Title: Raptors might be back to rotating starting lineups, putting all-bench units in a new light
Date: January 21, 2020
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I wrote about what a return to health means for the Raptors’ rotations and for the potential of all-bench lineups.
The Bench Mob’s impact remains to this day.
The 2017-18 iteration of the Toronto Raptors bench was so good as a five-man unit that it forced a shift in conventional thinking about how the rotations for a top team work. Led by the emerging duo of Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam that now finds itself in the Raptors’ starting lineup, that group played 340 minutes together — second most of any unit on the Raptors that season — and outscored opponents by a whopping 18.7 points per-100 possessions. Among the league’s top 25 most commonly used lineups that season, only the Philadelphia 76ers’ starting group was more effective.
It all forced an unlikely question: Could the Raptors play an all-bench unit in the playoffs? It was something that had rarely been tried in recent years, and for good reason — the playoffs require a team to tighten its rotations and play its best players more, and for most teams that means not playing 10 players at all, let alone in two de facto shifts. As it turned out, the Raptors did try it, and it was quite effective in a tiny sample (plus-18.9 net rating in 25 minutes, effectively neutral against the Cavaliers and incredible against the Wizards, per data from NBA.com). An injury to VanVleet and an eventual change to the starting lineup rendered the discussion moot beyond a brief curiosity.
Check it out on The Athletic.