The case for starting Anthony Bennett for the Toronto Raptors


Now that training camp is in full swing, Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey is inching closer and closer to having to make tough rotation decisions. Recently, his club signed embattled Canadian power forward Anthony Bennett to a one-year contract, creating a minor backlog at the position. In preparation for the season, Casey will have to evaluate his bigs to decide who deserves the most minutes.

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Bennett, Luis Scola and Patrick Patterson will be the main three players fighting for time as power forwards, but DeMarre Carroll and James Johnson also figure to log occasional minutes at the position for small ball lineups. Plainly, that is too many guys trying to fill a finite amount of minutes.

A mere week ago, popular knowledge dictated that Patterson would be the starter on opening night. The stretch-four is an intelligent athlete with touch from just about anywhere. He offers a lot for the Raptors on the offensive end, but unfortunately comes up very short defensively. Patterson is a poor rebounder (5.3 per game last season) and a below-average interior defender. Normally, this wouldn’t matter as much, but the Raptors are in the middle of a serious defensive facelift, during which GM Masai Ujiri hopes to create a defensive juggernaut.

Enter Anthony Bennett. While 2013’s first overall pick is by no means defensively solid, he certainly has more potential than Patterson. Bennett is a physical specimen, who possesses both strength and agility. In college, he was massive all over the court, averaging 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game during his only season. Plus, he notched 1.2 blocks and 0.7 steals per game. The raw tools are there, but he hasn’t been able to put it all together at the NBA level, hence why he has found himself in Toronto.

Finally, Scola offers a safe option for the Raptors. The Argentinian veteran is approaching the end of his solid career, but he continues to show skill scoring in the paint and on mid-range shots. Plus, he is a calm, intelligent leader on the court who can make a team better defensively by simply being around.

After two good seasons ending in playoff disappointment, Casey is no doubt hoping for a home run. Scola is a perfect backup power forward, because he is a trustworthy player off the bench who is capable of big performances. In my mind, he is a lock for 20 minutes or so per game. Between Bennett and Patterson, Casey will have to choose who he thinks will grow the most this season, since neither is quite good enough to start. Though it is a major risk, Bennett would be a smarter pick to start for the Raptors, since he still has star potential.

The remainder of training camp will be an all out duel for the starting spot. Either player could claim it, depending on what the team needs. Casey should take a long look at Bennett, even if he was previously leaning towards Patterson.

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