How much will Patrick McCaw’s injury hurt the Toronto Raptors?

Toronto Raptors - Patrick McCaw (Photo by Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Patrick McCaw (Photo by Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images) /

Patrick McCaw will be out for over a month after undergoing a surgical procedure on his left knee. How much will his absence hurt the Toronto Raptors?

The Toronto Raptors are already an incredibly thin team. When fully healthy, their primary rotation has consisted of just eight players. Their starting lineup currently has more minutes than any other five-man rotation in the league. Now, with the injury to Patrick McCaw, they just got a little bit thinner.

McCaw underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove a benign mass on the back of his left knee. There’s no official timetable for his return, and he won’t be re-evaluated for at least another four weeks. The unclear timeline certainly provides a murky picture for the team, and they probably should expect a month-and-a-half to two-months at the absolute minimum. After missing significant time, he’ll also need to get back into game shape before playing real minutes.

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I’ve been far from the biggest Patrick McCaw supporter on this site. His numbers this season have been somewhere between dreadful and terrible, and his limited offensive skillset has a ripple effect throughout the team, impacting not only his game but also his teammates.

However, he clearly has earned Nick Nurse’s trust. We can discuss his minimal shooting ability, turnovers, and whether his defensive prowess is overrated, but at the end of the day, coaches want players they can trust, particularly in bench roles. Appearing in 20 minutes per game during his two healthy contests, it’s clear McCaw has at least earned that.

With McCaw out, the Toronto Raptors will turn to a combination of Terence Davis, Matt Thomas, and more Norman Powell. Davis and Thomas have received sporadic playing time up until this point. Perhaps McCaw’s injury will help them find a consistent role, settling into somewhere around 10-or-so minutes per game — in the one game since his injury was announced, Davis played seven-minutes while Thomas played 10.

Expecting more minutes from Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet isn’t possible at this point. Lowry ranks first in the NBA in minutes per game; VanVleet ranks third. In fact, as the season continues, it’ll be important for Nurse to find both players, particularly Lowry, increased rest from what they’ve seen thus far.

That means Nurse will need to turn to his bench. He’s been reluctant to play any newcomers so far this season. However, McCaw’s injury will require the inclusion of Davis or Thomas in the rotation, perhaps both.

Both players represent a higher ceiling but lower floor than what McCaw brought to the table. They certainly give more offensive ability, although again, there’s a reason Nurse has trusted McCaw with minutes he hasn’t given to either rookie.

Perhaps those reasons are misguided, or even wrong. Coaches are notoriously slow to change and even slower to play rookies. While unfortunate, an injury might have been the domino that needed to fall in order for Nurse to make what’s been the right decision all along.

Davis and Thomas have played better than McCaw so far this season. It’s possible this injury provides them the opportunity needed to prove their worth. It’s also an opportunity for Powell to cross into the 25-30 minute per game mark. If Nurse is only going to stick with the players he trusts, perhaps that just means giving the players on the fringes of that trust more minutes.

Right now, the loss to McCaw doesn’t appear to be too damning. Davis and Thomas look capable of filling in the gaps of a guy who hasn’t exactly lit it up since arriving in the 6ix.

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But the injury certainly increases the Raptors’ risk. If Thomas proves to be too slow, Davis starts to look like a rookie, or in the worst-case scenario, Toronto experiences another injury to their backcourt, the minutes become extremely difficult to fill. Toronto can use its limited depth to clog one whole in the dam. Another hole and things start to become more difficult.