Toronto Raptors Need to Start Patrick Patterson

Nov 25, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Toronto Raptors forward Patrick Patterson (54) celebrates after making a basket during the fourth quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Toronto won 105-99. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 25, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Toronto Raptors forward Patrick Patterson (54) celebrates after making a basket during the fourth quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Toronto won 105-99. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

The 2Pat plus starters lineup is the best the Toronto Raptors have anyway, but why limp out of the gate when you can burst through it?

I’ve developed an eye twitch since the start of the season. Mounting personal and professional stress will do that to you.

“From what you’ve described to me it seems like you’re just very stressed out, you need to scale back  and take more time to relax. Make sure you get at least seven hours of sleep each night and it’ll pass.” my Doctor said.

Doctor’s orders, and I’ve gotten better. However, after looking into the Toronto Raptors roster development… *twitch*

Now a quarter of the way through the season, the Raptors are finally starting to take shape. The team is noticeably thriving, even though it’s missing a starter in Jared Sullinger and a notable bench player in Dorell Wright.

DeMar DeRozan showed his best Kobe Byrant impression, while Kyle Lowry has assumed a playstyle that utilizes more passing than ever. And somehow… In lieu of Patrick PattersonPascal Siakam has solidified his position as the starting power forward.

Amongst all of the roster shuffling Dwane Casey did to start the season, Jakob Poeltl saw time at back up centre, as did Bebe Nogueria. Norman Powell and DeMarre Carroll have both seen time in the starting lineup. Also, Terrence Ross and Powell’s time off the bench has been variable since the start of the season, but Patterson still has his shorts stapled to the bench.

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Siakam has gained enough favour with Casey,  that he’s included in the Raptors’ most used five-man combination. The combination of Lowry-DeRozan-Carroll-Siakam-Jonas Valanciunas has seen the floor for a total of 190 minutes this season, which isn’t irregular at this point in the campagin. What is irregular, is the Raptors only outscore opponents by 0.3 points per 100 possessions with that group.

Astonishing because the lineup where you swap Siakam for Patterson is killing the league and is outscoring opponents by 25.6 points per 100 possessions. And although Patterson and co. are absolutely crushing teams with this five-man rotation, it’s only the third-most used lineup by the Raptors with 58:35 total minutes.

Patterson does play 29 minutes a game, but it’s from the end of the first quarter to halftime, with the process repeated in the second half. So Casey is relying on that starting lineup to tread water against the opponent’s starting five until Patterson can come in a rescue the team, much like a sixth man of Jamal Crawford or Manu Ginobli‘s ilk.

Casey is essentially treating  Patterson as a super sub. However, unlike those super subs previously mentioned, the Raptors don’t redesign the offense when he’s on the court and he isn’t a ball-dominant player.

In fact, Patterson is only averaging 7.3 points per game this season and only gathers a fistful of boards. He isn’t changing the fundamentals of how the team is run when he’s on the court – his playstyle is just better suited to coalesce with the starters than any other power forward on the roster.

Anything Siakam puts on the table defensively, he subsequently takes off with his offence. The season is a quarter of the way through, so the scouting report is out.

Siakam cannot hit a consistent jumper and it’s costing the Raptors offensively. Look at how the defence treats him with and without the ball this possession:

This is a typical screen and roll for the Raptors with Siakam on the floor. DeRozan gets penetration all the way to the paint drawing three and a half defenders and kicks it.

The obvious (and correct) pass is to an open Siakam, but he is within the three-point line when he receives the ball and he just holds it. It’s a record scratch play.

Captivated by what to do, Siakam does nothing, letting the defence unfurl and congeal. An errant pass and a Lowry foul later and the ball is heading the other way. *twitch*

Watch when that same pick and roll is run, with Patterson in Siakam’s position:

Easy, breezy, beautiful three-point hurl. Same process, but 2Pat offers optimum space for the drive and the optimum result for a shot.

Although this may seem like a nit pick for a Raptors offence that is second in the league, Siakam’s clunky spacing will inevitably be a problem when the playoffs come around. During the regular season a sound bench is a godsend, especially when it consists of spark plugs.

The starters grab an early lead, great, the bench can maintain or maybe extended it. Starters a little flat tonight? Good thing there’s a gunner with a full clip and itchy shooting arm waiting on the bench.

By playing a starting lineup that is marginally better than others, Casey is using his superior spare parts to create the separation and ultimately win the game when the other team’s best players aren’t on the court. It’s a classic zig when everyone else is zagging, an unorthodox approach that has merit in the regular season as Casey proved over the past season and quarter but, it’s one that doesn’t translate to the postseason.

The defences will become more pointed and nuanced and the possessions that Siakam finds himself loosely covered along the perimeter are going to be a thing of the past. He will find himself more wide open than ever before. The defence is going to force him to either shoot or make a play on those kick outs and so far this season, Siakam hasn’t shown any indication that he is capable of doing this successfully.

That starting lineup that is barely above zero now, will undoubtedly dip below it when Siakam is forced to take mid-rangers and uncharacteristic drives to the rim. This will lead to the Raptors starting in a hole at the beginning of their playoff bouts, looking to fight a way out of it by using their bench even though the bench invariably gets shortened.

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The 10-man rotation, with all the fun pieces the Raptors utilize now, will shrink to eight and the minutes become concentrated. That unorthodox bench advantage Casey exploits in the regular season is marginalized.

Everyone is playing their starters longer, so that bump in bench production is negligible. Bench players are typically worse than starters – that’s why they’re on the bench in the first place. Less is more.

As a starter, 2Pat sees extended time against superior competition that he’s only seen in short bursts throughout the season. His three-point shooting is a boon off the bench and becomes a mainstay among regulars, but his arsenal will always be more difficult to guard than Siakam’s.

Casey likes to keep his starters whole until he faces dire straits, where he has to succumb to the numbers and play Patterson with the starters. Unfortunately, those starter minutes don’t scale easily.

Patterson averaged 25.6 minutes a game then spiked to 29.2 in post season play last year, causing his shooting to flat-line to 30 percent  per game from three, down from 36 percent. Even though he was still stout defensively, he lost his legs when the Raptors needed him most.

This year, Patterson has already been playing 28 minutes a game and with how much of a non-factor Siakam is offensively, this could see him thrust into the starting lineup earlier than usual in the playoffs. What’s 28 now could be 32 in April when the same problems arise, so why wait for him to run out of gas again?

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Start 2Pat now and have him conditioned to play those starters minutes against other teams. If he’s going to play extended minutes in the playoffs he should reach a manageable baseline in the regular season, so he isn’t constantly redlining when playing in the second round and beyond.

The 2Pat plus starters lineup is the best the Raptors have anyway, but why limp out of the gate when you can burst through it?

Next: Raptors can thank Kobe for DeRozan staying in T.O.

What’s your take? Would you move Patterson to the starting lineup or continue to use him off the bench, and why? Share your thoughts in the comments section.