With 2:16 remaining in the first quarter on Wednesday, Tyler Hansbrough entered the game for Jonas Valanciunas.

With the Toronto Raptors up 24-17, Dwane Casey had seen enough from his starting unit. At the end of the quarter, Rudy Gay, Kyle Lowry and Amir Johnson would have their days deemed complete, while noted ironman DeMar DeRozan lasted all the way until the 10:43 mark of the second quarter.

Yup, your starters, save for Valanciunas, played between 12 and 13 minutes.

Sporting a blue Vin Scully t-shirt after the game (and asking about the outcome of the Los Angeles Dodgers game), DeMar DeRozan quipped that he didn’t realize how long NBA games were.

But it was by design that the starters played so little, even with Wednesday marking the team’s lone game in an eight-day stretch. That’s because Casey largely knows what he’s got with his top unit, but who comprises the second unit and how that unit will play is up in the air.

“We have a good feel for what they can do,” Casey said of the starters after the game. “We’re nowhere near being where we need to be as a whole entire team. It wasn’t any disrespect to Boston, we need to find out what our second unit can do.”

The unfortunate thing was that with two exceptions, nobody took the extra playing time and leveraged it to stand out.

The three point guards battling for backup duties didn’t look bad but didn’t look particularly sound, either. D.J. Augustin appears to be who he was in 2012-13, not his earlier years; Dwight Buycks looks like the player most capable of adding and taking away; and Julyan Stone showed some nice defensive versatility but doesn’t seem completely comfortable yet after knee and hip injuries this summer.

There will be more on Stone later this weekend, in depth, but consider this: in 53 preseason minutes, he’s attempted just six field goals and made three turnovers. One of those attempts was a missed breakaway dunk with about eight seconds left last night, one that nearly gave the Celtics a win (or tie – thanks for missing that bunny, Jared Sullinger).

Teammates were dogging him for that after the game, and he said that even his 7-year old nephew had already texted to get on his back.

“He’ll be in the squat machine tomorrow,” Casey said of Stone’s punishment.

Buycks, ostensibly Stone’s competition for the PG3 role (but not really, since Stone seems to have a good shot at cracking the roster as a 15th man even though he would be a fourth point guard thanks to his ability to guard twos and small threes) has taken 35 shots in 95 minutes with 12 turnovers. That’s an enormous disparity in aggression, and while it could eventually look like a fault of Buycks, right now it highlights how Stone has been too passive at times.

Buycks might be taking things off the table with his somewhat erratic play, but he’s also been the most productive of the guards. Raw, yes, but able to make things happen. It seems Buycks is the best offensive weapon, Stone the best defensive, Augustin the…I don’t know, safest?

But perhaps the second guard won’t need to do quite as much as anticipated.

At least, if the Landry Fields that showed up Wednesday is around on a permanent basis, the second unit could be one with a point forward at the helm.

Fields looked great against Boston, basically hitting the points on the scouting report people were expecting when he was initially brought in. His 14 points and seven rebounds (plus he hit a three!) in 17 minutes were great, but it was his ability to initiate the offense with the ball that made him stand out.

His handle was a little slippery at times, leading to a couple of crazy baskets that may not have happened if he kept it tight, and he only had one assist. Still, he looked capable of running the offense for short spurts, which is important as the point guard depth chart sorts itself out.

Also impressing was Terrence Ross, who had 19 points in 26 minutes, including three monster dunks. The 3-point stroke still wasn’t there (1-of-5) but he did a great job attacking and using his athleticism to beat defenders.

We know Ross can score a little against other teams’ benches, and Casey indicated post-game that they’re putting far greater emphasis on Ross’ defense and decision making with the ball.

“We know he can score,” Casey said of the sophomore. “He’s gotta make decisions; if I don’t have a shot, what do I do now?”

To his credit, Ross did well in this regard and played solid defense, but of course the necessary preseason caveats apply. The bench desperately needs Ross to become capable of productive five-minute stretches, and this was a nice step in that direction.

Can a second unit with Fields at the point forward and Ross as the primary scorer be a stable one? Probably not; it worked on Wednesday, but both players need to develop a consistency to those roles and a point guard needs to emerge as the best backup candidate.

The second unit was showcased heavily Wednesday night out of a desire to sort those roles out. Instead, the only certainties that emerged were Chris Wright’s position on the depth chart (low) and Austin Daye’s ideal position on the depth chart (off of it).

With four straight days of practice, now, it will be interesting to see how the playing time shakes out when the Raptors play three times in five nights next week.

Notes

  • The Raptors warm-up jackets look great this year.
  • The Raptors opening video song is that Fall Out Boy Light a MUP MUP MUP song which is the greatest thing ever. If you’re not a part of hockey twitter (or postseason baseball twitter), you’re in for a treat if Mups are getting Lit across the NBA this year.
  • Quincy Acy was himself, grabbing eight boards in 23 minutes and playing solid defense. The shot wasn’t there, but he can be productive in small minutes even without it.
  • Aaron Gray entered the game with 2:30 left and immediately got whistled for an illegal screen. Midseason form.
  • Minor rant: Valanciunas ended up playing 27 minutes, which is fine. He took two field goal attempts and six free throws (on three trips), however, which is borderline criminal. Sure, the second unit was the focus and maybe the staff had Valanciunas focusing specifically on off-ball elements of his game, but it seems silly to not feed him the rock for reps in this kind of game.

