clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Raptors’ bench is flat. Is it too early to be concerned?

Through two games, Toronto has yet to get valuable production from their bench. Someone needs to step up in order for Toronto to truly compete this year.

Toronto Raptors v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

I want to start off with a little scenario.

It’s the NBA playoffs. Your favourite team has made the conference finals for the first time in many years. You invite all of your friends and family over, because big games make for the greatest nights.

The pre-game show is on, you can smell the meat coming off the barbecue, the conversation is flowing, but you’re still missing that one key ingredient.

You turn to your left and a large two-litre bottle of Sprite is sitting there, lid off, calling your name. You head for it, and begin to pour yourself a glass, awaiting the crispness to burn your throat off. You finish pouring, pick up your glass, touch it to your lips, and dud!

It’s flat, it’s dead, it is almost unusable. It doesn’t ruin the experience completely, but it sure does bring a level of dejection to the evening.

That my friends, is currently the Toronto Raptors’ bench. It’s sad, because I do fully believe it can and will get better, but through two games, it has not been pretty at all. A lot like the flat Sprite, it has almost become unusable.

Coach Nick Nurse seems to agree as well. Not a single reserve has played 20 or more minutes in a game yet this season. The highest minute total belongs to the rookie, Christian Koloko, who played 19 minutes against the Brooklyn Nets.

The entirety of the Raptors’ bench has combined for 27 points in the course of two games. To put that into perspective; through three quarters in game two vs the Nets, Pascal Siakam had already totalled 34 points. It’s a small sample size to be sure, but the Raptors are second-last in the NBA in bench scoring — after finishing dead last in 2021-22.

Only one Raptors bench player has posted a real plus-minus in the positives while at least playing six minutes, and that was Koloko in the Cleveland Cavaliers game (+3).

Yes, it is immensely early, and the season still has 80 games, so this isn’t meant as an overreaction, and everyone take cover because the season is going downhill. This should however, be a wake up call to the Raptors’ reserves that someone needs to step up.

The Toronto Raptors have a great starting five in terms of continuity, chemistry, strong defense, and the ability to turn that defense into quick offense. However, Toronto still lacks a true star, and one that can dominate in the half court consistently.

Siakam would obviously like to have a word with me through these first two competitions, but even if what we’ve seen is the new Pascal, the top tier competitors typically have two, sometimes three guys at that level.

To be fully fair, Siakam didn’t get much help from most of the starting lineup in Brooklyn either.

A team who relies on the strength of beating you as a whole, relies on the reserve players to play their role as well. And if that role isn’t to dominate the opposing team’s bench, and grow leads, then it sure as heck needs to be maintaining a lead. Or at least giving valuable and serviceable minutes while Siakam and the starting lineup gets some rest.

Part of the reason that the bench has looked weak, is due to a couple of key injuries. Chris Boucher and Otto Porter Jr. are two of Toronto’s best players that will be coming off the bench, and arguably the two most consistent players in that role as well. Even Khem Birch, who has also yet to play a game, can provide some veteran minutes at the big man position, spelling Koloko who, impressive as he’s been, is still learning his role.

Now, I don’t want to narrow in on one single player, because this is definitely a collective effort, but Precious Achiuwa specifically needs to take a leap in order for the Raptors to compete the entire length of a regular season.

Heading into the year, the Raptors were seen as having six starters, and the debate between that final spot was a serious one between Achiuwa and Gary Trent Jr. Through two games, even though Trent hasn’t necessarily shot the ball amazingly well, he has a solid grip on that starting spot.

Achiuwa is the one guy on the Raptors bench who is capable of playing at the starters’ level. A guy who can guard one-through-five, create his own shot, and as we’ve seen, a capable scorer from anywhere on the court.

However, a 5-17 start from the field this season, has been a rough go for Achiuwa.

Like I said, this isn’t a call for worry. The Raptors are 1-1 through two games, and the East as a whole is going to be a dog fight this season. It’s just a little bit of a tougher pill to swallow when all you needed was one solid bench performance to be sitting at 2-0. And in the East this year, every single win matters, especially against the projected playoff teams in your same conference.