2. Use a ten-man rotation.
In 2020, the Raptors were known for the slogan “Next man up.” It disappeared in 2022, as Toronto had the least used and least productive bench in the NBA. Nurse, who played mainly eight players most nights in the recently completed season, made mention of this concern in end-of-season interviews.
"“You can’t go into a season with eight or nine guys anymore,”"
With the return of Chris Boucher and Thaddeus Young, one more year of experience for Achiuwa, and the addition of Otto Porter, Nurse must use a 10-man rotation. It may have been by necessity or a coach who trusts his veterans implicitly to the team’s detriment, but Nurse must distribute minutes to more players more consistently.
The overuse of the Toronto Raptors’ starters was dramatic in 2022.
In 2022, the Raptors played five players, including Barnes, for 35 minutes or more a night, with Siakam and VanVleet getting the heaviest load.
In a late January triple-overtime 124-120 win vs. the Miami Heat, all five Raptors’ starters played over 50 minutes. It was a testament to the overall fitness level of the players on the team, but it was a precursor warning as to what would come later.
Knee problems would bother Fred VanVleet the rest of the season, and Khem Birch was already in and out of the lineup all year for similar issues.
Toronto is looking to lock up VanVleet on a significant extension, but it’s only a good investment if he’s healthy enough to play. Beyond the injury issues, keeping your star players fresh in-game leaves them with the energy to play hard late in the game.
Nurse may also find players like Malachi Flynn, Dalano Banton, and Svi Mykhailuk will have fewer stretches of inconsistent play if they know they will get opportunities and don’t need to worry about every missed pass or shot they brick.