We all had a good laugh at the idea of Patrick McCaw as a rotation-ready player for the Raptors. In just two appearances so far this season, the 24-year-old guard has been his usual chaos-generating self, and exciting or maddening thing to watch depending on your level of patience. But now, we will not have McCaw around Toronto for... some time.
From Raptors shootaround today as reported by the Athletic’s Eric Koreen, coach Nick Nurse — who has definitely been one of the biggest McCaw boosters around — had this update to provide for McCaw after he missed last Saturday night’s game against the Bucks:
Nurse terms McCaw as out indefinitely. Meeting a specialist today to look further at his knee injury.— (((Eeriec Koreen))) (@ekoreen) November 4, 2019
That’s the same left knee injury that kept McCaw out of the Raptors’ final preseason game, and the first three games of the season. Across two subsequent games (vs. ORL and DET), McCaw is averaging 4.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.5 steals in 20 minutes per game. It’s that last number that really defines what role he currently holds on the Raptors: minutes-eater. Toronto does not need McCaw to fill the stat sheet, they just need him to play some defense (which he tries his best to do), take and make a few shots (still a work in progress), and handle as many minutes as the team needs on a given night. With a bench that currently goes two men deep (Norman Powell and Serge Ibaka), McCaw has proven to at least be able to do that last thing semi-reliably.
So, yes, while we’ve been making jokes about the McCaw Experience, the Raptors are now in a bit of trouble in the short term. Their backcourt beyond the starters is thin, and those starters — Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet — are averaging a team-high 38.8 and 37.8 minutes per game. Powell, meanwhile, has been his usual erratic self, filling in for 24.3 minutes and 7.7 points per game. After that it’s a pair of unsung names — undrafted rookie Terence Davis and shooter Matt Thomas — neither of whom can fully be trusted yet (or ever) to be the team’s lead ball-handler. Like I said, it’s a problem.
It should be mentioned here of course that even with McCaw in the fold, the Raptors are still lacking in the backcourt. The minutes load of Lowry and VanVleet is proof of that enough. The gamble the team appears to have taken by filling its roster with Kawhi-replacement wings has not borne fruit so far (e.g. Stanley Johnson is bad; Rondae Hollis-Jefferson can’t get off the bench). In time Davis could be the guy Toronto needs, and Nurse showed his faith in him early on, but those are some big shoes to fill — not McCaw’s necessarily, but that of the third guard on a playoff contending team.
Obviously this situation in Toronto bears monitoring. And it suggests the Raptors may need to look for outside help at some point. Any squad that is relying this much on McCaw to be the bridge between various five-man units may have deeper issues, no matter how good its starters are playing at any given time.