For the Toronto Raptors to reach the playoffs this season, they will need consistent contributions from their bench.
With the starting-five unit set, highlighted by Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan on the wings, the Raptors will need to find key contributors for when the duo needs a rest. Gay and DeRozan are expected to carry the majority of the scoring load for the club. However, the season is going to depend on who steps up when the two are on the bench.
Terrence Ross will be looked to as the biggest producer off the bench as he’ll be needed to lead the offense for the second-unit. Ross has entered camp looking stronger and more comfortable than he was in his rookie season. The sophomore has proven he has three-point range with his jump-shot, which means defenses won’t be able to only defend the drive from last season’s slam dunk champion.
The main concern for Ross entering the year will be his consistency. Like the majority of young players in the league, Ross will need to learn to bring the same intensity and focus to each and every game. He showed he could go off for big nights as a rookie, but couldn’t deliver the same production in consecutive contests without struggling. Ross now needs to take that next step as a player and prove he can be depended on every night to provide offense off the bench.
Landry Fields is finally looking comfortable and healthy in a Raptors uniform after a disappointing first year with the club. Fields had a forgettable 2012-13 season in Toronto that was plagued by injuries, including nerve damage in his shooting arm. It led to Fields struggling mightily offensively, as he would look completely lost at-times on the court.
Fields is showing in preseason his shooting stroke is returning and if he can be the player he was with the New York Knicks, the Raptors could have a significant contributor for their second-unit. Toronto doesn’t necessarily need offense from him, but if he can hit open shots from the perimeter it’ll be an added bonus. What they truly need Fields to provide is rebounding and the aggressive defense he’s been known for.
Tyler Hansbrough will be the first big off the bench and the Raptors will depend on his energy and hustle to give the starting squad a spark. Hansbrough will be used to play aggressive defense, deliver hard fouls, and rebound everything he can get his hands on. Offensively the Raptors won’t need him to provide much, but if he can chip-in the occasional offensive put-back, it’ll be greatly appreciated.
If Ross can provide an offensive spark, with Fields and Hansbrough making sure there’s no drop-off in energy and defense. The Raptors should receive strong contributions from their reserves.
However, if the bench struggles to be consistent and can’t be depended on every night, chances are the team will struggle in the win column as well.