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Raptors' Nick Nurse facing pleasantly tough decisions

Amit Mann and Katie Heindl discuss what will change with the Raptors at full health, how roles become clarified and the need for a stable second unit. Listen to the full podcast discussing the lineups, the path to a top-6 finish in the East and more on the 'Raptors Over Everything' podcast feed.

Video Transcript

AMIT MANN: But moving on to, well, Nick Nurse's rotations. Because now that everyone is healthy, and that was said yesterday-- Nick Nurse said, all right, we got everyone here. OG is gonna be back. Gary is gonna be back. [INAUDIBLE] gonna be back.

I would imagine their starting lineup is gonna be Fred, OG, Pascal, Scottie, and Jakob Poeltl. Those are your starters. But now, off the bench, how does this work?

And you gotta, like, think about the players you have and also the situation you're in. You need to win games. You gotta win a lot of them. So we might be talking, you know, shortening the rotation. But in the end, how does Nick Nurse figure this one out in terms of players off the bench? Hmm. Tricky.

KATIE HEINDL: I think I actually don't think-- I think their bench is gonna look better. Like, I think you actually now have some reliability on your bench. If you even just want to play a bench unit and just, like, try and do it traditionally in terms of who you're switching on and off, I like Gary.

I think Gary has dug in this season and really done-- you know, he was criticized early on. And since then I think he's dug in and done everything that's been asked of him. It's obviously a little bit of a-- he might think of it as a regression to come off the bench. But I think he's going to be so valuable there. Same with Precious. I would love to see a lineup with Precious and Jakob, actually.

AMIT MANN: Woo.

KATIE HEINDL: That would be fun. I think we're gonna see some of that where you have, like, you're gonna like, pop-- pop these guys in. Pop these bench guys in with your starters to give some of your starters a breather, which is another important point, right. You don't want them having to play upwards of 43, 42 minutes again.

AMIT MANN: No. No, no, no, no.

KATIE HEINDL: So now I think you have the bench you thought you had all season long. There's still some questionable spots. Like, I don't know how long you want to put Malachi Flynn in for. I don't know if you can do straight-up subs in that capacity. But I actually think this has kind of clarified things. I hope it would have clarified things for Nick Nurse. We'll see. He can still-- he still has like a fondness--

AMIT MANN: [LAUGHING]

KATIE HEINDL: --let's say for maybe mixing things up in his rotations when it doesn't seem like he really needs to. But I think if you're looking at a play-- even if you're looking at, like, whether it's gonna be play-in, or the Raptors can secure, like, one of the last playoff spots, I think you're looking at some decent rotations and availability at that and again like being realistic. This is more to look toward what's the team's going to look like next season.

AMIT MANN: Certainly. Yeah, these are good problems that Nick has. He was asked about it yesterday, and he's doubled down on this many, many times. But he's like, I would like to play my starters 32 minutes. That'd be great.

KATIE HEINDL: Yeah.

AMIT MANN: But also I'm trying to win games, and the bench production just hasn't been there. So it is gonna get a bit better with Gary and Precious there. I like the idea of a lineup of, like, Scottie at point guard. You mentioned Malachi Flynn. I think when the Raptors are fully healthy, I don't think he's really part of the rotation. If you already have, like, Gary and Chris and Precious, and probably Thad plays a bit of minutes here or there, I think-- I don't really see a spot for Malachi.

There could be a case where maybe they're struggling from 3 or something like that. But, in the end, I think you do want Scottie playing those backup point guard minutes, which we're gonna get to this in a second. But, I mean, Scottie's role has changed quite a bit since Jakob got here. And you need to make sure that you're making him as impactful as possible.

KATIE HEINDL: Mm-hmm.

AMIT MANN: The past few games he's been really good. But, at the same time, he's just-- because he is so versatile and just such a heady player, he's finding ways to make an impact. But I would like to see the ball in his hands more. So if you're rolling out a lineup of like Scottie, Gary, Precious, Chris, and OG, you know, like, that could be a bench unit, and that could be bench slash starters.

But that lineup could roll for six minutes or seven minutes. And they could actually be a positive. And during that time, Fred and Pascal aren't on the court. How nice is that? And you give them some time to jell a little bit.

But I also do like the idea of Jakob and Gary playing together. I mean, Nick said yesterday that it'd be good to tap into Jakob's passing a little bit and do more dribble handoffs and letting him be like a high post passer, as he was in San Antonio. And Gary, that screams Gary.

KATIE HEINDL: Mm-hmm.

AMIT MANN: He'd be such a good release valve in situations like that. So a lot of options. And, I mean, maybe Juancho. I know Juancho is a great cutter, too. Maybe Juancho gets an appearance because of the chemistry he can form with Jakob Poeltl.

But, yeah, there's a lot of options. I just hope that this means that Fred and Pascal are gonna be reserved for the peak times, first quarter, fourth quarter, obviously. And they get their minutes in the second and third, of course, but their minutes get to, like, 35 minutes, and it stays there. And there's reliability and some lineups that don't feature them too.

KATIE HEINDL: Mm-hmm. Yeah, that's a really good point. Just reliability generally would be a good thing because when you've got your bench unit out, and they're actually just, like, making things harder for you and stressing everybody out, you're not coming-- you're then, maybe, like you're Pascal and Fred, and you've got to rest, like, a few minutes. But you're not coming in feeling super confident.

You're coming in feeling very stressed out and, like, jeez, we really gotta dig in and catch up here. So to not have that, to actually have restful minutes that are restful for your starters, that would be good.

AMIT MANN: I'd love to see Pascal when he's actually a little bit fresh in the fourth quarter. Every time we see him over the past I mean, however long, man. Months now. Fourth quarter comes around, and he just kind of fades away.

And I don't think it's because of a lack of presence. I think it's a lack of energy because he's in minute 38, 39 on the night. And the guys that he's going against-- and he's getting the best defensive matchups-- they're fresher. And he's just not simply there.

So yeah. Healthier version of those two down the stretch would be mighty helpful for the Raptors in this stretch where they're trying to get into that top six. But as I mentioned, Scottie Barnes-- so his touches--