While everyone debates whether or not the Toronto Raptors will be a playoff team, a play-in team, or a lottery team this season, there’s one thing that can be guaranteed: Nick Nurse is going to get weird with lineups this season.
After a relatively decent flurry of moves in the offseason, the Toronto Raptors roster has a weird mix of bodies that can reasonably all fit into a five-man lineup with one another for short periods of time. No player on the roster is listed above six-foot-nine, according to ESPN and there are eight players that are listed at six-foot-nine. So, needless to say, there are going to be some wacky lineups used this season.
And that’s ultimately what the regular season is all about, regardless of if the Raptors are good or not. If they are good, then Nurse has lineups that he can trust and throw out there in a playoff setting. If they aren’t, then they’ll still have a few lineups that can be pocketed away for later. Plus, the players will get experience playing in different roles, with different teammates, etc. It truly is a win-win scenario in the long run.
The downside is there will absolutely be some growing pains in the short term, especially with players that haven’t played a lot together, of which there are many.
Nevertheless, here are three lineups that could be a little wacky, a little fun, and also maybe even actually be a little productive for the Toronto Raptors and Nick Nurse in the 2021-22 season!
Let’s go with a more jumbo lineup to start us off here: Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Chris Boucher, and Precious Achiuwa.
I’ll admit, there isn’t a lot of offensive creation in this lineup, but it allows Barnes, Anunoby, and Siakam to get some on-ball reps and just generally try to figure a few things out at that end of the floor. Hell, let’s get extra weird and go with some Siakam-Achiuwa pick and rolls!
Siakam posted a 0.98 points per possession as a pick and roll ball handler last season on 3.3 possessions per game. That rose from 0.82 PPP on 3.2 possessions per game in 2019-20, so it’s an area where Siakam has already seen immediate improvement and this would give him another chance.
Defensively, this would just be a bunch of six-foot-seven or taller dudes just absolutely flying all over the place. Sure, Achiuwa isn’t the most mobile and you shouldn’t ask him to defend a ton on the perimeter yet, but the other four can and they’ll wreak havoc while Achiuwa can patrol the paint. That’s the benefit of having so many bigger guys who can move.
The one main drawback with this lineup is the perimeter shooting. Obviously Achiuwa is a non-shooter and then Barnes and Siakam are inconsistent perimeter shooters, but we’ve seen Siakam get hot from behind the arc before! That being said, having even one guy in a lineup who isn’t a shooter is a problem, so potentially having three that the defence doesn’t have to run off the line or aren’t afraid of is a big concern.
But who cares! This is about fun lineups and trying new things so this is… certainly that!
Now a lot of the talk around the Raptors offseason has been about future. No, not the artist from Atlanta, but the future of the organization. I can see how you’d be confused though, since Drake has connections to both the Raptors future and the rapper Future.
But this lineup is all about the future of the organization: Malachi Flynn, Gary Trent Jr, Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby, and Precious Achiuwa. That’s right, folks, we’re letting the old geezers in Siakam, Boucher, and Fred VanVleet take a seat and rest their old bones. It’s time for the kids to take over for a while.
This is actually a pretty realistic option that I could see the Raptors going to at some point this season. Not that the jumbo lineup isn’t, but I can see how this lineup would work together and could actually put together solid stretches of offence and defence.
Barnes and Flynn would be the table setters, Trent Jr would be the offensive self-creator, Anunoby would get some of those reps as well, while also being a good floor spacer, and Achiuwa would be there to set ball screens, catch lobs, and crash the offensive glass.
There isn’t a huge lack of shooting like in the first lineup, where sure, Achiuwa and Barnes are still here but there’s only one question mark instead of two that you’d have to hope could get hot.
Defensively this lineup could also be a lot of fun (I mean, any lineup with Barnes and Anunoby will be fun defensively), and even the weak point in the defence (Trent Jr), would be able to hold his own at least in a isolation scenario while the others can clean up his mistakes that he’ll inevitably make off-ball.
This one is both fun and realistic! The best of both worlds!
This last lineup could actually be a closing lineup for the Raptors in a few games, but I’m calling it the Big Money lineup: Fred VanVleet, Goran Dragic, Gary Trent Jr, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby. That’s a pretty good lineup, right? Well it better be because they’re making a combined over 104 million dollars. That makes up nearly 80 percent of the over 133 million dollars in salary on the Raptors’ salary cap sheet this season. That’s some big money.
On the court, this lineup might get beaten for rebounds, but they’ll be damned if they get scored on easily on the initial attempt. Even at 35 years old, Dragic is a competent defender and can be hidden pretty easily with four other solid-or-better defenders (three of them being elite defenders).
Offensively, everyone is at least a capable ball handler and there’s more than enough shooting to survive any potential Siakam cold streak. It’s a pricey lineup, but also one that can play together for short spurts and get the job done.
I don’t think this is something they can go to for any long period, since the rebounding would become a problem and teams would eventually hunt Dragic on switches, but it can provide good transition opportunities and I think could actually be a pretty decent half court offence as well.
I couldn’t think of a good way to put this all together, but some five man combination of: Goran Dragic, Precious Achiuwa, Yuta Watanabe, Khem Birch, Chris Boucher, Dalano Banton, Pascal Siakam, and Isaac Bonga could give you a full non-American lineup. I didn’t include OG Anunoby because he spent the majority of his life in the US after being born in the United Kingdom.
There are probably too many bigs and since Banton probably won’t play a lot this season, there aren’t enough ball handlers. The best I could come up with was Dragic-Bonga-Siakam-Boucher-Birch. You could swap Watanabe or Achiuwa for Birch and adjust accordingly, but there are many options for a non-American lineup.
There’s a lot of diverse backgrounds on this Raptors team, just like there’s a lot of diverse lineup combinations! If nothing else, you should watch the Raptors simply because they’ll put out some weird lineup groups.