Toronto Raptors: Expectations for each bench player going into 2021

Toronto Raptors - Norman Powell (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Norman Powell (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /
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Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors – Boucher and Thomas (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

Power Forward/ Center – Chris Boucher

The former G-League MVP and Defensive Player of the Year will finally be looking to make his impact on the NBA stage. Chris Boucher did play minutes in the NBA in the past, but they were fairly limited. With an increased role waiting for him, the stage is set for Boucher to show his full potential.

Boucher was used as a Center last season, and the acquisition of Len tells us that Boucher will be playing a lot more power forward this season– the position he was playing when he won MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. So Boucher will most likely take Siakam’s minutes when he does go off.

Although no one can replace what Siakam does on the court offensively, Boucher does still bring value to that end. He’s a willing three-point shooter whose percentage can get better. He shot the three at a 53 percent rate in the bubble’s regular-season games and that’s an indicator of Boucher’s capability. That number is not sustainable, but it wouldn’t seem preposterous to suggest that Boucher is capable of shooting 36-37 percent from three during a whole season.

If his shot does get to that range, it will also help the Raptors’ pick and pop situation tremendously. Boucher is already a good roller off the pick and roll; the addition of a good three-point shot will make him much more unpredictable after a pick. He will have the luxury to pop more often (go to the three-point line after a pick) after screening, which would bring much-needed variability in their halfcourt offense.

Defensively, Boucher is a very versatile defender that can guard the 1-5. He provides good rim protection while being able to guard smaller guards as well off switches. He is also among one of the leaders in three-point shots block — something only a handful of players are capable of doing.

Boucher’s biggest flaw on defense is his fouling. Boucher is very foul prone and that alone can keep him off the court. If he can fix that, then there’s not much else to worry about on defense for Boucher.

With Boucher playing a bigger role this season. Boucher must improve his three-point shooting and fouling tendencies to be a key piece of the Raptors rotation. If not, he’ll still be a good energy player to have off the bench that can catch opposing teams off guard — like when he played power forward in the historic 30 point comeback win against the Mavericks.

Shooting Guard – Matt Thomas

The most efficient three-point shooter on the Toronto Raptors roster. Despite it being on a low number of shots (only 99 threes were taken), no one can take away how good a shooter Matt Thomas is. Unfortunately, his defense was enough of a weak point for Nurse to keep him off the court. Thomas does try hard on defense but is limited on what he can do as an on-ball defender; making him an easy target for opposing teams.

What he brings on offense, however, can still outweigh his liabilities on defense. The attention he draws behind the arc is like no other player on the team; that’d be important in maximizing the Raptors’ star player Siakam — a player who does most of his scoring in the paint. Nurse did this for a few minutes a game in the Celtics series to have him stretch the floor in an attempt to help get Siakam going.

Maximizing Siakam’s game isn’t the only thing the Raptors would benefit from having Thomas on. He has shown that he is deadly off dribble hand-offs and coming off screens. So it wouldn’t be crazy to see him in a Redick-like role. If plays are run for Thomas the way it was run for Redick by the 76ers (at a lower rate), that can be one way of improving their poor half-court offense — the Raptors were ranked 17th in points per play in half-court offense last season.

Even if it’s just 10-12 minutes per game, those will be very important minutes. He will always have an impact on the game even if he isn’t scoring. Matt Thomas only played 41 games last season averaging just 11 minutes per game. Expect the number of minutes to stay around the same, but the number of games to increase.

It isn’t often teams have a 48 percent three-point shooter in their arsenal and Nurse needs to start taking advantage.