Can the Raptors Reserves Keep Up?
It’s not so much a matter of coach Nick Nurse wanting to go 15 deep (17 including his two-way players who have made four appearances this year) with his roster, but the Raptors have been ravaged with injuries to the point that they’ve been forced into some unique and head-scratching lineups.
Of the Raptors’ formidable “Bench Mob”, five players who average at least 15 minutes per game have missed a minimum of 4 matches and a maximum of 8 and counting. This has led to odd lineup combinations, such as the inclusion of Delon Wright moving from PG to SF in order to allow Lorenzo Brown (17-18 G-League MVP) to play backup PG in the absence of wing gunners OG Anunoby, Norman Powell, and CJ Miles.
Compounded on the fact that Kawhi Leonard is yet to play both games of a back-to-back, it’s amazing that a new team with a new coach is currently leading the NBA in win percentage. You shouldn’t expect the Raptors bench to keep the pace as the competition stiffens, but their coverage is necessary if The North wants to stay at the top of the East.
The Season shouldn’t be about Dwyane Wade
Yes, he’s only played ten games and the season is pretty much his farewell tour. But Dwyane Wade is taking up time on a competitive and talented Eastern Conference team. Josh Richardson has proven himself to be an excellent two-way player and they’ve got a wealth of long athletic defenders and shooters at most positions to compliment that.
They’ve also struggled with injury this season: James Johnson only recently returned from a hernia, Tyler Johnson is out with a hamstring injury, and Hassan Whiteside has struggled with knee tendinitis all season. Despite injuries they’ve received interesting contributions for high-flying Derrick Jones Jr., brick house Bam Adebayo, and the always-heady Rodney McGruder.
Once pieced together, the Miami Heat are a stylistically interesting team with a decent pace (11th in the NBA) and a veteran head coach in Erik Spoelstra. While it’ll be easy to write off the season after poor start into the D-Wade farewell tour, they do have the pieces to be in the playoff picture come All-Star Break.
What’s at Stake?
The Toronto Raptors are leading the NBA but not by much. The Milwaukee Bucks are hot on their tail while the Philadelphia 76ers and new wing Jimmy Butler are eager to catch up after a slow start. As the Toronto Raptors’ health is in a state of flux they need to find reliable contributions from less-played assets in order to weather the current storm. Look for veteran C Jonas Valanciunas to make more of an impact, as the squad off the bench will look to him even more to create offence when Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard are not on the court.
While injuries are to blame, the Miami Heat can’t dig themselves into a deep hole at this point of the season. Frankly they haven’t endured the most difficult schedule and yet they sit sub-.500. The return of James Johnson is important for them as he fills the role of playmaker as well as defensive utility knife. The trick will be finding a balance as Josh Richardson deserves more touches but the reigns to the offence will slowly return to the hands of Dragic, Johnson, and Wade.
Questions to Answer:
Can Fred Vanvleet return to form?
Will Josh Richardson keep his hot pace or cool off as more responsibility comes his way?
Can the Toronto Raptors find their accuracy from three?
Will the Miami Heat offence find its niche?
Miami Heat at Toronto Raptors Predictions and Odds
The odds will be updated as soon as they’re made available.