Absolutely no one should be surprised, Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey trusts veteran big man Luis Scola to fill in at center with Jonas Valanciunas out for an indeterminate time.
“We could go small also with Luis (Scola),” Casey said. “That’s something we worked on today just until Lucas (Nogueira) gets back in, gets in. Bismack (Biyombo) gives us a different look and Luis at the five gives us a different look, so there’s a few ways we can go in that situation. We can’t change everything. The good thing about it is Luis has been getting run at the five.
“Luis is very versatile. Patrick (Patterson), DeMarre Carroll at the four, AB (Anthony Bennett) got some run, James Johnson at the four, so there’s a lot of different variables we can have at the four and the five.”
Like virtually every head coach in any league, Casey trusts veterans and he should. He knows what he’ll get from Scola. Scola will rebound at either the four or the five and be effective. He’ll play solid positional defense. Scola will be where he is supposed to be and he’ll quarterback the defense for everyone else. Plus, unlike Biyombo, Scola can run every type of offensive set Casey could want from a big man including pulling the opposing center out of the paint to guard the three-point line. Casey saying Scola is versatile is an understatement.
While there are a still handful of centers in the NBA who can push Scola around on defense there really aren’t that many left and most of those won’t be able to guard Scola playing in a stretch-five role. The Raptors will miss Valanciunas, but this team has played most of their best ball in “small ball” lineups again this season. There are few to no excuses for the Raptors to not play well while Valanciunas is out.
As is so often the case in the NBA, things can change in a heartbeat. Jonas Valanciunas goes down with a broken bone in his left hand in a game against the Lakers and head coach Dwane Casey’s first thought after finding out is bring up Nogueira.