If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey plans to bet on his bench in the playoffs this year. When asked if he could play his 10-11 man deep rotations the same way in the postseason, Casey stumbled over a why wouldn’t I?
“We are going to find out,” Casey said after his bench beat up on the Wizards in Washington on Friday night. “The goal is to find out. Why not? What’s our record right now?
“Why change because of some rule book somewhere, if you find it, please send it to me cause I’ve been on some teams where you keep the same rotation.”
The Toronto bench hasn’t just been good this season. They’ve been outstanding and the eye test says they’ve been getting better as the season has moved along. But don’t just trust your eyes, the numbers confirm the five-man bench Casey rotates in is the best five-man unit in the entire NBA that have played at least 100 minutes together this season. In 207 minutes over 22 games, C.J. Miles, Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright have a top three offensive rating of 121, a top six defensive rating of 94.7 and a league best net rating of +26.3.
Now no one is going to confuse the Raptors bench unit with the offensive powerhouses in Golden State or Houston that lead the NBA in offensive ratings, but on most nights they are destroying their opponent’s second unit and are often giving the opposing starters brought in to stop the bleeding a rough time.
As Casey rotates in his bench mob, the pace of play picks up, the ball moves faster and opponents often struggle to adjust. As a result, the Raptors dominate the second and fourth quarters.
Toronto is the league’s best second quarter team with a net rating of +14. The next best second quarter team in the East is Charlotte at +4.5.
Toronto also has the best fourth quarter net at rating +8.7. The Celtics are second best at +7.3.
In February, these second unit guys were closing games out for the Raptors.
“We’ve been calling ourselves the best bench in the league all year… I really believe that” – CJ
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) March 3, 2018
“We take a lot of pride in coming in off the bench and changing games,” C.J. Miles said.
The Raptors starting unit that has featured rookie OG Anunoby 44 times hasn’t exactly been terrible as they’ve posted a very respectable +12.1 net rating, but the bench can take at least some of the credit for the starters success as they’ve often been the guys to put their opponent on its heels.
Anyone who has followed the Raptors under Casey and president Masai Ujiri shouldn’t be surprised by a commitment to the young guys coming off the bench or a rookie in the starting unit. Player development has been front and center in each of the Raptors playoff runs under their management. The difference this time is, this bench looks like they’re ready to make an impact.