Anthony Bennett and James Johnson can’t coexist for the Raptors


Yesterday, the Toronto Raptors were able to sign Canadian Anthony Bennett after he was waived by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Though it will be pleasant to have another Canadian playing in Toronto, Bennett’s arrival in the city will create rotation problems for head coach Dwane Casey. The big question is whether Anthony Bennett and James Johnson can coexist.

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Johnson and Bennett are not identical players by any means, but they certainly have some overlapping skills. They are a similar height (6-9 and 6-8 respectively) and weight (245 and 240 pounds respectively), which they both enjoy using to play offence primarily in the paint. Both are strong dunkers and paint scorers, and neither can shoot 3-pointers.

Similarities aside, Johnson is by every indication the better player right now. He can defend, pass and rebound better than Bennett. But, longterm, Bennett is the superior athlete who came into the league considered to have more potential than Johnson could ever imagine. Th0ugh his first two seasons have not gone to plan, there is a reason Bennett was selected first overall.

If we consider the Raptors already have starting and backup power forwards (Patrick Patterson and Luis Scola), as well as centers (Jonas Valanciunas and Bismack Biyombo), it is hard to believe that the team could have space for two more bigs to get consistent minutes. Of course, Johnson can play at the small forward spot, but he is more natural as a power forward.

This leads to a decision that Casey must make. It appears he must decide who between the two to make a worthwhile contributor and who to have ride the bench.  Each player offers different pros and cons, but it doesn’t look as though they can coexist peacefully. One will get time and the other won’t. Of course, the recipients for either role could change throughout the season.

Though he was signed just yesterday, the biggest factor in who sits on the bench has nothing to do with Bennett. In Toronto, it will always come down to whether Casey and Johnson are getting along. Johnson has been a great player for Toronto, but his attitude has always been problematic, which has led to his benching. On paper, he is by far the superior player, especially considering the Raptors want to make a playoff push this year, but he may still not be in the right place mentally.

The other major factor to consider is Bennett’s potential. He may be worse that Johnson this season, but he could be much better in years to come if he is given the time to develop now. He is inherently a project, so Casey needs to decide how he wants to address his embattled big man. Playing a small role as a power forward could be a great fit for Bennett as he looks to earn back some of his shining reputation.

During training camp, it will become clear which player Casey is leaning towards. Until then, we wait.

Next: Anthony Bennett should play small ball center

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