With the playoffs no longer in question for the Toronto Raptors, the few weeks that remain in the regular season will be spent preparing the team to make its first postseason appearance since the 2007-08 campaign.
At this point, the most significant issues involve keeping DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and the rest of Toronto’s starting five healthy, finding a way to avoid the dangerously slow starts that have helped keep lesser opponents in the game far too long, and ensuring that this group maintains its defensive intensity regardless of the situation.
While all of those are obviously valid concerns going forward, failing to get the support that will be needed from the Raptors’ reserves during the upcoming playoffs could easily be this team’s undoing.
Fortunately for Toronto, head coach Dwane Casey has made it clear that forward Patrick Patterson is due to return back within the next couple of games, and his presence alone will add a dangerous offensive weapon to the mix. Having last played on March 7 when he injured his elbow, Patterson has been missed over the past few weeks, especially in his role as Amir Johnson‘s backup. He has been a valuable asset for the Raptors off of the bench since his arrival.
Patterson hit his stride with Toronto during the month of January with averages of 11.1 PPG and 5.4 RPG in 23 minutes per night, and shot just over 45 percent from long range on his way to scoring in double figures in nine of Toronto’s 17 games.
In order to maximize each player’s production, getting everyone in the rotation enough time on the floor is essential. Despite needing to rest Lowry, DeRozan and Johnson ahead of the playoffs however, the Raptors haven’t afforded themselves the luxury of doing so.
Now that Toronto’s future is a little more certain, the only thing that should stand in the way of playing Patterson, Vasquez and anyone else worthy of the minutes will be the offensive struggles that have been plaguing the Raptors recently in the first half.
But this team is still in a race with the Brooklyn Nets for the Atlantic Division crown, and can set a new franchise-high for wins if they post a 7-3 record over the final 10 games. The amount of importance placed upon achieving these two things may play a big part in the amount of rest that Toronto’s starting five will receive down the stretch.