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Swingin’ Wings: Where does the rotation go from here?

The Raptors are finally getting healthier. Will all the wings stay in the rotation?

Swingin’ Wings Toronto Raptors wing rotation: Where does the rotation go from here? OG Anunoby Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

The 2019-20 Raptors are not only defending their championship, they’re also replacing two starters at key positions on the wing. Each week on Swingin’ Wings, we’ll be tracking the progress of those possible replacements.

January 8-13

Two weeks ago, this column was filled with the exploits of Terence Davis, Patrick McCaw, and Oshae Brissett. Even Stanley Johnson got some minutes! But the Raptors are getting healthier. That means opportunities for deep bench players will dry up, and even rotation guys like Davis and McCaw will see their roles reduced.

Case in point? The Raptors only played two games since our last column, going 1-1. The first game, a hard-earned overtime win at Charlotte, saw Terence Davis break out in his first start and saw Patrick McCaw play a season-high 43 minutes.

In the second game, the Raptors lost to the Spurs — but got Norman Powell and Pascal Siakam back. McCaw played under 20 minutes for the first time since before Powell got hurt, and Davis was an icy 0-for-6 in 12.5 minutes.

Siakam and Powell are still shaking off rust, and Fred VanVleet is still sidelined. But we’re inching closer to — maybe, hopefully? — a stable wing rotation that sees everyone playing within their appropriate role.

Who did what?

OG Anunoby started both games, shot the ball well (11-for-18) and played excellent defense. I’m not sure why he didn’t play more against San Antonio, to be honest (only 29.5 minutes).

Patrick McCaw started in Charlotte, and despite a couple of bad turnovers, had one of his best games of the year, taking 10 shots, scoring 13 points and notching 11 assists. Unfortunately he followed it up with a stinker against the Spurs, where he was a team-worst -18 in only 19.5 minutes.

Norman Powell replaced McCaw in the starting lineup for that game. Norm was a step slow on defense all night, and made a very Norm Powell bad pass in transition late, but he shot the heck out of the ball, going 4-for-7 from downtown.

After getting called out by Nick Nurse, Terence Davis started at the three in Charlotte, and had his best overall game as a pro — 23 points, 11 boards, five assists. Unfortunately he couldn’t make it two in a row. He missed all five three-pointers he took against the Spurs, and boy, could the Raptors have used one or two of those.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson split his time once again between the three and the four, and was his usual energetic self on the boards, and once again seemed to ratchet up the degree of difficulty on his own shots under the hoop. I see some nice chemistry developing between he and Lowry, though, which is great to see.

It looks like Matt Thomas might be finding a consistent role in the offense. He’s been back for three games, played 15, 14, and 16 minutes, and shot the ball six, nine (career high) and six times. Overall he was 6-for-17 from three, perhaps still shaking off some rust, but I love seeing him get up that many attempts.

Oshae Brissett got into both games, but didn’t make an impact on the box score; the same can be said of Stanley Johnson, who played seven minutes in Charlotte but didn’t play against San Antonio. Malcolm Miller did not play.

Wing Stat of the Week: .800

That’s what OG Anunoby shot from downtown last week: 80%. Sure, it was only two games and he only took five threes, but hey, it’s a heck of a number!

Seriously though, OG has turned his shooting around. After a prolonged slump from November 29 through December 29 that saw him shoot under 20% from downtown, he’s shot 58% over the past five games, on 3.2 attempts per game. That will surely regress, but Siakam and Powell back to draw defenders, Anunoby should continue to get good looks and hopefully that number stabilizes to a consistent, league-average-or-above number.

Wing Highlight of the Week:

Terence Davis had a number of impressive plays against Charlotte, including a late dunk, a big three in OT, and a nice look-ahead pass to OG Anunoby in transition.

But who doesn’t love a good dunk, with an and-1 for good measure?

What are the Wings Saying?

Terence Davis said all the right things after Nick Nurse called him out for poor play following last week’s game against Portland:

As a player, that’s the way you should want it. You shouldn’t want a coach sugar-coating things, just straightforward and to the point. That’s coaching to me. I love it.

And, perhaps presaging his poor shooting night in San Antonio, here’s Davis on confidence:

I try not to get too high or too low on myself, because in this league confidence is key. You have confidence, you have a nice night or a good game, especially as a young guy, that brings you [more] confidence and that’s something I try to keep, going into games and back-to-back games and things of that sort. Having confidence to take that next shot is something a young player like me needs.

What’s Coach Saying?

After the Spurs game, Nick Nurse spoke about the playmaking responsibilities from the wing position:

If it was a normal situation, Fred would’ve been out there, right, taking a little bit of the burden off moving Kyle under the zone, whatever, but he wasn’t, but... you know, Norm’s a good player, Pat’s a good player, it’s not like it’s fallen off a cliff. Those guys are capable enough to stay in there and we did enough to have a chance to win that game.

What are the Rest of Us Saying?

You’re not going to believe this, but Raptors Twitter was once again... confused by Patrick McCaw’s continued presence in the Raptors’ rotation on Sunday.

Wingman of the Week: OG Anunoby

Bit of a tough week for this award, with only two games and the team looking so different in both. But OG Anunoby was consistently good across the two games, with the hot shooting mentioned above and the solid defense as well. I think his winning this would have been a no brainer had he been given a few more second-half minutes against San Antonio; he played excellent defense on DeMar DeRozan (limiting him to two points in 14.5 possessions as the primary defender), and shot the ball well on the other end (3-for-5 on the night).

In any event, in a short week, OG Anunoby was the most consistent Raptors wing player and that’s good enough for the Wing of the Week!