Toronto Raptors: Will Matt Thomas or Patrick McCaw earn final rotation spot?

Toronto Raptors - Patrick McCaw (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Patrick McCaw (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /
2 of 3
Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors – Patrick McCaw (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

The case for Patrick McCaw

The best way to judge how players are valued around the NBA is to look at what they received on the free agent market. Last offseason, when 30 evaluators had the opportunity to evaluate Matt Thomas, he wasn’t capable of receiving more than a million in guaranteed dollars. McCaw received two years $8 million.

NBA general managers obviously make mistakes, but seeing how highly valued McCaw was around the league compared to Thomas, should speak volumes. Patrick McCaw provides defense, length, athleticism, and creation off the dribble. Thomas provides shooting.

After being picked up by the Raptors in the middle of the season last year, McCaw gave the team 13 minutes per game during the regular season. He played competitive minutes in the NBA Finals. Thomas has yet to play in an NBA game.

The case for McCaw largely resides in his ability as an on-ball defender. Masai Ujiri spent the entire offseason picking up rangy, athletic wings. McCaw feeds into the Raptors defense-first mentality. He slips over screens with ease and harasses opposing ball handlers by taking away every bit of air space available. Being covered by McCaw can feel like drowning in the wave-pool, every time you think it’s about to lighten up, you’re back underwater.

Kyle Lowry is still a very good defender, something that can be seen in just about every impact metric. However, at 33-years-old he’s not going to consistently lock-in to opposing point guards for 30 minutes a night, and he shouldn’t be asked to.

McCaw is the Raptors best option against opposing point guards, and along with Fred VanVleet, gives Toronto two lock-down options on the perimeter. As many defenders as the Raptors added, they were mostly big bodies. Someone needs to help fill-in for Danny Green’s near all-defensive effort at the two-guard.

Last year, McCaw was not good enough offensively to justify consistent playing time. But as he enters his age 24 season, it’s reasonable to project growth. McCaw doesn’t need to be a lights-out scorer, he just needs to survive. If he can improve to become an even mediocre three-point shooter, his defense should justify his inclusion in the rotation.