A revelation that has come out of the preseason camp of the Toronto Raptors is that their starters will almost certainly be required to play increased minutes from a year ago.
The projected starting lineup of Kyle Lowry, Demar DeRrozan, Rudy Gay, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas is a solid one. Filled with plenty of offense, the Raptors will have no trouble scoring this year.
But when it comes to the second unit, it is defense that they seriously lack.
Offseason acquisitions Tyler Hanbrough and Steve Novak will join forces with Landry Fields and Terrence Ross to become the core of the second string for the Raptors. Apart from that, however, there really isn’t a whole lot more coming off the bench.
Ross proved last year that he is a streaky scorer at best, while Fields demonstrated he can be a lock down defender on the big occasion (Carmelo Anthony twice). Hansbrough can be effective when he is not drawing technical fouls and annoying referees, and we all know how clutch Novak can be from behind the arc, but he will require the distribution.
With all that said, to the second unit to have an impact this season, coach Dwayne Casey will be required to leave at least two starters on the court at all times.
This will be tough to manage and, of course, mean increased minutes for the starters, but if the team is to contend for the playoffs, they won’t be able to afford to let their second unit fall behind in games, as was the situation last year.
A couple of required combinations are as follows:
Lowry + Novak: With no accomplished backup point guard this season, the full force of the league’s most feared three point shooter will not be felt without a decent drive and kick.
DeRozan or Gay: One of these two must be kept on the floor at all times. This will mean that their minutes hovering around the 40 mark, but the Raptors need a ‘go-to’ guy that can lead the team on both ends of the floor.