How the Raptors can get the most out of Dalano Banton in 2022-23

Oct 9, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard Dalano Banton (45) celebrates after scoring against the Chicago Bulls at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 9, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard Dalano Banton (45) celebrates after scoring against the Chicago Bulls at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports /

Rexdale’s hometown hero was one of the best-kept secrets of the 2022 NBA Draft class. Toronto Raptors point guard Dalano Banton is a unique player in the NBA. How many 6-9 defense-first point guards wearing No. 45 are out there in the NBA? All that, combined with his roots in the city, made Banton one of the most beloved Raptors.

Because of his strange mix of talents, Banton’s evolution as a basketball player has been a bit of a roller coaster. He’s had a few filthy statlines and a few dominant stretches mixed with a clear lack of polish and experience. He still has a ways to go, but after only one year in the NBA, the progress Banton has made is nothing to sniff at.

You can see it in the way he played in the G League, as well as his FIBA AmeriCup runs. He’s becoming more decisive as a scorer and attacking the rim while taking on both the role of a primary ball handler and improving his three-point jump shot.

However many minutes you think he deserves, Banton has become too good to be relegated to the G League. A team like Toronto with a coach and president that both share a love of roster experimentation, a player with the size, skills, and versatility of Banton fits their direction perfectly.

The Toronto Raptors must keep developing Dalano Banton

Doubling down on their forward-first, length-and-strength philosophy has allowed the Raptors to become an amorphous Rubik’s Cube of basketball combinations both offensively and defensively. However, since the departure of Kyle Lowry in 2021, the Raptors’ guard rotation has been a tad thin.

When Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. have to sit, the team really starts to feel that lack of guard depth. That’s where someone like Banton can help, not to be a primary ball handler, or even to initiate plays for the bench unit, but to be a combo guard to help relieve some of the stress of the starters shoulders.

The thing that sets Banton apart now that had previously kept him off the active roster is the jump shot. Formerly a non-factor from beyond the arc, Banton has made strides in that department to the point that he now, at the very least, has to be respected from out there (35% in the month of November).

Banton’s height and passing vision may have fans dreaming of a day when he’ll play point guard, but he’s still too loose with the ball and prone to turnovers to allow him to run the offense for any serious stretch. He’s not quite secure enough to play PG just yet, but not strong enough to stack up against pro wings. A rare tweener.

The next step for Banton is either to put on enough weight to be able to play the wing, or to tighten his ball security enough to be more of an on-ball option. With Malachi Flynn’s future not secure, decisions will be made around the future of the bench backcourt.

How will the Toronto Raptors use Dalano Banton?

Once the roster heals and Toronto has all its players back on the court, Banton will see his minutes dip. Still, the value he’s shown as a creator off the bench has cemented his station in the Raptors rotation this year.

The scoring and usage rate we saw on his career-high night (27 points vs. Detroit) won’t happen when the All-Stars return, but it’s not like Banton is going to fade away into the background.

Excluding the starters, the Raptors’ most healthy bench rotation is Precious Achiuwa, Thaddeus Young, Chris Boucher, Otto Porter Jr, Christian Koloko, and Banton. For the remainder of the year, Banton should be used as a secondary creator for a bench unit featuring one starter.

It’s an oddly specific role, and it may seem inconsequential, but remember how it was last year. Fred VanVleet was worn down by the end of the year, and the starters weren’t as good at creating offense for themselves. Someone needs to fill that PG2 role.

No, he’s not ready to initiate the offense, but Banton’s growth on that end has not only opened up his game, but has helped the Raptors’ bench become much more formidable this season.

Heck, these days, the bench is starting and the team is still over .500.

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