The Toronto Raptors have a starting lineup that can compete with most in the NBA but struggled to get consistent bench production all season. In the near future, management will need to make tough decisions on various players based on their fit, skill and upside.
AMIT MANN: Looking at next season, a little fun one for you, Katie. So three players on their bench, we've talked about it nonstop. Many have. You know, they're not getting constant production-- consistent production from their bench. Chris Boucher, Precious Achiuwa, Yuta Watanabe. A game of start, sit, and drop between those three for next season.
So a start would be-- this is rotation minutes-- it would be they are a depth bench piece, and then a drop is, obviously, they are no longer with the team. As I said to you, you know, a little while ago, like, next season is a year where you can really make a move in the NBA, if everything goes accordingly.
And that's something to be considered is, like, how many debt pieces do you take on when you have, like, a Justin Champagnie and Dalano and Malachi? These are players that you want to keep in your system, presumably, because they're still here. So yeah, you've got to make some tough calls. So question to you, Katie, start, sit, drop, Chris Boucher, Precious Achiuwa, Yuta Watanabe? It's a tough one.
KATIE HEINDL: You said this was a fun exercise. It's not.
AMIT MANN: Fun for me Fun for me.
KATIE HEINDL: It's not very fun. Let's see. I-- honestly, I would start Precious Achiuwa. Like, I just-- like, I believe so much in him as a player. I think that he came out-- he came out of that-- the bumpy plateau that he had late in the fall so nicely, and I think he's done that by focusing on one thing at a time.
I don't think it can be underestimated-- overestimated? I don't think it can be underscored enough how difficult it is to be the quote "modern NBA player" that you are asking a player like Precious Achiuwa to be. You want him to do absolutely everything, you don't just want him to be a traditional big, right? You want him to have all these stretch capabilities. He's got to shoot, he's got to guard, like, he needs to do a little bit of playmaking.
Like, this is a lot for any player to take on, let alone, like, a second-year player, so he's going to have stretches where all of that-- like, the wheels come off, right? And you've got to focus on one thing at a time. And he's done that beautifully, and I think if he continues to do that, he has and should have a pretty substantial part in, like, the new look Raptors.
The next two are tough because I really like Yuta and I think we saw such great flashes from him last season, toward the end of last season in Tampa, and then just the way that he developed over the summer and worked on it and came back.
He had an-- like, you know, then he was injured and he was out, and that's going to, again, like, really disrupt your rhythm entirely as a player, so any gains that he made he may have just lost. Can you tell I'm, like, talking myself into some of these answers?
AMIT MANN: It's a tough one.
KATIE HEINDL: Yeah, it is tough. I would say-- I would say to bench Yuta to sort of keep him, but with the understanding that you're going to utilize him in your bench and kind of as a backup wherever you can, because ostensibly, he is going to get better over the summer.
And then Boucher-- this is very difficult, but Boucher I would say you can trade, and I say this from my most, like, callous part of my-- my basketball heart, but with-- with the caveat that he's going to have the best value as a player. So he's actually probably going to end up in a great situation if you traded him at the end of this season, so it could potentially be a win-win for the team.
So I'm not saying ditch this guy because he's-- he's, like, not contributing to the team, because Chris Boucher has been on fire. But I think when you look at the way he's grown and how he's fit, he doesn't necessarily fit as seamlessly, I think, as these other two guys into where I think the Raptors are going. But also, I am not-- I'm not the GM and I thank-- I thank God for that.
AMIT MANN: Yeah. Masai Ujiri, never afraid to make that tough decision. Although, I mean, I'm sure he thinks about it and it keeps him up at night. But yeah, he will make that call. Listen, like, there's nothing wrong with what you suggested because--
KATIE HEINDL: Thanks, Amit.
AMIT MANN: --yeah, like-- I mean that nicely because this is a very tough question, and these are three people with the franchise that you could make a case for everyone. You can make a case for everyone to be rotation minutes. You can make a case for everyone to be dropped, or sat, or whatever.
I'm leaning-- I-- just because of what I've seen lately from Chris Boucher and what the Raptors may want to be next year, I-- you can make the case that they should keep him around. What his contract will be, the finances, that's always going to be a factor with all of this, but having someone like-- when I think about what the Raptors-- what they're trying to do with having these size at all positions, like, it kind of did start to some degree with what Chris was able to do and what he was able to show last season.
Having someone who could just affect the game in so many different ways-- and he's really found a good groove with what his role is, and it kind of actually is what he was doing last year, too. I think earlier on in the season, he just-- he was so anxious to do more. He wants to show all the elements of his game, and that actually hindered the other parts of his game that were so successful and that were so good for him.
It's like that hustle, 3-point shooting has seemed to come around over the past few games, and having someone reliable who's been part of your system for so many years, I feel like that is very useful in today's NBA, especially because Chris Bouchers, they don't really grow on trees.
I mean, we can talk about him being undersized at center, but then you can think about also how many positions he can guard, the 3-point shooting that he does have, the hustle that he provides, and the unselfishness that-- not saying that Precious or Yuta are selfish. I'm just saying that you have someone who's really been part of the family for so long and, you know, could be successful with someone like him, I could see the case.
But then with Yuta, like, if he just gets his 3-point shooting percentage up-- like, he really does have to shoot 40%. And it's not just for for the Raptors. Like, for his career, his NBA career, he has to become a prolific 3-point shooter, because he doesn't have some of, like, the driving game. The playmaking is great, he's a smart player, but he isn't necessarily able to make plays with the ball in his hands and get into the bucket.
He doesn't really have an array of moves to score the ball. So what do you have to be really, really good at? You have to be really good at a couple of things, and if he can really hone in on his 3-point shooting, become, like, an amazing 3-point shooter, that would be great. That would be very beneficial.
And then Precious, I mean, I go back and forth with him a little bit, only because-- I didn't put Khem Birch here, but Khem Birch is still a factor in this, and he's been very-- he's been injured for a lot of different reasons this year. Jesus. Got a broken nose now. That's no good. But Precious, yeah, he just makes some really interesting plays.
It's kind of a similar thing that Chris Boucher has gone through, right, that he wants to do more, he knows he can do more, and that he does some really silly things at inopportune moments. There was a possession last night where he was kind of going-- it was trending a little bit is that he's at the 3-point line, you had Pascal waiting for the ball, you got Chris Boucher waiting for the ball, they were open, and Precious is just, like, going downhill.
He's got tunnel vision, he is going to shoot the ball, and then he throws up an air ball, and both of them-- I think collectively, Chris and Pascal, they just go like this. They hang their heads because they're like, Precious, you did it again. Jesus. But he's 22 years old, so I don't know.
I should be answering this question-- because you answered it, I'll answer it, too. I think you-- I think you keep-- you start Precious because-- and I'm just banking on him figuring this out and understanding his role and that, pretty much, if you want to be part of this, this is what you have to do. I think you sit Boucher because of the versatility, and you don't really know when you're going to need a Chris Boucher, right?
And I think you can find a player like Yuta Watanabe, and they are so desperate for a shooting guard or a guard who can just score the ball coming off the bench, and I don't think they're going to really get rid of Dalano Banton or even Malachi Flynn. Like, they have to make a decision there, obviously, but that could be a roster spot that becomes available.
But overall, how many guys can you keep on your bench that aren't going to be great shooters? And if he just isn't able to figure this out-- and I don't know if he's going to. He's been very up and down this year. He's been injured, I get it, but he might be the person that I drop, unfortunately. Unfortunately.
KATIE HEINDL: Jeez.
AMIT MANN: Very, very unfortunate. Now-- now you're right, this isn't fun.