Things for the Rings: The “battle” to be the Toronto Raptors’ 8th man continues

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The restarted Raptors are still seeking to defend their 2019 NBA title. For our latest series, Things for the Rings, we’ll break down what each essential person on the team can do to answer the major question on every fan’s mind: What does each Raptor need to do to make a Toronto repeat reality?

Terence Davis

Thing for the Ring: Don’t play like a rookie

As one half of the largest battle for a rotation spot (with a Patrick McCaw review coming in a few paragraphs), Terence Davis has definitely emerged as the fan favourite. And why not? Davis is averaging a robust 16.4/7.2/3.5 per 36 minutes. He’s the only rookie in the league who’s played at least twenty games to hit all of those bench-marks this season. What’s better is he’s doing it with a 59.8 True Shooting percentage — seventh best amongst all rookies (and just behind teammate Matt Thomas!).

Still, Davis isn’t coach Nick Nurse’s clear favourite. Injuries have given Davis ample opportunities to play, but often, when given a choice, Nurse seems to prefer McCaw over Davis. Why is that? Simply put, Davis, like all rookies, can lose focus — especially on the defensive end. Nurse, despite his rep as an offensive genius, firmly believes the Raps defense is what will carry them. No matter how explosive and all-around the skills Davis has are, he’s going to have to use his early post-season run to prove he can keep a high-level attention to detail in the cauldron of the post-season.

Can He Do It?

That’s hard to say. No doubt Davis wants to do it, and as an undrafted free-agent (even if that was basically his choice), he knows nothing will be handed to him. Still, he’s a rookie, and Nurse’s standards on defense are extremely high. Davis wouldn’t be the first promising young player, even on the Raptors, to find themselves buried in the playoffs.

Chances of It Happening: 5 out of 10

In a vacuum, I’d put this at 3.5. Especially given how Davis closed out the season, in five of his last six games he had a negative plus/minus. However, with McCaw battling an injury, Davis may get more chances (than Nurse would prefer, perhaps) to show his mental game is playoff ready. Let’s hope it is. Even a couple of “Terence Davis Games,” could be enough to get Toronto over the hump and back to the Finals.

Patrick McCaw

Thing for the Ring: Take the open shots

On the other side of the ledger is Patrick McCaw. The way Raptors fans talk about him, you’d think McCaw ran over their dog or something. The thing is, Nurse has earned the benefit of the doubt. If he feels that the wiry 6’7” McCaw is the right man for the last backcourt slot, who are we really to argue with him?

It’s true McCaw doesn’t hold a candle to Davis counting numbers-wise (6.7/3.4/3.1 on .500 TS%), but he still has his uses. He’s a solid ball-hawk, with defensive versatility and some ball-handling chops. More importantly, it seems, he plays the sort of low-event game that Nurse seems to want from the back of his bench. With McCaw there are fewer surprises, be they good or bad.

Still, while you don’t expect big things from McCaw offensively, he has to be willing to take the open shots Toronto’s offense generates. It’s bad enough if your opponents abandon you to make life harder for your more skilled teammates, it’s worse to not take the open shots they get for you.

Now, McCaw can hit those shots — at least a little. While he’s only at 32.4 percent from three this year, McCaw is shooting 40.4 percent on “wide-open” shots (when a defender is not within six feet). If McCaw keeps passing open looks like that to get a “better” shooter a tougher look, it’s really not helping.

Can He Do It?

I wish I could say that as the season went on, McCaw was taking more open looks — even if his efficiency fell. But the truth is: he wasn’t. McCaw’s refusal to shoot seems less like a Davis-like flaw that can be improved through repetition and experience, but it’s also a bit of a personal choice. Even given the needs of the Raptors, it’s hard to see how the stakes of the post-season will make McCaw, a three-time champion, more selfish.

Chances of It Happening: 1.5 out of 10

Again, in a vacuum I’d probably give McCaw a three. The Raptors coaching staff would be drilling into McCaw’s head to take the good shots that come. But now he’s hurt and his practice time in the Bubble was limited. Now the situation is such that, if McCaw does play. I think we’ll see him continue to defer — often to the Raptors’ determent.