The Raptors gave away backup point guard Cory Joseph to save money. So, who will play behind Kyle Lowry?
Presumably, Delon Wright and Fred VanVleet will each slide up a spot on the depth chart. The third-year Wright looks ready to join the rotation, and he deserves at least the opportunity.
But Toronto also has another – unexpected – option at point guard: DeMar DeRozan.
Raptors coach Dwane Casey, via Bryan Meler of Sportsnet:
“DeMar DeRozan, have him handle the ball a bit more as a point guard, a facilitator, a passer. Kyle Lowry moving the ball a bit more, spacing up. We don’t want to give our whole ‘what we’re going to try to do next year’ away, but again it comes down to passing the basketball and better spacing more so, than we know, one-on-one play.”
“Everyone and their brother knows we want better ball movement,” said Casey.
DeRozan didn’t play point guard at all last season.* So, this is a pretty big shift.
*Defined as playing without Lowry, Joseph, Wright or VanVleet.
Known as an isolation player, DeRozan has quietly improved as a distributor. I don’t think his ability to run an offense is at a point-guard level, but I’m also not sure that’s the point.
The Raptors are trying to change their style and promote more ball movement. This could help in the long run.
I supported the Timberwolves playing Zach LaVine at point guard as a rookie even though it was clear he should be a shooting guard. Playing point guard was a crash course that helped him develop skills useful at shooting guard, skills he couldn’t have as easily developed while playing off the ball.
The same could be true with DeRozan. Some rocky minutes at point guard could better equip him to play with Lowry in better-passing units come playoff time.
It was more conventional to play a 19-year-old on a bad team out of position to focus on skill development than it is for a 28-year-old on a good team. But he we are.
The Raptors have achieved enough success in the regular season and not enough in the playoffs. Experimenting during the long regular season is a good plan.