3 ways to minimize the pressure on Raptors backcourt


The Toronto Raptors all-stars have been taking the bulk of the minutes in the first months of the season. What can the coaching staff do to limit the playing time of the stars in order to keep them fresh for the long season?

The Raptors have relied heavily on Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan for offence and defence. Toronto’s  injuries to DeMarre Carroll and Jonas Valanciunas have thinned out the bench’s ability to fulfill their duties on the court.

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The depth chart on opening night was:

PG- Kyle Lowry, Cory, Joseph, Delon Wright

SG- DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, Norman Powell

SF- DeMarre Carroll, James Johnson, Bruno Caboclo

PF- Luis Scola, Patrick Patterson, Anthony Bennett

C- Jonas Valanciunas, Bismack Biyombo, Lucas Nogueira

Now with injuries and d-league assignments, the roster is:

PG- Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph

SG- DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell

SF- Terrence Ross, James Johnson

PF- Luis Scola, Patrick Patterson, Anthony Bennett

C- Bismack Biyombo, Lucas Nogueira

Bolding marks importance.

As you can see, the 15-man roster is actually down to 8 (and a half) trusted players on any given day. Unfortunately this has had adverse effects on the overall performance of the team and specifically the second unit.

The best the team can do right now is wait out the storm and not make any rash roster decisions. But there are some short term ideas that may be able to alleviate the pressure on DeRozan and Lowry.

Recommendation #1 – Change power forwards. Patterson for Scola

This idea has been thrown around in every newspaper, blog and forum. It makes a lot of sense too. Luis Scola has proven he can score on a first unit with ease, while Patrick Patterson relies on the set-ups of his team-mates. Patterson should benefit from playing with the top play makers on the team and should help spread the floor out as well. This will allow Scola to work with Cory Joseph and anchor the offence so the main facilitators can take longer breaks.

Recommendation #2 – Insert Cory Joseph into the starting 5

Some of the best line-ups the Raptors have involve Joseph. This would send Terrence Ross to the bench so he can give (albeit minimal) relief to the wings throughout the game.  The Lowry/Joseph pairing are a +146 this season in 384 minutes. This will take pressure off DeRozan and Lowry during the game and will ride the younger Joseph until the injuries wear off.

Note: Delon Wright and more Norman Powell would definitely need to be part of this equation to take spot minutes in the first three quarters. 

Recommendation #3 – Play small and bring in the youngins’!

Lowry, DeRozan, Ross, Patterson, Johnson as the starters with backups Joseph, Wright, Powell, Caboclo, Scola and Biyombo. What’s a little short term pressure off from the kids gonna hurt? A small ball play book could do some magical things in the short term. The team may lose some games by throwing the young guys in the fire but these injuries to our starters are becoming too heavy a burden to carry. Some sort of shuffle is not necessarily needed but definitely an option.

Next: DeMar DeRozan named Player of the Week

What do you think is best? Also how should we address the long-term problems that could arise from riding our tops players so early in the year?