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Player Review: Patrick McCaw, three-time NBA champion

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McCaw was a mid-season pickup known for a couple of things: playing solid perimeter defense... and winning titles. His play on the Raptors kept at least one of those things intact.

NBA: Finals-Golden State Warriors at Toronto Raptors John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick McCaw is one of the most unique players in professional basketball history. Rodger Sherman of The Ringer found that McCaw is one of seven players in NBA history to win three straight titles to start his career and the only one to do it with two different teams. So, yeah, Patrick McCaw is an outlier. And how he got to this point with the Raptors is frankly a little weird too.

His Toronto Beginnings

The 23-year-old guard let his qualifying offer from the Golden State Warriors expire, without signing it. Apparently, his agents urged him not to. But then, he finally signed a deal with the Cavaliers in December—a non-guaranteed 2-year deal that the Warriors did not match. Three games later, he was waived. And on January 10, he landed north of the American border with the eventual NBA champion Raptors. (Feels good to read, doesn’t it? Feels good to write, too.)

“Hopefully he can space and attack, and handle the ball — and he can defend. Those are the things he’s supposed to be able to do,” Nick Nurse told reporters after the signing. “I think he sees the game pretty well from what I’ve watched, film-wise. He’s a little bit of a risk-taker defensively, but that’s okay. We like that. So, we’ll just see. We’ll throw him in there, play the one, two, three — wherever he fits in.”

So, let’s take a look at that then.

Offense?

In 26 regular season contests for the Raptors, McCaw averaged 2.7 points in 13.2 minutes. He shot very little—44 percent on 2.1 attempts per game, 33 percent on less than one three attempt per game—and averaged 1.0 assists to 0.5 turnovers a game. So, McCaw didn’t make much of a positive impact on Toronto’s offense.

McCaw’s main use was on the defensive end, and we know this because of how he was used in the playoffs. So, let’s take a look at those minutes.

Defense and Playoff Usage

Everyone remembers the Nick Nurse sales pitch: He’s not afraid to tinker. And tinker with Patrick McCaw, he did. McCaw was hurt at the end of the year, and missed the first three games of the Orlando series. He played three garbage time minutes in Game 4, and eight minutes in Game 5. He played a total of about 25 minutes over Games 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6 of the Philly series to a, uh, mixed effect. From there, McCaw moved to the inactive list for the Milwaukee series, and we would later learn that Patrick’s older brother unfortunately passed away. Be well, Patrick.

Nurse returned to McCaw after he came back for the NBA Finals in short two-minute spurts. These minutes came at the end of halves and quarters in the Norman Powell (or Jodie Meeks) role: Nurse wanted stops on defense, often forced to go to McCaw because of inane foul trouble. Unfortunately, McCaw did not provide defense. It had happened in the Philly series a few times when McCaw was tasked to guard Jimmy Butler, and against Golden State this trouble continued.

In his 12:35 played in the NBA Finals across four games (1, 3, 4, and 5), McCaw was a combined -14. They were sometimes momentum stopper-minutes and might’ve given away Game 5. But I’m being a downer. So, let’s talk about his best Finals game. Game 1.

Disregard the bad shot—we can do that now, selectively, one time—and we can see what McCaw provided this team: A capital-G Good assist to Fred VanVleet for one of his numerous threes, and then a shot-clock buzzer-beating three that counts as one of my, like, five favourite individual jump shots of the whole playoff run. (1. Kawhi you-know-when; 2. Serge pull-up earlier in Game 7; 3. All of Game 6 Finals Kyle; and then this.)

The Future for Pat McCaw

The Raptors are NBA champions, and Patrick McCaw’s ability to eat up regular season minutes to the It’s Fine-th degree was valuable. His minutes occasionally showed some value in the playoffs. He’s not a key Raptors rotation piece going forward next year. He’s a depth piece, an end-of-the-bench kind of guy that has some future value over, say, Jodie Meeks for example. The Raps hold his restricted free agency rights, and I wonder how big the market is for him this time. He might have to sign his qualifying offer this time.

We’ll see how restricted free agency goes but if Patrick McCaw is back next season, I look forward to writing this piece about four-time NBA champion Patrick McCaw this time next year. That’s how this works, right?