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Swingin’ Wings: The Raptors continue to search for answers

Injuries have forced Nick Nurse to employ some unconventional lineups. Who’s been standing out over the past week from the wing?

Swingin’ Wings Toronto Raptors wing rotation: Searching for wing answers, Oshae Brissett Photo by Vaughn Ridley/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 1-7

It was another exciting and eventful week for the Toronto Raptors and their cadre of wing players. The Raptors went 1-2, which is not so exciting, but as injuries have mounted (also not exciting, but eventful), Nick Nurse has experimented with different combinations of players to find something that works (exciting and eventful!).

Let’s see who stepped up and who’s in the doghouse.

Who did what?

Fred VanVleet started at the two against Miami and Brooklyn, but a hamstring issue kept him out against Portland. VanVleet, like everyone else, struggled in Miami but he caught fire in Brooklyn.

Patrick McCaw started all three games, and shifted down a spot for Portland in VanVleet’s absence. This moved OG Anunoby, who also started all three games, down to the SF spot and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson got the nod at PF. I wrote about this in my five thoughts from last night, but I’d rather the team start Hollis-Jefferson-Anunoby at the 3-4 than Anunoby-McCaw.

Terence Davis had an off week; he played in all three games, but saw his three lowest minute totals since Norman Powell got hurt. He only shot 4-for-13 on the week.

Oshae Brissett got a DNP in Miami but then resumed his strong play against Brooklyn. Then he went out and had a career night against Portland — 12 points on nine shots with six rebounds, in 22 minutes.

Iceman Matt Thomas finally made his return to the lineup on Tuesday, and came in with a little more aggression than I expected. He got up six shots in his fifteen minutes (all from downtown), tying his season high.

Stanley Johnson got a real look from Nick Nurse this week, and wasn’t a complete embarrassment... except for when he revealed on Open Gym that he thinks “dressing nice” means wearing sweatpants. Serge Ibaka: Unimpressed.

Norman Powell remains on the injured list. Malcolm Miller was a DNP-CD outside of a few garbage time seconds against Brooklyn.

Wing Stat of the Week: 4

That’s how many three-point attempts Stanley Johnson took last night against Portland. Four!

I’ll admit I’m torn on this. First, Johnson hit two of them, so that’s a net positive. Second, in this Raptors offense, players should be shot ready, and willing to take threes when they’re open and the ball comes to them.

On the other hand... Johnson is a career 29% three point shooter. This really isn’t a shot you want Johnson taking.

Unless this is the start of a new phase of Johnson’s career as a deep threat, four is probably too many.

Wing Highlight of the Week:

How about a little two-highlights-in-one-clip action? Rondae and Oshae, take it away:

I do, indeed, love it.

What are the Wings Saying?

Fred VanVleet, on playing against the Miami zone:

It definitely changed the rhythm of the game. I think it put us on our heels a little bit, but we had our times when we executed and we got layups and we got wide-open shots, and we had out times we were stagnant, so it worked, I guess, if you just read the stat sheet. But out there on the floor I thought we were in pretty goo shape, I just thought we... didn’t run most of our normal stuff, we just kinda adjusted as the game went on. But I thought we did a good job of creating shots and some of ‘em didn’t go in... but we can do a better job of creating more opportunities for sure.

Matt Thomas, on watching the shooting debacle in Miami:

It’s hard to sit out, it’s even harder to sit out as a shooter when we’re struggling like that. That’ll never happen again, going 6-for-42 (smiles). I mean we were getting good looks, it was just one of those nights and our shots didn’t fall. Like I said, I’m just ready to get back out there and help the team any way I can.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, on Kyle Lowry’s inspired play against the Nets:

I love it. Me and Kyle, we’re from the same area, that’s how we play basketball and that’s how we get after it. Kyle got a problem with anybody, I got a problem too so I got his back at all times no matter what. That’s how the game should be played. At the end of the day we’re just playing basketball but that can make it a little more fun, you know.

What’s Coach Saying?

TSN’s Josh Lewenberg asked Nick Nurse about Terence Davis II only playing eight minutes against the Trail Blazers, and coach didn’t hold back:

He’s not playing very well, Josh. I know you’re watching the games, right, he’s not playing very well. It was probably five (minutes) too many.

Tough look for Davis, who was our wingman of the week just last week! Coach Nurse has generally pushed the right buttons for his players all year. We’ll see how TDII responds

On a more positive note, coach had good things to say about Oshae Brissett:

I think he’s got a good demeanour. I think he’s a pretty calm guy in general, and he really stays within himself, right, he’s really just trying to hustle, play D, rebound and play rhythm offense if it comes to him, you know he’s gonna take the shot if he’s open, and if he’s got the ball and he doesn’t see something he likes he gets off it. It’s important to have guys like that.

What are the Rest of Us Saying?

Patrick McCaw, as you might expect, drew much ire for his ill-timed turnover against the Blazers:

Wingman of the Week: Oshae Brissett

No one had three great games this week, and the shooting in particular was not great. But what Oshae Brissett has been doing is eye-opening. I don’t think anyone expected him to play any meaningful minutes this season, but in the past two weeks he’s averaging almost 16 a night. It’s still not clear to me why he didn’t play against Miami, but in Brooklyn he brought tons of energy (and went 4-of-4 from the free throw line) and against Portland he had has best statistical night as a pro.

As Nick Nurse searches for answers, it seems like he’s found one in Brissett. I expect he’ll fall back into 12th man territory when the Raptors are healthy, but it’s great to see yet another undrafted gem make a mark on the Raptors.