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The Toronto Raptors have one of the best-producing starting rotations in the NBA but the same can't be said for their bench. Imman Adan and Yasmin Duale discuss which players they trust and who should get steady rotation minutes.
IMMAN ADAN: I mean, the Raptors scored 117 points in that game, which is phenomenal. And literally 15 of them came from the bench. And the rest all came from the starters. What is that, 102 points from your starters combined? Which, that can't be right. They can't possibly be right. But that's what my numbers say.
Let me look that up. But OK, so my question is, while I verify my numbers, point is, the bench did not contribute very much in terms of scoring in that game. And it seemed like a lot of people were worried about that. Do you have any concerns about the bench scoring? We talked about needing someone like Karras. But do you think the Raptors can move forward without somebody like that, without making a move there?
YASMIN DUALE: Yeah, I think that's the team's Achilles heel, just not having that-- I feel like every good team has that secret weapon off the bench, a guy who can easily give you 18 points per game. And the Raptors of past years have had that luxury. But this season, they just have a ton of pieces who can give you 8 points per game or so. And that's not really--
IMMAN ADAN: My numbers were right, by the way.
YASMIN DUALE: --feasible. Sorry?
IMMAN ADAN: My numbers were right. I looked back at that. And I'm like, that could not possibly be true. No, it's true. I felt like it didn't.
YASMIN DUALE: Oh, god. But yeah, just having one player who can give you 18 points per game off the bench would be a game-changer for that stat. You know what I mean? Like a guy who can come in and play with the starters for stretches.
And yeah, that's just been the Achilles heel of the team. I feel like in a playoff setting, it might be less of an issue because then you feel less guilt about playing your starters 39 minutes or whatever. And you can tighten your rotation to seven, eight players and get away with it. But that's not the preferable option.
Teams of past, like even the championship Raptors, there was no OG. Think about how good OG is. We were able to sustain a run, a championship run without him. We were able to sustain a championship run with Fred VanVleet vanishing for a couple of rounds. So that would not be--
There are going to be series where there's a starter who's just not-- they're on a cold streak. It happens in the regular season. It happens in the postseason. The issue, the difference is that the better teams are able to step up and keep them afloat during those three, four games stretches where a star might not be playing up to par.
But I feel like for the Raptors, if the stars aren't at their season average or above, it's curtains. It's curtains in, like, a four-game sweep. So I feel like just having that bench scoring would really just open up like that margin of error, which is super-narrow right now.
IMMAN ADAN: I'm flying high off of these wins. It's how you know I'm going to be just be so reactionary, because I'm just like, yeah, but think about how perfect it is to have OG as your third option. Think about how perfect it is that Scottie can-- remember how, to start the year, we're like, Scottie's literally the best Raptor right now. What is happening?
Scottie can have a bad game, like he just had. And I'm just like, it's totally fine. He's allowed to be a rookie and make his mistakes because you have Pascal who can go off or Fred who can go off or Garrett who can go off or OG who could go off. I don't know. I'm just like, the starters are really good.
Yes, the bench kind of feels a little bit weak. What are your thoughts about just having a bench that is just three or four just really dogged defenders that can go in? And we know that Nurse is fine for the staggering minutes and kind of mixing and matching. Do you think that that's sort of a role that the Raptors might look to go if they can't pull someone who's--
Because those guys who can score off the bench, those kind of microwave guys are always more pricey than the defenders that the Raptors tend to go for.
YASMIN DUALE: Yeah.
IMMAN ADAN: So what are your thoughts on that?
YASMIN DUALE: That's true. I think what makes it complicated is the fact that two of our better players, in Scottie and Pascal, I feel like they're not the most reliable 3-point shooters. I feel like when Scottie and Pascal are on the floor, you want floor spacers for them to thrive. You know what I mean? I feel like they're best situationally. You want those two guys in the middle of the court, in the paint.
And in order to do that, you need to have really excellent catch-and-shooters surrounding them, so when Fred and Gary sit-- I don't know how Nick Nurse would-- I feel like every game, it looks different. Typically, he has a system for Pascal and Freddie. But with the other guys, it seems to be more situational in terms of how they lay out their minutes over the course of a game.
But yeah, I think that makes it a little more complicated. So that I feel like, yeah, they probably should opt for that pricier bench piece. But I think that it-- I honestly don't know if it's something that they do in the mid-season. I feel like it's something you do when if--
Well, we'll see what they think of this team by mid-season, because I feel like if they get that kind of player, this is a team they think that has a window--
IMMAN ADAN: Can do things.
YASMIN DUALE: --in the next few years.
IMMAN ADAN: Can do things. That can move quickly.
YASMIN DUALE: If they don't--
IMMAN ADAN: Yeah.
YASMIN DUALE: Yeah. If they don't, I think this is a team that they think, they just want to-- like Nick Nurse said in that JJ Redick interview, they just want everyone to play to the best of their abilities, boost their value on the market, and then maybe make some changes in the future. But if they look to reinforce this squad with those peripheral changes that we just spoke about, this is a team that they see having a bit of a window for the next few years. So yeah, we'll see how that plays out.
IMMAN ADAN: That's fair. Now, let's talk about the bench for a second. You mentioned it. The Raptors really can afford to sort of tighten up that rotation, come playoff time. Of course, that's what every team wants to do. But we talked about the minutes that Pascal and Fred and all of these guys are already logging.
So how deep do you think Nick Nurse should be going into his bench? How long do you think the Raptors' rotation should be right now for games in January? What are your thoughts?
YASMIN DUALE: For games in January?
IMMAN ADAN: Yeah, I mean, for the rest of the season, like moving forward. What do you think the Raptors' rotation length should really be?
YASMIN DUALE: OK. So you'd have the starters, which is Scottie, Pascal, Gary, OG and-- who am I forgetting?
IMMAN ADAN: Scottie, Pascal, Gary, OG, and Fred.
YASMIN DUALE: Did I say Freddy?
IMMAN ADAN: Yeah, you didn't say Fred. And then of course, the sixth starter which is Tim. We're going to count Tim in the six part.
YASMIN DUALE: Yeah, so you have Fred at six as well.
IMMAN ADAN: Yeah.
YASMIN DUALE: Yeah. And then so off the bench, Khem Birch I want to see play. I want to see Precious play. I want to see Yuta play. I'm not sure I want to see-- eh, I feel like last game, I felt that Chris Boucher was great. Game before that, I thought he was solid. But if the priority is to rack up wins or if it's to develop--
I'm not sure. I would like to see it go nine people deep. I'd throw in Dalano in there because I feel like Dalano has more upside than Malachi. But I feel like the Raptors aren't that cutthroat with their rotation. I feel like they're going to go 12 deep if they want. So ideally for me, it would probably be nine players. And it would be the five starters and then in addition to Khem, Precious, Yuta, and Dalano.