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End of Bench Chronicles: Settling back to uncertainty

Now healthy, Toronto’s top-seven rotation is set — but the bench has been uneven as they adjust to smaller roles.

End of Bench Chronicles: The Toronto Raptors settle back to uncertainty, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

With everyone finally healthy at the top of the roster, it’s easy to overlook what’s happening at the back end of the Toronto Raptors’ rotation. The luxury of a fully healthy roster allows head coach Nick Nurse to experiment, and to play whoever’s hot or bench whoever’s cold.

And we got a lot of up and down play from the bench last week, with all-bench units giving up leads, then building them; forcing turnovers, then giving the ball away.

There’s always that argument that players play a more confident, relaxed style when they know they’re going to get minutes, and they press and stress when they know there are players behind them. That might account for some of the inconsistency we’re seeing.

Eighth Man Title Holder

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

Trust Meter: 8 out of 10

Happenings: You might be thinking, hmmm, did Rondae Hollis-Jefferson do anything notable this week to win the title?

Well, no, not really. But what you want from your bench is consistency, and guys that know their roles, and that, Rondae provides. (For the most part. That corner three attempt against the Sixers? Thankfully, an outlier — his only three-point attempt of the week.

Rondae was, of course, part of the bench unit that brought the Raptors back against the Hawks. Although Norman Powell is getting all the shine from that one, Hollis-Jefferson hauled in 10 boards, and had three assists and two steals in that contest. He also led the deep bench reserves in +/- for the week.

Roster Roll Call

Patrick McCaw

Trust Meter: 4 out of 10

Happenings: McCaw continues the receive consistent minutes despite inconsistent play; he seems to be the only deep bench player Nick Nurse trusts to play through bad stretches, even if not one single Raptors fan would trust him to handle their coffee order.

To be fair, he had plenty of good moments in the three games he played in, mainly on offense, where he seems to be getting a little more comfortable as a playmaker. Unfortunately he was a mess defensively, and now he’s got a broken nose, will likely miss at least the Knicks game on Friday, and will probably have to play with a mask for at least a few games.

Inspiration: There are two players I immediately thought of when McCaw got his bloody nose: Steve Nash, who famously played with the bloody nose in the 2007 playoffs, and Master of the Mask, Richard Hamilton. Let’s go with Nash here, because as McCaw takes on more playmaking responsibility, he should be drawing inspiration from one of the all-time masters.

Terence Davis

Trust Meter: 7 out of 10

Happenings: Terence Davis might be hitting the rookie wall. Here are his point totals from last week: 23, 0, 12, 0. His minutes similarly bounced up and down. Davis has now played 44 games, and most college seasons are in the low- to mid-30s, so Davis might be dealing with some tired legs.

The good news is that Davis is still contributing in other areas. Against the 76ers, he only got one shot off in his 13 minutes, but still pulled in six boards and had three assists.

Inspiration: Time to break through that wall, Terry! OH, YEAH.

Chris Boucher

Trust Meter: 5 out of 10

Happenings: Chris Boucher remains buried on the bench behind Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, and only managed a few minutes of garbage time in two of the team’s four games. Boucher was, however, in the middle of the raucous celebrations of Norman Powell’s hot streak against Atlanta. It’s always fun to see the bench guys go nuts when a player catches fire.

Speaking of fire, Chris also showed off this custom Roots jacket:

Inspiration: All Chris Boucher needs is just a little patience. I believe his play when Ibaka and Gasol were out proved that be can play in the NBA. And I believe he’ll get opportunities this season, even with those two ahead of him in the lineup.

Matt Thomas

Trust Meter: 4 out of 10

Happenings: Not much here, besides some garbage time against Washington and Minnesota. Thomas remains a “break glass in case of emergency” shooting threat in Nick Nurse’s back pocket.

Inspiration: How about Barry Pepper in Saving Private Ryan? I don’t think Matt quotes scripture before every shot, but a midwesterner with deadly aim who the captain/coach calls on in very specific situations? Sure.

Stanley Johnson

Trust Meter: 1 out of 10

Happenings: Garbage time? Check. Meaningful contributions? Uh, no check.

Inspiration: Not Joey Graham.

Malcolm Miller

Trust Meter: 1 out of 10

Happenings: Malcolm Miller was inactive in three of the team’s four games. I think we can safely assume Miller no longer has a role on this team.

Inspiration: I really can’t get a George Michael Bluth comp out of my head. Miller had his chance to shine, with that one start, and then... kinda fell flat on his face.

Dewan Hernandez

Trust Meter: 1 out of 10

Happenings: Dewan remains sidelined with an ankle injury, so, nada, zilch, nothing

Inspiration: Dewan Hernandez gets to hang around NBA Champion Kyle Lowry every day. This guy is already living his best life as far as I’m concerned.

Did the Two-Wayers Play?

With a fully healthy Raptors squad? Nah.