Amit Mann and Sean Woodley discuss why the Raptors should consider starting Precious Achiuwa over Gary Trent Jr. next season and how it benefits their system. Full podcast looking at the back-end and rotation players is on the 'Raptors Over Everything' podcast feed.
AMIT MANN: I guess this is a natural pivot to the bench now, and how they're going to be distributing their minutes, because we know Chris Boucher, Precious Achiuwa-- and I want to get to the Precious Achiwua, Gary Trent Jr. thing in a second-- but Precious Achiuwa, Otto Porter Jr., Thad Young, those are your four players that are going to be coming off the bench. You can pencil in, I think, and I know Nick Nurse, last year, liked to bring in Chris Boucher and Precious Achiuwa at the same time. He thought it was really fun and really interesting. He was like, I got a little pep in my step when I saw both of those long, rangy, energetic players coming in, so you could say, maybe, 24 minutes to them, right? And then after that, Otto Porter Jr. and Thad Young, 20-ish. That doesn't leave a lot of room. And that's just me, like, ballparking what it could, be but do you think that's a fair estimation for those four players?
SEAN WOODLEY: I would say-- I mean, let's just dive into the Precious-Trent thing right now. I think you should start Precious, 100%. Like, I am fully on start Precious, move Trent, make Trent the sixth man. He was very clearly born to be. The man has a gunner's spirit. Let him do it. Let him run the second unit offense, see if sort of the self-creation can carry over, and he can run some second units, with the help of a Thad Young and an Otto Porter flanking him. And Chris Boucher, like, that, to me, sounds awesome. You slide in one of Fred, or Scottie, or Pascal as, like, the secondary ball handler in those groups, you're golden. I think, for me, I want Precious playing 30-plus minutes a game this season. Like, I'm comfortable saying that. His defense is so, so ridiculously good, and the offense came along so well last season in the back part. I think he's deserving of the run, and, to me, he's the guy who, more than anybody else on the team, unlocks the vision of 6-foot-9 as being an invaluable thing you can go with for a majority of a game, because you can do the things you need from a center, while also being as mobile as he is at his size. So start Precious. I'm fully on that bandwagon. I'm taking tickets for anyone who wants to join me. We're driving it all the way through the summer until the season starts. It's going to be great.
As far as the other guys, like, yeah, I think Boucher, Thad, Porter, like, it's a fun bench trio. We saw some really good chemistry between Thad and Boucher kind of developing by the end of the playoffs, as well, with the cuts and the bounce passes. It's all so beautiful. I think Porter, like, he'll fit in literally any lineup, because he can just go stand in the corner and hit 45% of his 3's, and you're sitting there like, hey, Otto Porter, good job, you've done what you're here to do. And, like, with Trent, I still think, coming off the bench, you can still give him 28 minutes a game. You can still close him some games. And I think where the minutes come away from is you take some off of Fred. Take him from 39 down to 33.
AMIT MANN: Hell yeah.
SEAN WOODLEY: Learn something from last season. Trim those six minutes off. Disperse them elsewhere. Don't make Pascal play 40 minutes a game. Trim it down to 34. They're going to be deep enough and talented enough, I think that they can still win regular season games without having to overexert their guys, like they did last year, where they only had six guys you could trust on any given night, so they had to play them a lot, otherwise, they weren't going to win 48 games. I think the depth they have now, combined with the overall talent across the board, one through nine, that's going to be a recipe for winning a lot of regular season games without having to play guys insane numbers of minutes, where there's, like, four guys who are in the top 10 in the league in minutes played. That's untenable. And, like, if you have ideas of going deeper in the postseason next year, which, you know, you can argue whether or not that's fair. They were ahead of schedule last year. Do you want a round or two this season? That'd be great.
I don't know if it, like, is a failure if they don't get through around. But, like, if you have designs on a deeper playoff run, that's where you have to start managing the minutes better, and I hope they learn the same lesson they learned with Kyle Lowry, where he totally burned himself out in '16-'17, he comes back in '17 and '18, they trim him down to, like, 32 minutes a game, and he's awesome, and he is working off ball a little bit more. That, to me, is the model for Fred here, to trim the minutes off of those main heavy hitter guys, and just give them to guys like Porter, and Thad, and Boucher. It's not like you're giving those minutes to Svi, right? If you are giving those minutes to Svi, then just don't give them to Svi and run the guys into the ground, for all I care, but you don't have to do that, because there are nine really good NBA players on this team that should be able to kind of share the load in minutes so that it's not so stratified, with the guys at the top of the roster being so overtaxed.
AMIT MANN: And I think that was part of the experiment last season, is they wanted to see what they had in those players, and you've gotta think about the process that the Raptors are going through. Like, I think that this was, like, season two of their new kind of vision with this thing, and the first season was essentially playing their starters a lot of minutes, and Masai Ujiri even like acknowledged that, like, yeah that was the plan. We wanted to see what we had in these guys, because, at some point, they're going to make a decision on who they're going to keep== that's a whole different discussion-- but at some point, they can't keep all of them, right? That's the reality of this, right? There is so much going for the Raptors with their starting lineup, and I think, because of Gary Trent Jr., and his ability to be a microwave scorer, and the fact that they struggled so much with bench scoring last season, I do think, like, you kind of took the point that I was going to say--
SEAN WOODLEY: Sorry.
