Toronto Raptors: Power Forward with change


Home losses – ugh! It’s time to shake up the Raptors’ frontcourt.

The biggest question mark going into this season for the Toronto Raptors was at the power forward position. Patrick Patterson was first off the bench last year for Amir Johnson, who decamped to Boston. Observers assumed Patterson’s name would be at the top of the depth chart on opening night. However, the preseason was not kind to 2-Pat. His shooting was dismal (27.6%), his rebounding didn’t compensate, and he appeared sluggish on defense.

Luis Scola, signed for his veteran savvy and presence, sneaked in and snatched away the starter’s job. While Scola started the season well enough, his play has slipped recently. Meanwhile, Patrick has been taking advantage of the increasing number of minutes he’s been granted by coach Dwane Casey. I’ve been impressed by 2-Pat’s rededication to defense, and his shooting, while not stellar, has improved (it could hardly have gotten worse).

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With the Raptors having lost three winnable games at home, the time is right to shake up the lineup somewhat. There are fans of James Johnson out there who would be happy to see their neglected hero get a serious opportunity to stay in the lineup. I’d rather see Patrick get a 5-game tryout. He’s a much better pick and roll option than Bismack Biyombo, as he can actually receive a pass and score on the roll, so he’ll command a defender’s attention, which Biz doesn’t. Patrick is highly mobile for a tall, thickset man, so he should be able to set multiple screens when the too-selfish DeMar DeRozan commences his probing dribbles.

Dec 5, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) takes a jump shot for a basket over Toronto Raptors center Lucas Nogueira (92), forward DeMarre Carroll (5) and guard Cory Joseph (6) in the first quarter at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

I wouldn’t be advocating this change if I thought Scola was going to regain his early season form. The trend line is heading in the wrong direction. Luis has hit two 3-balls in his last five games. His other numbers aren’t impressive. I’ve always thought he’s a better option off the bench anyway, as a pass-first facilitator on offense, and a smart, handsy defender against lesser players.

While Lucas Nogueira has made strides on offense, I’m not ready to call for him to start over Biz. Bebe has been slow to react to action in the paint. I like flat-footed defense to a point, but he gets it backward too often. He’s grounded when he needs to be jumping, and vice versa. Biz is still our best defensive centre. On offense, when the high pick and roll is “on” with Patrick and Kyle/Cory, Biz can settle in the low post or even in the weak-side corner. If he presents at the hoop for dump-off passes, and hopefully slam dunks, that’s sufficient.

The Raptors are in a difficult spot at the moment. A player they had counted on, Terrence Ross, has not come through, and 2-Pat is only now rounding into form. Jonas Valanciunas is weeks away from returning to the court, which has punched a hole in our scoring, and compelled too many shots from DeRozan and Lowry. DeMarre Carroll has 24 points in his last 3 games.

Next: Are there players on the trading block the Raptors could use?

The Raptors’ next opponent is the 3-16 Los Angeles Lakers. Coach Casey, make the change: give 2-Pat the starting assignment. You won’t regret it.