Lineups Raptors Dwane Casey Should Use More


Not all Raptors 5-man lineups are created equal. Here are a few workable options for coach Dwane Casey to consider.

The Toronto Raptors have relied heavily upon the play of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan to get them to second place in the Eastern Conference at the time of this being written. Both Lowry and DeRozan rank in the top 5 in total minutes played this season, and DeRozan ranks 4th in minutes played per game, while Lowry ranks 7th. This strategy has worked through the first half of the season, but it begs the question as to whether or not this playing time strategy is sustainable, especially if the Raptors want to succeed in the playoffs. As the growing trend of resting key players spreads across the NBA, will the Raptors be setting themselves up for a disproportionate amount of injuries or extreme fatigue by the time the playoffs roll around? If that is the case, it is critical that Dwane Casey attempt to mitigate the effects of extreme wear and tear on these two key players.

What is required to do this is finding lineups that the Raptors can use that have success while only featuring one of DeRozan or Lowry. If these sorts of lineups can be found, Dwane Casey will have the ability to rest one of the pair on a more consistent basis without hurting effectiveness. The Raptors have been able to find these combinations in short doses, with 3 of the top 6 lineups in terms of Net Rating (Offensive Rating minus Defensive Rating) featuring only one of the pair. The problem is that these lineups have only seen the floor in a combined 112 minutes, or the equivalent of 2 and a third games through the the first 39 games of the season. If these lineups can maintain their effectiveness while seeing more floor time, the Raptors could not only rest their key players more, but they could actually improve their overall Net Rating as a whole.

Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, James Johnson, Patrick Patterson, and Bismack Biyombo 

Oct 18, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova (8) drives to the net against Toronto Raptors guard Cory Joseph (6) and forward Patrick Patterson (54) at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Cleveland 87-81. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports /

With the highest Net Rating of any lineup for the Raptors this season of 38.0, this surprisingly effective lineup could provide DeMar DeRozan with some much needed rest. This lineup has accumulated the highest Player Impact Estimate (PIE) , and the second highest eFG% and True Shooting % of any lineup the Raptors have used this season. These statistics were accumulated over only 5 GP and 21 minutes played together, so it is very possible that these statistics would decline over a larger sample size. However, a lineup that has been this effective in the times it has been played together should not be ignored.

Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, Terrence Ross, Patrick Patterson, and Bismack Biyombo 

This lineup is very similar to the first suggested one, and it too has been efficient when used by Dwane Casey. This group has the second highest Net Rating of any lineup the Raptors have used at 26.3, as well as having the third highest PIE. These statistics have been accumulated over 13 GP and 65 minutes played together. This is a much more significant sample size than the first lineup presented, and it suggests that this group could continue to have a positive effect on Raptors games if they are played together more.

Cory Joseph, DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, James Johnson, and Patrick Patterson

This is the most effective lineup the Raptors use that does not feature Kyle Lowry based on Net Rating. This group has the sixth best Net Rating of all Raptors lineups at 13.9, while also posting a relatively high placing True Shooting % and PIE. These stats are over 7 GP and 26 minutes played together which, like the first lineup listed, means that these statistics could get worse with a larger sample size. Considering this is the only positive Net Rating lineup that does not feature Kyle Lowry, this group should be trotted out together more frequently.

For teams like the Golden State Warriors or San Antonio Spurs who have very few, if any, negative Net Rating lineups, the lineup combinations of bench players may not be as important to consider. But as time goes on this season for the Toronto Raptors, remaining efficient while either Kyle Lowry or DeMar DeRozan rest will become increasingly important. By trying out these lineups, or others, that have a positive Net Rating, Dwane Casey will prepare his team for far more success come playoff time.