Yes, the all-star back-court of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan has been exceptional, prior to the injury, Jonas Valanciunas arguably usurped title of best centre in the East, and DeMarre Carroll has been as good as advertised. However, silently, one of the Raptors’ biggest catalysts in their success, has been Luis Scola.
From start of training camp, Patrick Patterson was the heir to start with Amir Johnson‘s departure to the Boston Celtics through free agency. But, Patterson played, to put it frankly, terribly, and on the other hand, Scola emerged and played consistently throughout the pre-season. Opening night came, and Dwane Casey placed Scola into the starting lineup, a role in which he has yet to give up.
Scola has been one of the Raptors’ most consistent players in terms of his production and what he does on the court. He has added a calming effect; the team plays better when he’s on the floor. He’s added veteran leadership and experience that has illustrated its lack thereof in the past two playoff series.
Scola has very many important attributes: high and low post passing, the ability to shoot from the perimeter, draw charges, and is capable of bailing the team out with impressive offensive skills with his back-to-the-basket. According to advanced metrics, with Scola on the floor, the team’s defensive rating, assists rating, assists-to-turnover percentage, and pace are positively affected.
The calming effect is exemplified in the offensive stats that Scola has been positively labelled; the team shares the ball better, they take care of it better, the pace is quicker, and the defense – the main identity of the team – is better. A lot of the times, quicker pace and play leads to heavier degree of turnovers, and quicker paced teams also tend to struggle to share the ball, because they are unable to function and produce sharing basketball in the half-court system.
Scola’s play and veteranship largely affects the team’s best players. For the backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, Scola is a gel player in which he’s able to function mostly through a system, and is very much capable of providing an option offensively when defenses decide to cramp the all-star combo.
So far into 16 games, he’s had five instances of scoring +15 points. It’s clear that Scola, statistically, provides lift-off-the-shoulders of the main guys on the team when needed.
He’s even-keel, the composure stays the same, he communicates on both ends, and is always at the right spot where he needs to be on both ends – whether that’s from popping off after setting a screen for a open jumper, an offensive rebound, or drawing a charge. The biggest “calming” factor, is that it creates trust and a connection between him and his teammates. His colleagues will know what he’s capable of doing; he will be where he is needed, and supposed to be. That chemistry will go a long way, especially because of his skill-set; they will become accustomed to playing off of him, rather than using him as a bail out method in the long run.
There’s no doubt Scola is a very solid player, obviously proven statistically and purely from the eye test in 16 games. He’s been able to add poise and composure with the little emotion that he shows, however makes up for that by leading via example, the stereotypical definition of what an experienced, old man veteran in the league is supposed to do. It’s a new thing for the Raptors, in comparison to the past two years where they’ve produced teams lacking of experience. It’s a nice thing to have, and it has so far shown its importance through Luis Scola.