Dwane Casey didn’t follow the small ball trend much last season. Leaning on Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson as his starting front line and guys like Patrick Patterson behind them, Casey didn’t experiment with putting the athletic DeMar DeRozan at the four much last season (not enough to draw any real conclusions).
That could change this coming season, especially with the addition of DeMarre Carroll.
Casey still prefers to go big. But considering that Johnson now in Boston and Carroll replaces him, plus surveying the landscape of the East, expect to see the Raptors go smaller next season at times, Casey told the Toronto Sun.
“I think the trend now is smaller basketball but I’ve always said as long as the goal is 10 foot high, size matters,” Casey said during an appearance at the team’s summer camp at Humber College on Monday. “But DeMarre (Carroll) can play the four, the three. He can guard the four position with LeBron James at the four, Carmelo Anthony at the four, Paul George back and at the four. He helps us in that respect.
“You can play Kyle (Lowry) and Cory (Joseph) at the same time, you can play Kyle, Cory and DeMar (DeRozan) at the same time. We’ve got a lot of flexibility as far as our roster is concerned.”
A lineup with Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, DeRozan, Carroll and Valanciunas would be interesting. It should be explored at the very least.
Raptors GM Masai Ujiri revamped the Raptors roster this summer into something that will be more defensive oriented. That’s where Carroll comes in, and that will be the biggest adjustment for Toronto this season. They had been a Top 10 defense just a couple of years ago, the goal is to get back to that being a calling card.
But to me, making that work — and making the offense work with those lineups — will come back to Valanciunas. For the Raptors to take a real step forward, he is going to have to make leaps forward, and that has to start with rim protection on defense. It’s not been his forte, he needs to become more of a force that way.
Also, Valanciunas shoots a high percentage with his touches in the paint and close to the basket. Will a smaller lineup with some shooters around him (Carroll at the four, he shot 39.4 percent from three) open up space inside for him to operate?
Toronto is still going to win enough games to win the Atlantic division this season. They have some talent and will put up points. But there is going to need to be success with both small ball and more Valanciunas to take a leap back up with teams in the second tier in the conference such as Chicago, Atlanta, Washington and Miami.