Title: OG Anunoby’s move to bench punctuates Raptors’ defining flexibility of 2019, plus Raptors’ year-end mixtape
Date: December 31, 2019
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I wrote about OG Anunoby’s move to the bench as a symbol of the Raptors’ 2019 identity, then provided a mixtape of the Raptors’ favorite albums of 2019.
If there was a defining feature of the Toronto Raptors in 2019, it was … well, OK, it was winning an NBA championship. If there was a second defining feature, though, it might have been the flexibility with which they approached basketball problems.
The best calendar year in franchise history saw the team tackle challenges from new perspectives, with a new head coach, new pieces and a new aggression from the front office. Within those challenges came novel, if not entirely complicated, solutions. They extended the definition of load management, put an emphasis on role versatility and player open-mindedness, threw out unconventional and “janky” zone defences, played tiny, played huge and, especially of late, tested the limits of the next-man-up philosophy.
Nick Nurse hasn’t stopped tweaking his roster, which has been thinned out and left him with few options to turn to. He’s started very small out of some level of necessity and leaned heavily on depth pieces purely out of that necessity. Over the past two weeks, he’s given opportunities to Malcolm Miller and then Oshae Brissett, the former with an open rotation spot and the latter at the expense of the former, and then Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. With anywhere between 10 and 12 players available on a given night over the past seven games, Nurse would have been justified in sticking to eight or nine players and the shell of a rotation he liked. Instead, it’s been used as an opportunity to further build flexibility and opportunity as cultural touchpoints.
That cuts both ways. And so while Nurse could have looked at another visit from the Cleveland Cavaliers as a cause for the status quo — the Cavs are nothing if not a respite — he instead looked to shake up things in as low leverage a situation as you can get with five players injured. With OG Anunoby mired in an extended shooting slump, Nurse opted to bring him off the bench and elevate Hollis-Jefferson to the starting lineup.
Check it out on The Athletic.