Raptors Young Second Unit Producing in Toronto
In this past off-season, Masai Ujiri and the Toronto Raptors made a very clear point of replacing some of their key rotation players with young developing talent on cheap contracts. Guys like as DeMarre Carroll, Patrick Patterson, PJ Tucker, and Toronto native Cory Joseph, were exchanged for younger talent that had been lining the Raptors’ bench the previous year.
This season, the Raptors second unit features the likes of Lucas Nogueira, Delon Wright, Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam, and rookie OG Anunoby. Those are far from household names, but the early season results are promising as the Raptors stand at 7-5, 4th place in the Eastern Conference. With more time on the court together, surely this group will finish the season strong, barring any major injuries.
The youth movement was likely two-fold. For starters (no pun intended), the Raptors starting unit is one of the more expensive in the league, so with so much money locked-in there, the Raptors had to find a creative way to build their second unit. With so many rookie contracts filling out the end of their bench, the Raptors decided to give the opportunity to their young guns to play meaningful minutes on a playoff calibre team.
Secondly, Masai Ujiri has made a very deliberate point of not mortgaging Toronto’s future to fund their current success. Other than the Cavaliers, the Toronto Raptors have been the most consistent playoff team in the Eastern Conference since 2014, qualifying for the playoffs in each of the four years since. However, management has resisted the urge to pull the trigger on any huge deals that could have put them over the edge, opting to invest in the long term instead.
Luckily for the Raptors it looks as though their conservative approach is paying off as they now have seven players aged 25 or younger, in the rotation providing solid minutes:
From looking at the numbers so far this season, it’s clear that the Raptors are getting good, efficient production from their second unit, and this group is only going to improve as they spend more time of the court together. The playoffs will be the real test of this group, but given their limited roles, they will also be shielded by some of the pressures young players undoubtedly face.
Only time will tell if the Raptors’ pragmatic approach to their roster will pay off, but so far the results look good – which means the Raptors should be a playoff threat in the East for the foreseeable future.