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Raptors’ depth provides Nick Nurse the rotation problem coaches dream of – Sportsnet.ca


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The story of the Toronto Raptors‘ season earlier than the pandemic was how they thrived even whereas having practically each member of their rotation miss at the very least 10 video games and a few many extra.

Add in that this was a workforce attempting to defend their NBA title after shedding two starters to free company — Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green — and the Raptors have been the little defending champion that would as they chugged to a 46-18 file, third-best within the NBA.

Doing it with out Leonard and Green was one factor, however the Raptors’ accidents have been like a sport of whack-a-mole — a rotation participant would get harm, come again, solely to have one other one get banged up and slip out of the lineup.

Norman Powell was one in every of three starters — Marc Gasol and Pascal Siakam have been the others — that obtained harm in the identical sport in Detroit on Dec. 18. The Raptors gained that one and the following two additionally. The damage bug confirmed up early on when Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka each left the sport towards the New Orleans Pelicans in early November. The Raptors gained that one to start out a five-game west coast highway journey and got here house from the coast with a 3-2 mark, together with a win over the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Centre due to large performs from rookie Terence Davis and journeyman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson — identical to everybody anticipated.

Livestream the Raptors’ quest to defend their NBA title with choose NBA playoff video games on Sportsnet NOW.

As the wins stored mounting the accidents proved a blessing. Any NBA participant value his salt will inform you that the one factor separating them from the function they need and the pay cheque they deserve is alternative.

Suddenly the Raptors have been overflowing with it.

“There was such a big kind of slice of opportunity at the offensive end available [in the absence of Leonard and Green],” stated Raptors head coach Nick Nurse on a convention name Monday from Walt Disney World Resort the place Toronto is getting ready for the NBA restart. “… and certainly a big chunk of it went to Pascal, but [it] kind of got moved [to] a lot of guys.”

And at completely different instances.

Lowry’s offensive manufacturing picked up as did Fred VanVleet’s and Powell’s — all of them have had vital will increase of their utilization fee this season — however so usually it was as a result of another person was out of the lineup and so they needed to carry an even bigger load.

“With guys out, it’s even more opportunity for other guys,” stated VanVleet. “Me and Norm were joking about it, we never really had a full team all year, so when I was out, he got more looks. When he was out, I got more looks. It was just [more] basketball to go around when we had guys out. I think it was a good balance of we had guys working hard, getting better, more opportunity, and then picking up for each other due to the injuries.”

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It’s outstanding, while you take a look at it. Coming off a championship the Raptors boast 4 returning rotation gamers – Lowry, VanVleet, OG Anunoby and Powell – who’ve boosted their WinShares per 48 minutes considerably, yr over yr. Lowry, with the ball in his fingers extra, improved his from .144 to .173, whereas VanVleet jumped from .117 to .136; Anunoby from .70 to .130 and Powell from .102 to .157 — and that’s with out together with Ibaka, whose numbers have stayed comparatively regular, yr over yr, however has by no means regarded extra comfy and in-tune offensively.

It’s only one measure of many proving what the eyes inform you: The Raptors have quite a lot of completely different gamers having good years and who can influence video games when the second comes.

“I’ve said it many times: when I watch us this year compared to last year there’s so many guys — not one guy or two guys, there’s like a handful of guys — that when there’s a small opportunity there they take it, and it’s no hesitation and they take it and make a play,” stated Nurse. “That’s much harder to guard and plan for, I think, when you’re playing and there’s so many ways that things can come at you when you’re an opposing team.”

But with the Raptors’ roster full and wholesome for the primary time this season, it will likely be fascinating to see how Nurse manages to make time for so many our bodies prepared and desirous to shoulder greater masses. Ibaka thrived within the minutes he obtained when beginning centre Gasol was out for 24 video games – how will they co-exist now that the large Spaniard has emerged from the hiatus leaner, fitter and clearly decided to place his injury-plagued pre-pandemic season behind him?

Will Powell get the closing lineup minutes he thrived in so readily now that Lowry and VanVleet are each wholesome? Will Anunoby lose out if Nurse goes to a three-guard lineup? And what concerning the rookie Davis, who opened eyes filling in when the veteran Powell obtained harm?

How do these items get sorted out when so many appear so deserving?

If there’s a podcasting odd couple, this could be it. Donnovan Bennett and JD Bunkis don’t agree on a lot, however you’ll agree that is one of the best Toronto Raptors podcast going.

“There’s a little bit of natural selection,” stated VanVleet. “You’ve got to figure it out as time goes on. It’ll be a process. I don’t expect you to see us at our best right away, Aug. 1 [when the Raptors play their first seeding game against the Lakers] but hopefully we can build to that pretty quickly, and find our rotation, and find our rhythm.”

Nurse should be at his juggling, inventive finest to get the utmost out of a roster that may simply go 10 or 11 deep. It’s the sort of problem coaches like to have. The Raptors play the primary of three scrimmages starting Friday as they ramp up the depth prematurely of the eight remaining regular-season video games beginning Aug. 1 and the playoffs, which start Sept. 1.

“[It’s] a welcome one,” stated Nurse. “I feel it’ll be some time for that, too. I feel arising in these scrimmages, we’ll maintain sure guys out of sure ones. I feel all people will most likely take their flip of staying out, so I wouldn’t think about we’ll have the complete complement possibly ’til the primary sport towards the Lakers.

“But yeah, it’ll be a good challenge. I certainly welcome it. I think we need that top eight to play together a little bit, you know, the top eight we envisioned at the start of the year has very, very few minutes together, if any at all.”

The Raptors gained an NBA championship leaning on a beginning lineup that had performed 116 minutes collectively earlier than the playoffs started, in order that they know higher than most that chemistry can come collectively rapidly. But in addition they know {that a} lengthy playoff run creates alternatives for nearly everybody.

VanVleet lived it. He went from an afterthought late within the Raptors’ second-round sequence towards the Philadelphia 76ers, when he struggled with the Sixers’ large backcourt lineups, to being the pivotal determine in Toronto’s comeback from down 0-2 within the Eastern Conference Finals towards the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Raptors have quite a lot of completely different gamers they’ll use to unlock video games – they relied on them by necessity all through the primary a part of the common season. But now that they’re all out there, not all of them will get the prospect.

Fortunately their success a yr in the past supplies a method to observe in that regard too:

“You’ve just got to be unselfish, and you’ve got to be win-first,” says VanVleet. “And we all know we’ve obtained a pecking order, and observe that to a sure extent, after which get what the sport takes you, so when you get within the playoffs, completely different sequence current completely different alternatives for guys.

“There’s no better example of that than last year. I think we all learned from that. And just allow ourselves to stay patient within the ups and downs of a couple days or a couple weeks or a couple months.”

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Hanzala Iltaf

Hey, I am Hanzala Altaf Manager of Usama Younus Inc. I am a Student. I'm very passionate about news and sports stuff. I also love to watch movies and cartoon type of stuff.

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