The Toronto Raptors have had a busy 24 hours! In that short span they sent out five different players from their active roster, and added... only one?
With the various deals sending Malachi Richardson, Greg Monroe, C.J. Miles, Delon Wright and Jonas Valanciunas out of town, and only netting Marc Gasol in return, the Raptors currently only have 10 players on their roster. They need to fill a minimum of three spots, and have 14 days to do so; logic would dictate they’ll fill the 14th spot too, in order to protect themselves from injury.
The good news is, the 10 players remaining are quality rotation players, and the starter-backup rotation mainly makes sense:
Point guard: Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet
Shooting guard: Danny Green, Norman Powell
SF/Wing: Kawhi Leonard, Patrick McCaw
Power forward: Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby
Centre: Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka
Pat McCaw looks like the only real stretch here, although he’s looked decent in his minutes. Regardless, a strong playoff rotation usually runs eight players deep, sometimes nine, so McCaw won’t have much of a role in the postseason, leaving Nick Nurse to find the right mix between Powell and Anunoby for the final rotation spots.
Early reports have the Raptors still making their minds up on Gasol or Ibaka as the starting centre, and it is indeed a tough call. My initial gut reaction was that it had to be Gasol; he’s just more skilled and more solid defensively, in my mind.
But the Gasol in my mind is the Gasol of three years ago. 2019 Gasol is older, slower, and hasn’t looked healthy in two months. Ibaka is playing all-around great basketball, and has developed into a key cog in a very good starting lineup. It might make sense to maintain the status quo, at least for a little while.
Not only that, Gasol’s playmaking and shooting might be a perfect fit for a bench unit that has lacked those things and looked decidedly stagnant at times this season!
In any event I suspect the minutes breakdown between the two will be fairly even; both have proven to be more effective with more rest over the past couple of seasons, so expect each to be in the 22-26 minute range when healthy.
For the rest of the roster, we might see a slight uptick in Powell’s minutes, and probably McCaw’s in the short term. Without a third point guard, we might see less of the VanVleet-Lowry backcourt together, in an effort to keep their minutes down, especially with Lowry’s back troubles; Powell might get some more ball handling duties, and Leonard and Siakam have both proven capable of initiating things too.
I expect Pascal and Kawhi to be around 35 minutes a night for the rest of the way, and a more defined roster construction might actually help OG Anunoby settle into a role and rescue his mostly-lost season.
As for what’s still needed? Insurance, mainly. Lowry’s not fully healthy, which means a third point guard/ballhandler is a necessity. A backup big man, who can slot in at the four or five for foul or injury insurance, is also needed.
(Jordan Loyd and Chris Boucher, Toronto’s pair of two-way players, might fit those bills.)
Beyond that the Raptors could still use a gunner off the bench — the role Miles never quite filled, especially not this season.
We’ll have a breakdown of potential buyout candidates coming soon, so until then, let us know in the comments how you think the roster is shaking out and what Masai Ujiri should be targeting on the buyout market!