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Are The Raptors Showcasing Players For A Trade?

Over the past month Raptors head coach Dwane Casey can be excused for going deeper into his bench than he’d like with all the injuries he has been forced to contend with, but that doesn’t explain why he’s back to going 11 or 12 men deep in tight winnable games against subpar competition. His substitutions recently beg the question, are the Raptors showcasing players for a potential trade?

All those extra bodies sure didn’t help Toronto pull out wins against the Magic, two recent losses of 114-113 and 102-94, or the Timberwolves, a 112-109 loss. Even Casey admits it’s hard to play so many guys.

“It’s hard to play so many guys,” Casey said after the win over the Clippers on Monday. “I know everybody wants to see everybody play, but it’s hard in a rotation to try and get our rotation back.

“Really, realistically we are only going to be able to play 9, possibly 10 max as the year goes on when everybody is healthy.”

So why is Casey playing 11 or 12 guys? Who is this “everybody” who wants to see everybody play? It’s kind of vague, especially when the only person who could possibly convince Casey to go deeper into his bench than he’d like is his boss, president Masai Ujiri.

In Minnesota, with the Raptors up by just 6 points and 1.6 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, Casey brings in a 10th man in Jared Sullinger. In theory it cost the Raptors nothing. In practice it sent Jonas Valanciunas, who was shooting 7-7, to the bench and helps limit him to just 26 minutes in a game where he was very effective.

So maybe Casey was just trying to get Sullinger some playing time as there is still hope the big guy can get into playing shape in time for the postseason? But, it wasn’t doing anything to help the Raptors win this game. Sullinger went 0-2 for 0 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 turnovers in 6 minutes. Not that it would be reasonable to expect a guy coming back from injury to produce much in 6 minutes after sitting on the bench for the first half.

Then about 5 minutes into the fourth quarter, Casey subs in Norman Powell for the first time in the game as an 11th man. At this point both Cory Joseph and Terrence Ross had done a reasonable job off the bench and could have stayed in the game/ one would have stayed in the game in a tight rotation.

Powell has earned playing time during his limited number of appearances as a starter this season, but to bring him off the bench midway thru the 4th quarter without a good reason produced an almost inevitable result. Ice-cold Powell went 0-0 from the field with just a turnover to prove he was there.

“We got to have 7 or 8 guys,” Casey said postgame in Minnesota. “If we can’t play 9, we can’t play 9, but 7 or 8 who are going to play hard together.”

To whom is Casey’s message directed? He been saying an effective rotation is 8 or 9 players and maybe 10 since he arrived in Toronto, so his comments are consistent. No one in the media seems to be disagreeing with him either. This isn’t the Lottery team he started with in 2011. If he wants to put winning ahead of player development and rehabbing injuries, he isn’t going to get a lot of flak from the press.

The possibility of an inconsistent rotation has been there since the start of the season when Ujiri let several veterans walk and added three rookies to an already young roster. It’s really hard for young players to develop sitting on the bench and stints in the NBA D-League can only help so much. Unfortunately, player development and deep playoff runs are not compatible goals.

If as Casey says there are aspirations of becoming a championship contender, then at some point, preferably soon, the Raptors need to settle on a tight rotation that can win games.

If what’s been going on has been a show to help Ujiri upgrade the roster for the postseason, it would certainly help explain the inconsistencies between what their head coach says he needs to do and what he’s been doing lately.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.




One thought on “Are The Raptors Showcasing Players For A Trade?

  1. Baker

    Great Article!! As I’ve watched Casey go deep into the bench, none of the experts have written this is showcase time and the only explanation why you sit a champion backup pg from the Spurs and put in a rookie pg is to showcase the talent for a trade. CJ has played poorly, but tell me : has Demarre or Ross played any better?

    Demarre mechanically is not fluid in anything he does, dripplng, shot, driving and his game begs for a trade before he gets hurt. Guys whose movement is not fluid get hurt because others defending them aren’t expecting that kind of unorthodox movement, so they collide. Problem is he’s stronger than Ross and Powell at just the right height for defence purposes so can’t fault Casey for keeping him in there. He should have a shorter leash with shot count and his defence is only there 35% of the time, he’s too busy focused on his horrible fashion line. His sense of fashion gives you a sense of what’s going on in his mind. Get rid of the locks and that five pounds of hair disappearing give him greater vertical height on his shot. He’s too worried about fixing that hair strand that pops out to focus on what to do next on the court. I cringe every time he touches the ball.

    Ross’s problems are obviously between the ears. His mechanics are beautiful to watch, how he creates separation, gets by people, floats Kobe or Jordan’ esque like with his jumper. He’s afraid of contact and instead of going strong within 6 ft of the rim, he always shuffles of a “pretty” pass that ain’t too pretty when it ends in a turnover. Jerry Stackhouse seemed to really help his game, no doubt in my mind. They need stack back just for T Ross, that or get him a sports shrink.

    Grew up in an era when point guards averaged 10 assist, and the fact that in his best years Kyle Lowry is barely at 7, speaks either to people around him not making shots or him taking too many for himself. Lost count how many times JV gets a pass within ft of the basket from Kyle and screws it up by not finishing strong or Kyle passing to an open specialist in Ross and he misses or the starting power power forward being useless to; kyles lower assists is a function mainly of lower personal around him causing him to feel he has to hog the ball sometimes. JV+ Ross+no power forward and horrible 3 fg% by Demarre cost Lowry 5 assists a game at a minimum.

    JV spends so much time flailing, throwing his arms around that it takes away from his game. Mechanically he’s fair offensively but sometimes too slow figuring out his post move. Defensively poor. The Raptors haven’t had a front court guy they can throw it to for a lob finishing powerfully in a long time and this hurts them a lot.

    Demar lets the ball get stuck in his hands sometimes, but I figure his assist totals are what they are because there’s no one to really pass it too on the inside, just like Lowry.

    Bottom line something needs to happen with this team via trade because current form ain’t going anywhere. A power forward who can put up points would make this team scary better than it is offensively. Morris is the primary reason Washington has turned the corner, I felt the raptors missed big time not getting him. Averaging 20, 8 reb, 45% from 3, tear off the rim when he needs to.

    Masai hasn’t really made a big move since he arrived. Getting rid of Bargnani was part of the job description to start. Patterson from Sacramento was luck. A second round pick like Powell is pure luck too. The argentine PF was a flop, sullinger a flop, Demarre a flop. Noguerria was a work in progress at the end of its string. Biyombo was one positive. We need to see a shrewd move out of the GM

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