Toronto Raptors’ second unit – solid or suspect?


Media day for the Toronto Raptors is over, and the hard part begins. The new and improved (we hope) slenderized version of Kyle Lowry was the talk of the media, and deservedly so. However, I want to consider whether the team has enough second unit talent to allow warhorses like Lowry a decent breather, every game.

Sep 28, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) during the media day at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

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Once again, we turn to RealGM’s depth chart as our guide, where we find four players listed as “rotation”:

  1. PG – Cory Joseph
  2. SG – No one [so I’ll make the choice]
  3. SF – Terrence Ross
  4. PF – Luis Scola
  5.  C –  Bismack Biyombo

I have no reason to quarrel with their selections, and I’ll arbitrarily decide that Delon Wright will back up DeMar DeRozan. Why? As the higher draft choice, he’s more likely to get the gig than unheralded Norman Powell, at least out of training camp. Never underestimate corporate pride.

How will we know if these five worthies are doing their job….which is what exactly?

“…do no harm…” – wrought into Hippocratic oath, circa 5th century BCE

“What Hippocrates said” – Newmarket Brian, not as long ago

The second unit’s goal is to maintain the score. If our starters leave with a 6-point margin after Q1, and re-enter the game with 6 minutes to play in Q2, and we’re up 5, terrific. Our rotation players have done the necessary.

Considering the quality of players, including their experience and the fact they fit nicely into their roles (i.e., Bismack is a true centre despite being undersized, Luis Scola is a veteran who knows how to play, etc.), we have every reason to believe this group can do the job. Yes, Delon Wright is a rookie, but he’s not an adolescent like so many.

The other task for a quality rotation player is to step into a starter’s role should injury strike. Would you feel like we were giving up if Terrence Ross needed to take DeMarre Carroll’s spot? I wouldn’t.

For fun, we’ll have a look at a few other squads’ backup units. Boston’s ranks include:

  1. PG – Isaiah Thomas
  2. SG – James Young
  3. SF – Jae Crowder
  4. PF – David Lee
  5.  C –  Kelly Olynyk

Surely our guys can physically abuse that wispy frontcourt. Final thought: James Young?

How about everybody’s choice (including mine) for Eastern Conference champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers:

  1. PG – Mo Williams
  2. SG – Iman Shumpert [out for months with a serious wrist injury]
  3. SF – Richard Jefferson
  4. PF – no one, at all
  5.  C –  Anderson Varejao

I think they will be forced into small ball, perhaps with a 3-guard set including Mathew Dellavedova. Final thoughts: Varejao won’t play 70 games; he’s always getting hurt. LeBron James may need to play 40+ minutes most nights.

And let’s go west for our last review, to wit, the Los Angeles Clippers:

  1. PG – Austin Rivers
  2. SG – Jamal Crawford
  3. SF – Paul Pierce
  4. PF – Luc Mbah a Moute
  5.  C –  Cole Aldrich

This is a solid group, with scoring from Crawford and Pierce, and a glue guy in Mbah a Moute. Aldrich is more than useful; I’ve written trade proposals to bring him to the Raptors. Final thought: the jury is still out on Austin Rivers, but if he can become a respectable pro under his father’s tutelage, the Clippers could win 50 games.

Conclusion: our second unit should be able to handle the load this season. If it doesn’t, our entire team will struggle.

Next: Raptors media day

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