I previously wrote about the primary issues that will probably be faced by the projected starting five for the Toronto Raptors this season. Obviously, the players coming off the bench will have to answer some challenging questions pertaining to this team’s success as well.
Landry Fields, SF: Can he regain “pre-elbow surgery” form?
Unfortunately, Fields possesses a contract that tends to make many Raptors fans cringe; but on the bright side, he also possesses skills that could definitely be beneficial to this team. He’s a capable defender, and a solid rebounder. Plain and simple, his offense was at the forefront of his problems during his debut Raptor season. It could be argued that he couldn’t throw a rock in the ocean. However, the elbow surgery he had visibly slowed him down; as he was forced to reconstruct his shot on the fly. If he can somehow continue his defensive play with added offensive ability, expect the Landry-hate to be lessened (at least slightly).
Terrence Ross, SG: Can he find consistency playing behind the dynamic wing duo?
Critics of the current roster often hold the belief that the logjam at the wing positions may cause problems for the team down the line. Terrence Ross can disprove that claim by becoming stronger and becoming more present on the floor whenever he gets the minutes. There were games of brilliance last year, but there were also games where it was as if Ross did not exist on the court. For his own good, he needs to become more assertive. It would likely provide somewhat of a solution to the consistency issues he faced last year.
Hansbrough is the classic “hate to play against, but love to have” player. His continuous effort and hustle is something that will definitely be adored in Toronto– but will he change the culture of the team? Will Psycho T make the Raptors tougher? Many of us are praying that the answer to that is an undeniable “yes”. The Raptors have been looked at as a soft team for far too long. Hopefully Hansbrough can become an integral component in changing that notion.
Quincy Acy, SF/PF: Will he successfully adjust to more minutes at the three-spot?
Albeit in limited playing time, this question will be an interesting one to keep an eye on. During the Las Vegas Summer League, Acy showed a deeper jumpshot and often guarded opposing SFs. How will this transfer to the regular season though? It’s difficult to prognosticate. Acy seems like the type who will always be a 3-4 tweener in the NBA, but nonetheless, this experiment could be amusing.
Steve Novak, SG/SF: Will he provide enough deep shooting?
This question is pretty self explanatory. Novak was brought up north to shoot. Simple as that. His presence will be instrumental in the makeup of Toronto’s offense with slashers like Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan on the floor. Novak’s ability to shoot will add a dimension of scoring that was missing last season (as the Raptors finished tied for 25th in the NBA in 3FG% during 2012-2013). Steve Novak is only one player though– which means his teammates must carry their weight too.
DJ Augustin, PG: Is he the solution at the backup PG spot?
Augustin should help from the shooting standpoint mentioned above, but consistent play would likely be a surprise. If he can run the offense and limit his turnovers for 10-15 minutes a night, consider him a solid off-season pickup. Will he be a surefire solution to the backup PG conundrum faced by Toronto? Maybe. Can he hold the fort together for the next short while? Maybe. This one is a tad bit too early to tell.
Dwight Buycks, PG: Can he earn some of the playing time designated to Augustin?
Buycks has been a pleasant surprise this summer. But to what extent can he contribute to the Raptors bench? The only way to find out is to see him lead the actual Toronto team on the court, rather than the LVSL squad. It’s hard not to root for him to succeed, seeing as he’s absolutely cherished the opportunity to play for the Raptors so far.
Austin Daye, SF: Can he be more than just “roster-filler”?
Daye joined the Raptors this summer in low-risk deal that will not put a dent in Toronto’s salary cap. As of now, his role in the rotation seems undetermined. If he somehow squeezes in the lineup and gets playing time in which he excels, this will be looked at as a great signing. If he doesn’t, there are not any harsh repercussions.
Aaron Gray, C: Will he be able to provide adequate backup minutes at center?
This question may seem asinine, but if you look at the team as constructed, you may begin to consider that we could be seeing a lot of Aaron Gray this year. What does this mean? This means that Jonas Valanciunas is guaranteed to receive a sizable increase in playing time. This also means that Gray will have to contribute on a nightly basis seeing as Valanciunas will not be able to play over 40 minutes every night for 82 games. Should be fun.