogueira is no longer the preferred agent of second-unit chaos.

This ascendant era of Toronto Raptors basketball has often relied on strong bench performances to sustain a certain floor. They have been a depth team, even going so far as to be the rare team to succeed with a five-man “Bench Mob.” It has allowed them to survive injury, to eventually — against their base instincts — lessen the workload on their stars and to win a lot of regular season games.

Five games in, it does not appear the Raptors will enjoy that luxury. None of the old tropes are clicking, with Nick Nurse trusting two, maybe three of his reserves. It hasn’t cost the Raptors much yet in the micro sense — they are 4-1 after summarily dispatching the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday, and they could have been 5-0 if not for some turnovers or lapses on the glass. They are fourth in the league in net rating and, since it’s a barometer we’ve found to be worth mentioning in the past, are top 10 on both ends of the floor. Myriad caveats apply right now, but in general, things are going well despite the relative thinness of the bench.

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