We’ve debated one way and the other as to how the Raptors should approach this season. On the one hand, why not go all out and try to defend the 2019 NBA title? On the other, with the disappearance of Kawhi Leonard, it may be more important to just have some fun and luxuriate in those golden memories.
For our purposes, we can do a little of both, and as our coverage so far this season has shown, we’re trying to review how things are going at the top (see next Tuesday’s Whose Team Is It Anyway?), what’s happening in the middle (Swingin’ Wings), the currents from week to week (the returning Toronto Temperature), how the come up is going with the 905 (Prospect Report and Dial 905 coming soon), and even some fantasy takes (Fantasy HQ).
In all this, especially given the Raptors’ current roster construction, we must turn our attention to the back half of the roster, players nine all the way down to 17 (yes, 17!). If you watched the Raptors’ season opener against the Pelicans on Tuesday, you may have noticed (after the championship banner was unveiled, the rings were doled out, the game was played and won, and we all got a chance to cheer and such) that only eight of Toronto’s players got on the court.
This is worth considering — and, as you can see here, monitoring. Thus we begin our new Thursday afternoon tradition, the End of Bench Chronicles, in which we consider all the players beyond the Raptors’ 8-man rotation template established in game number one. For the next 81 contests and however many weeks, trust will be gained or lost, events will transpire, and these players will need inspiration for the trials ahead to claim that 8th spot — if it can indeed be seized.
Now, let us begin.
Eighth Man Title Holder
Trust Meter: 10 out of 10 — An undrafted rookie is the Raptors’ eighth man now and it’s working.
Happenings: Davis had a strong preseason, capped off by a 10-2-2 outing against the Nets last Friday. Then he got a 15-minute turn off the bench in the Raptors’ home opener, no small feat. That he managed to show a bit of what he can do (5-5-2 with one slick pass on the movie) is a testament to his ability as it stands right now.
Hard to believe Terence Davis went undraftedpic.twitter.com/s4DWAFJlZS— Draft Lead (@Draft_Lead) October 23, 2019
Inspiration: None needed, and in fact this prompt will not last beyond this week, just FYI. Carry on!
Roster Roll Call
Trust Meter: 8 out of 10, inexplicably.
Happenings: Nothing. McCaw has been injured since before the end of preseason and the word right now is that he’s questionable for Friday’s game against the Celtics. If you buckled into McCaw’s minutes last season, you’re aware of his, uh, questionable game as it stands. The preseason did very little to dissuade me that his ranking as of right now is a bit bizarre.
Inspiration: McCaw really is an inspiration to himself, at this point. He got to start yet another season with a ring celebration and is now 3-for-3 on that particular count. Any time he’s feeling doubts, he can just tell himself he always wins. Nothing more inspiring than that.
Trust Meter: 6 out of 10
Happenings: Nothing. Like McCaw, RHJ stands as the most rotation-ready player on the Raptors who also happened to get injured at the end of the preseason. He hasn’t played at all this week (though it sometimes feels amazing Hollis-Jefferson is not injured more often considering how chaotic his style of play actually is).
Inspiration: Let’s go with Quicksilver from his appearance in Days of Future Past. Does that make sense?
Trust Meter: 6 out of 10
Happenings: So as it turns out Thomas was healthy, but only got 10 minutes of run in the Raptors’ final preseason game against the Nets. He put in nine points in that time and looks solid on offense as both a shooter and semi-playmaker. Unfortunately, his coach Nick Nurse called him out on the defensive end, multiple times.
Inspiration: Alex Wong gets the nod here for talking us all into the Matt Thomas Experience, and for walking the walk in his own life. Thomas, if you can believe this, can learn from Wong’s ascendancy in the writing scene.
Trust Meter: 2 out of 10
Happenings: Johnson got to play against the Nets last Friday too but he still has absolutely zero touch on the offensive end. Who can forget the play when he had an open lane to the basket, a presumptive easy dunk for his massive arms to throw down, and he managed to bobble the ball on the way? It can only get better from here.
Inspiration: Not Joey Graham.
Trust Meter: 4 out of 10
Happenings: Boucher got back to doing Boucher things this past week — but it didn’t help him get any minutes in games that actually counted. I’m not sure where he goes this week, as it’s clear his defensive acumen and physicality are still lacking. The Raptors are invested though, so there’s that.
Inspiration: There’s no way Boucher would actually enjoy Vulfpeck (that’s me, I enjoy them) but there’s something about the combo of joy, technique, and video storytelling here that feels like it would jive with him spiritually.
Trust Meter: 4 out of 10
Happenings: He made the team! Over the past weekend, Miller was brought in as a full-time rostered member of the Raptors. That’s good, as it means he likely won’t be spending much time in Mississauga still trying to prove himself. Considering it seemed distinctly possible that he wouldn’t make the team at all, this is quite a turn of events.
Inspiration: Look to Jim Halpert, keep the mood light, and just keep going.
Trust Meter: 1 out of 10
Happenings: Seven rebounds in a fake game is not nothing!
Inspiration: Hernandez can stay inspired by remembering Nurse’s words about a possible January-February call-up. I suspect he’ll remain down here at 1-out-of-10 until then. Sorry, Dewan.
Did the Two-Wayers Play?
Consider this a weekly bonus question in which we track whether or not the Raptors’ two 2-way contract players made it up to the main roster for the week. We will not be reflecting on their 905 experiences here — we’ve got that covered elsewhere on the site!
Yes! For four minutes in which he put up a 2-1-2 (in a preseason game vs. the Nets, but still). Get in!
No. (In his defense though, he was not on the Raptors at the time.)