The Toronto Raptors entered their tilt on Friday against the Phoenix Suns still experimenting with a new look for their rotation. After starting the 2013-14 NBA season at just 6-10, the Raptors decided to move Amir Johnson out of the starting five and bring him off the bench with Tyler Hansbrough slipping into the starting spot.
The Raptors lost their first two games under this experiment, but adjustments like that can take time, so they were sticking with it going into Friday. However, that experiment isn’t going to be possible for at least the next couple of weeks.
After playing just three minutes against Phoenix, Hansbrough went down with what we now know is an ankle sprain and did not return to action. Though there is nothing definitive or conclusive at the moment, the normal prognoses for ankle sprains seem to indicate that he’ll be out for at least the next few games for the Raptors.
Though Toronto ended up dropping Friday’s game to Phoenix by a score of 106-97, their fifth-straight loss, the Raptors likely won’t be hurting too badly without Hansbrough and with Johnson back in the starting lineup.
For the season, Hansbrough has averaged only 6.8 points and 6.4 rebounds in 21.3 minutes per game while shooting just 43.7 percent from the field. Meanwhile, Johnson has been just as productive, but with more efficiency in his time on the floor this year, putting up 9.1 points and 6.2 rebounds in 28.1 minutes per game on 55.5 percent shooting.
If Johnson can play well with Hansbrough out, I wouldn’t expect for Hansbrough to head back into the starting lineup when he returns. A player like Hansbrough is best suited to come off the bench as an energy guy in the frontcourt, not as a reliable big man in the starting five, even if he hasn’t had much success in his normal role this season.