AMIT MANN: Not a problem. But because Precious Achiuwa has, like, a Defensive Player of the Year candidacy at some point down his vision of his NBA career, because he has that kind of ability, and now he's gonna take pressure off of Pascal Siakam and Scottie Barnes, they don't have to guard the best players on the other end, although I think Nick Nurse wants OG Anunoby to do that. But it does lessen the load on those players, and I think we have to get back to doing that, right? We were doing that in that year with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, right, and that was an amazing thing to have. All of a sudden, those guys are pretty fresh for the playoffs. And we saw what happened with Fred VanVleet. That still does really bother me, because I do think they could have beat the 76ers if he was just, like, kind of healthy, but he wasn't, right? And, obviously, that was part of the experiment, yada, yada, yada, it's fine, but now we're in season two of this. It's time to start perfecting this and to take this to another level, and it's not just with internal development. It's about, also, like, your structure, and your approach, and your workflow, and doing that, I think that's why you've gotta start Precious, right? I think that's what makes the most sense for everyone.
SEAN WOODLEY: Yeah, honestly, I think the point you make about taking the burden off of Scottie and Pascal in that situation is really, really valid, because, like, OG, and Achiuwa, and Fred being able to be your three horses defensively, where you put Fred on the best opposing guard, Precious guards a big, or he can guard on the wings, you can switch with OG, OG can guard the best opposing wing, like, that frees-- if you're hiding, literally, Pascal Siakam, and Scottie Barnes, and other people, you're in a really good spot. Like, some people have to hide JJ Reddick as the fifth defender.
You're hiding a guy, in Pascal, who I think should have been considered for All-Defense last year, and a guy, in Scottie Barnes, who was branded more as a defender than an offensive player coming out of school. That's pretty incredible, and you remove Gary Trent Jr. from that lineup as the starting group, which I think is good for the defense. As much as he helps drive things with steals, he's more of an event creator on defense than he is, like, an actually good defender, and they needed the event creation last year, because their offense stunk, but I think their offense is going to be better this season, with an improved Barnes, and Siakam even more settling into his role, ideally with more shooting around him than he had at the back part of the season, where Fred was busted and OG was out. That, to me, is going to power a pretty decent offense. I would predict it to probably come, like, 12th, maybe even scrape top 10, and then the defense gets better when Gary Trent Jr. is not out there, because there's not that weak spot to go and find on switches and target.
And, like, you're telling me that Tyler Herro wouldn't start feeling footsteps behind him if Gary Trent Jr. was in the running for Sixth Man of the Year? Like, he would probably win the damn thing. The man is a gunner. The man loves to gun. He loves to chuck shots, and he's really good at it. He's a perfect sixth man. You have to sell him on it. That's probably the one hang up here, is can you convince Gary Trent Jr., in a contract year, to accept a sixth man role. Can you convince his agent that that's a valid thing to do? That's the one sort of complicating factor here. But I think, in terms of roster construction, you build it all out, in theory, your starting lineup is Scottie is your point guard, your two guard is Fred, three is OG, four is Pascal, five is Precious. That, to me, is ideal in terms of the hierarchy and sort of, to your point, reorganizing the sort of structure of the team around what the vision of the future is going to hold.
AMIT MANN: Sure. And if you want to sell this to Gary Trent Jr. and his agent you can say that, hey, you know what, we know the deal with the starting lineup. There is a lot of shots, and there just isn't enough opportunity, right? Like, OG Anunoby is already clamoring and saying, I want some more shots, Nick. How do we make this happen? Precious Achiuwa would be the pick and popper. He would be a transition scorer. He'd be an opportunistic scorer, right? So now you're taking that pressure off of some of the other players on the defensive end, but now they have more room to grow offensively, and that's going to help OG Anunoby, that's gonna help Scottie Barnes, that's going to help Pascal Siakam. Meanwhile, Gary Trent Jr., come in and do your thing, bro. Do your thing.
SEAN WOODLEY: And he can still close games. Like, he was great closing games last year. They had, like, five options closing games last year, where you had no idea who it was coming to you. That's why they were so good in crunch times, because they had five dudes who could hit a game-winning shot.
AMIT MANN: And I do think they do a little bit more ball handling off the bench. Like, obviously, Pascal and Scottie, they're going to be your de facto point guards and so forth, but just the idea of having, like, Otto Porter Jr., and Thad Young, and Chris Boucher, and whoever as, like, your bench players, there's no ball handling there. And so now Gary Trent Jr., I would assume, is going to--
SEAN WOODLEY: Hey, watch what you're saying about actual point guard Thad Young! But that's fine.
AMIT MANN: Halfcourt point guard, OK?
SEAN WOODLEY: Yes, good point.
AMIT MANN: Vision and passing point guard.
SEAN WOODLEY: Elbows man, yeah.
AMIT MANN: Yes, exactly. I love it.