Toronto Raptors: Is Nick Nurse too reliant on Patrick McCaw?

Toronto Raptors - Patrick McCaw (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Patrick McCaw (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

Fans of the Toronto Raptors remain torn over Patrick McCaw’s role. Is Nick Nurse making a mistake by playing the polarizing guard as much as he has to this point in the 2019-20 season?

For some fans of the Toronto Raptors, Nick Nurse’s habit of playing Patrick McCaw for 24+ minutes a night is inexcusable – here’s one fan’s “out there” take:

A bit of a harsh assessment of the situation, perhaps.

Head over to Twitter on a Raptors game night, and you’re bound to see plenty of hate directed towards McCaw, a three-time NBA champion. Most of the “ire”, if you ask moi, is unwarranted – call McCaw a passenger all you want, but the dude has three rings so, clearly, McCaw is doing something right. Remember, Masai Ujiri, the man we all love and openly admit can do no wrong, re-signed the polarizing guard this offseason. It would appear Ujiri sees something in the 24-year-old that most fans fail to. Who is more trustworthy – Masai or Raptors twitter? Man, that’s a tough one. Give me a minute…

I like Patrick McCaw – he is frustratingly mediocre at times, but the former Warrior can guard multiple positions, handle point guard duties in a pinch and is also underrated as a passer and playmaker. He’s not as good a shooter as Matt Thomas, nor is McCaw as exciting as rookie Terence Davis, but McCaw brings more experience than either player and that’s certainly something coach Nurse has taken into account during his nightly rotation building sessions – even in the business of winning, seniority can factor into certain decisions and in this case, it’s benefitting McCaw.

If it ain’t broke…

When was the last time Patrick McCaw was directly responsible for the Toronto Raptors losing a game? In the loss to Brooklyn, McCaw was even in 16 minutes, finishing with two points, two rebounds, an assist and a steal – because he so oftentimes finishes with one or two of everything, leaving traces of his presence throughout nightly box scores, I’ve begun referring to McCaw as “Sprinkles”.

Toronto possesses enough firepower on offence that it doesn’t need much from McCaw in that department. Not known as a gifted shooter, McCaw is shooting 36 percent from beyond the arc. On corner threes, he’s at 42 percent, eighth-best on the Raptors. Matt Thomas leads the team (62.5 percent), with Terence Davis sitting second at 51.1 percent – both players, as stated before, offer much more in the shot department than McCaw does, but there’s a stableness to McCaw’s game that the other two lack. Because of that, Nurse has reason to trust McCaw more in high-leverage scenarios.

Whether Toronto’s coach’s penchant for giving McCaw minutes continues into the postseason remains to be seen, and Nurse could be forced to bench him if teams find ways to take advantage of McCaw’s offensive limitations. A cold McCaw will be tough to hide in a playoff series – on the opposite end of things, imagine a hot Matt Thomas (or Terence Davis) in a postseason setting?

Shooting consistency will define McCaw’s postseason role

Sounding like a broken record, but a cold-shooting Patrick McCaw will be unplayable in a postseason environment. His ability to consistently make shots will define how much playing time he gets in games 83 and beyond.

The playoffs force team’s to tighten rotations – depth is nice and something Toronto has used to its advantage to this point in the season but rest assured that once the postseason arrives, Nick Nurse will be much more selective about who he puts on the floor. The playoffs are no time for trust-building exercises, players have 82 games to build trust.

Heading into the final month and a half of the regular season, don’t expect McCaw’s role with the Raptors to change that much – his steady, albeit unspectacular play has struck a chord with Toronto’s coaching staff and made McCaw a regular in the rotation. The eventual return of Norman Powell will cut into McCaw’s minutes, sure. That said, McCaw will still likely see nightly minutes in the upper teens.

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Fans of the Raptors, instead of losing it when McCaw gets minutes, should embrace Nurse’s willingness to give players every opportunity to succeed and hone their game before postseason play. Without Kawhi Leonard to rely on this year, Toronto is going to need contributions from all its players in these playoffs, and McCaw could very well be a player counted upon to deliver the goods on one or more nights during the postseason.

By giving McCaw his fair share of regular-season opportunities, Nick Nurse is trying to ensure that the guard is playoff-ready in the event his services are needed. It’s this kind of thinking and egalitarian approach that’s going to make the Raptors a dangerous club to deal with once the regular season concludes and the real fun begins.