The Toronto Raptors should start Anthony Bennett over Patrick Patterson


Anthony Bennett should start for the Toronto Raptors.

Well, sort of.

Look, Bennett’s not a perfect, or even often competent player, but the Raptors may not have a better option for the position. In the battle for starting, Bennett has to take on Luis Scola and and Patrick Patterson. Both players have had far more NBA success, but Bennett’s upside and fit into the starting lineup’s game plan could pull him up. To understand why it may make sense to start Bennett on opening night, we have to look at the rest of the team’s starters.

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First, let’s take a step back and examine how solid Bennett has been during the preseason. After two abysmal seasons, 2013’s first-overall pick is finally showing life. Take the team’s recent game against the Los Angeles Lakers. In only seven minutes off the bench, Bennett contributed four points and three rebounds. When he got to play, he was assertive and tough. Obviously, as a starter his responsibility would balloon, but he might be worth the considerable risk.

The Raptors’ starting unit has relied far too heavily on 3-pointers over the last two seasons. This has become a crutch, because it is thrilling when the shots drop, but when they start to miss, which will always happen, the team falls apart. This is a small part of what occurred during the playoffs last year against the Washington Wizards.

As a starter, Patterson would be inclined to jack bombs from deep, because that is what he does best. But, that isn’t what the team needs. Kyle Lowry and DeMarre Carroll can both effectively stretch the floor with their range, and DeMar DeRozan will always try, with varying degrees of success. One more long-range shooter in the starting unit could actually be a detriment, since it would further contribute to the team’s negative tendencies.

Bennett does not spread the floor. At best, he fights hard in the paint and drives his way to the hoop. This is better for the team’s offensive balance. Since Bennett and Jonas Valanciunas could roam the paint together, and the team’s other starters could play from the perimeter when it makes sense.

Of course, Scola also plays effectively in the paint, but his age hurts his chances of starting, since he no longer has the ability to log 25-30 minutes per game, which the team could require. So, as a young, raw prospect, Bennett looks to be the team’s best option to start.

In reality, would head coach Dwane Casey actually start Bennett on opening night? Probably not. He may be too big of a risk to justify for a championship contender. Still, as the season progresses, I could see Casey giving Bennet a chance, if for no other reason than to rest Patterson.

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