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Player Review: The ongoing mystery of Patrick McCaw

McCaw was undoubtedly one of the questionable players on the Raptors this season, yet he was treated like a key rotation guy, Let’s dig into why.

Indiana Pacers v Toronto Raptors Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Patrick McCaw. Pat. Patty Ice. Patty Three Rings. Hat-trick McCaw.

It was a strange, frustrating season for McCaw, and at the core of it was an ongoing mystery that plagued the minds of Raptors fans. That mystery, of course, surrounded the significant playing time that McCaw received.

With all of the injuries that the Raptors sustained this season, opportunities were apparent for even the fringiest of fringe guys on the roster. The strange thing is that McCaw did not need injuries to find his way into Toronto’s rotation. Early in the season, head coach Nick Nurse constantly repeated that he had eight guys that he liked. It quickly became evident that McCaw was one of those eight.

Yes, Patrick McCaw was grouped in with the likes of Serge Ibaka and Norman Powell from the start of the season. You don’t exactly have to be Zach Lowe to see that he didn’t quite belong with them, however. Nonetheless, he had more than enough chance to prove that he belonged in the regular rotation.

As the injuries piled up, as did the opportunity. But while the other depth guys had their moments, McCaw simply existed.

Even Oshae Brissett had that mid-February Celtics game, where he ripped down offensive rebounds and provided some good ol’ Canadian energy to Toronto’s squad. Malcolm Miller was a part of the full-court press in the immortal Mavericks comeback and has been a welcome perspective off the court. If I were to ask you, no doubt a smart, dedicated Raptors fan, what McCaw’s signature moment was, what would you say?

If you can come up with anything more than, “Well, he did have a bunch of assists against Charlotte that one game,” then you are probably related to Patrick McCaw. In fact, there’s a good chance you are Patrick McCaw. If so, thanks for reading Patrick, and I apologize in advance for my opinions on your play.

An NBA team does not need their eighth man to be consistently great or even good for that matter, but they do need some form of upside. McCaw had the lows of an inconsistent bench player without the highs, vacillating from excruciatingly bad to quietly mediocre, never seeming to provide a consistent positive impact.

Defensively, McCaw was solid when he appeared. He is athletic and long, making him versatile enough to effectively defend both guard spots and battle against small forwards. His defense is not, however, nearly good enough to make up for his offense — as much as Matt Devlin loved to yell, “That’s why he’s out there!” every time McCaw did something mildly effective.

McCaw is a significant negative offensively, submarining possessions with indecision and lacking the touch to space the floor as a shooter. In his career, McCaw has never shot higher than 43 percent from the field or 33 percent from 3. Those numbers are bad. They get even worse when you factor in the teams he played for.

Other than three games for the Cavaliers, McCaw has played with the Steph-and-KD Warriors and the two best iterations of the Toronto Raptors. No matter the situation, he has been the last player on the minds of the opposing defense, yet he still has not been able to capitalize on those openings with any real efficiency.

The numbers have shown more of the same this season. McCaw shot 41 percent from the floor and 32 percent from three. Bleh. Of the top 12 Raptors in minutes, he was the only one with a negative box plus/minus. So, back to the mystery I noted earlier. What did Nick Nurse see to keep trotting out McCaw like he was a reliable veteran?

Perhaps it was his lack of glorious mistakes. As mentioned, his defense — something Nurse clearly values — is tight, and his offense does not illicit outward expressions of disgust from the casual fan.

Players on a similar standing with the team, such as Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Chris Boucher, and Terence Davis, create anarchy. They enter the game with the chaotic energy of the Tasmanian Devil after a couple Red Bulls. Their highs are exciting, but when they falter, they do so spectacularly. Their mistakes are “yell at the TV” bad.

With McCaw it is much more subtle. He’ll pass up an open look. He’ll hesitate when making a pass, torpedoing any edge the offense had. His feel for the game just does not compare to the Raptors regulars. None of these things are “yell at the TV” bad in the moment, however. Him doing them all quite frequently, however, is draining. The aforementioned bench players’ mistakes are like blunt force trauma to the team, delivering an unmistakable blow in the moment. Conversely, McCaw’s are like a festering wound, slowly sucking the life out of Toronto until there is no healing.

Whatever it is, McCaw’s frustrating ways persisted whenever he stepped on the floor this season. In the Bubble, however, Raptors fans were not subject to the anxiety that his play caused. I wrote back in February that we would have to reconcile with McCaw getting minutes in the playoffs based on Nurse’s substitution patterns. A knee injury, however, held him out of the Bubble and, consequently, out of the rotation.

McCaw will start the second year of his 2-year, $8 million deal in 2020-21. It is unlikely he is moved — he is not an asset, and his contract is smaller than an ideal salary filler in a trade. To spare us the frustration of watching him play, as a result, something will have to change.

Maybe Nurse will see the light and push McCaw to the end of the bench. Maybe McCaw’s extended break will give him time to develop his shooting touch. Whatever it is, the Raptors can’t continue to play 4-on-5 offensively when McCaw is on the floor.

Due to everything noted above, it is hard to see McCaw factoring into the long-term plans of the Raptors. If nothing else, if the mystery of McCaw persists for one more season, he gives Raptors fans a conduit for blame. He absorbs all of the vitriol directed at our squad and spares the other players some criticism. For that, Mr. McCaw, we thank you. I guess.