  • Milesboyer

    Stone is to me, the best of the three options. Augustin flat sucks and does nothing well but dribble, Buycks is looking to get his own more often than not and still thinks he’s in France, not to mention the guy is small (I think I weigh more than him at a buck fifty). But Stone just seems to get the ball moving. No he’s not going to shoot it well mostly because he’s hardly going to shoot at all but that’s not a bad thing. Couple his steady confident hand with his defence and I think he’s the top choice. There’s just something about him that I like and there’s alot about Buycks and Augustin that unlikeable.

    • YN4

      True.. with no real go-to guy on the second unit they need to keep the ball moving and Buycks isn’t doing that. Augustine adds nothing positive on either end of the court and is a ball stopper once he gets it. Stone is a 6,6 pg that plays D and looks to pass…. I’d give him the nod unless you need instant O (bucks) or a spot-up 3pt pg (Augustin)

    • GLF

      I agree to an extent but do you really think Casey would play Julyan over DJ or Buycks. I don’t see that happening.

      • DDt

        Casey is a defense-first guy so why not? DJ doesn’t play a lick of defense and Buycks is still too green.

        • GLF

          I agree completely! I hope you’re right and he puts defense first like he should but I just have a feeling he won’t.

        • Ghotte

          I’d go with Buyks over Stone. Stone doesn’t “do” anything. Perhaps that’s tentativeness due to the injury. But Casey will have to give the rock to Augustin to start the season. He’s the only one who can actually hit an in-game 3-pointer. (Maybe.)

          At least Casey has options if DJ craps the bed in the early part of the season. Can’t see GM.MU affording him too long a leash to get comfortable though.

  • Brian

    didn’t

  • Ed

    ā€�Heā€™ll

  • Sheptor

    Something about last night’s game became very apparent to me…our second unit is boring as hell to watch. I know it was preseason but they put me to sleep. Cant wait to get a regular rotation going.

    • Ghotte

      I don’t think there’s even a 2nd unit. There’s the starters then possibly 2, maybe 3 players that can be inserted to spell the first team. Definitely only 3 bigs are going to get burn a night. As far as Ross, I just don’t feel comfortable he can do anything of significance on a game to game basis. Maybe once every 3rd game?

      • WhiteVegas

        The way Acy has been playing we should be able to get 4 bigs some burn per night. Especially with Amir and Hansbrough both being able to play some center (not ideal but both have done it). Not many minutes, I’m thinking 10 minutes or less, but it’s good to know considering all 3 of the other bigs have a tendency to get into foul trouble.

        As for the guards-wings, I’m scared of everything outside of our starters.

        After Lowry I have no idea who gets the PG minutes because none of these guys have looked like they deserved them. Still, I wanted young backups with potential instead of aging journeyman, so I’m not upset, just a bit worried. Really hope one of the 3 backup PG’s breaks out and can give us a solid 20 minutes a night. At least were taking a gamble that could pay off instead of John Lucas.

        At SG it mainly depends on Terrence Ross, but to a certain extent Landry Fields. I really like Ross, but man, he can be off some nights. If he could just find consistency, doesn’t even need to play great, then we’re actually deep at SG. Fields can play whatever minutes Ross can’t handle.

        At SF we have some interesting depth with Fields, Novak, and possibly Daye. Fields brings decent defense and ball handling, while Novak and Daye provide the 3-point sniper, particularly Novak. If we can find ways to hide his defensive shortcomings, having a player like that on the court can just take the wind out of opposing teams with relentless 3’s.

        Rotation:
        Lowry
        Derozan
        Gay
        Johnson
        Valanciunas
        Hansbrough
        Ross
        Fields
        Novak
        (Whoever wins backup PG)

        Having a 10 man rotation is ok as long as you don’t play a bunch of the bench players together at the same time. Hopefully Casey realizes that this year.

  • dferraez

    With playing time, Hansbrough will show he is the best option on the second unit and probably should be on the first unit.

    • BlakeMurphy

      lol.

      • caccia

        Tyler averaged almost a double-double as a starter with the Pacers last year, and is averaging 10 points in pre-season, despite having a relatively weak showing against Boston. He would benefit playing alongside a center, not as a center.

        • DanH

          All that you said is true. And here’s something else true: he’s nowhere near good enough to be bumping Amir or Jonas from the starting unit, nor is he a better fit for that role than either of those players. And he’ll likely log a bunch of minutes with either Jonas or Amir playing beside him at center, if Casey avoids hockey line changes this season.

          • WhiteVegas

            I think when Amir and Hansbrough play together Tyler will play center. Not sure though, definitely gonna look for it in the next preseason game.

            Also, I think Amir will hold onto his starting gig, but I don’t think it’s far fetched that Hansbrough ends up the starter. He will no doubt be playing starters minutes (30ish per night), and average about the same minutes as Amir. If Amir gets injured for a bit and Hansbrough looks strong in the starting lineup, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Amir come back off the bench.

            Definitely a few people underrating Hansbrough.

            • DanH

              Oh, it wouldn’t surprise me if that happened. But that’s because Casey is an idiot, not because Hansbrough would actually deserve the starting spot.

              Definitely a few people seriously underrating Amir.

  • Lars Penbroke the Third

    Gonna be another long LONG season. Hopefully Masai gets going Trade-Deadline to shape this assemble into a proper team.

  • youngjames

    The back up PG (again) is a big issue – this team IMO has potential to be successful enough to make the play-offs, but w/o a legit back up PG – it just could be a little too far fetched. If Fields and Ross can play like they did last night consistently all year, it could be enough to mask the issue.

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