Luis Scola’s gotten a pretty good deal so far. Coming off two seasons in Indiana where he played 17 and 20 minutes the last two seasons, he came to Toronto seeking a more significant role, not fully convinced that he’s ready to take on the Chuck Hayes-level of veteran leadership just yet.
Never did he concede that he came here to come off the bench, or that his intentions were anything other than to compete for the starting job. Training cap was kind to Scola and brutal to Patrick Patterson, who showed up to camp minus a jumper and with each passing game, lost more and more confidence until the mere sight of the ball gave him chills. And so Luis Scola became the starting power forward.
I’m not one for #analytics or articles where you have graphs going up and down, but do permit me to look at some stats, notably their comps:
The only point of the above table is that Scola is playing more, getting used more, and producing more, which on the surface makes total sense since you play the guy who’s producing. This seemingly logical conclusion doesn’t consider two points.
First, for the Raptors to reach their ceiling, Patterson has to be producing like a starter while playing starter minutes, and settling for the current setup of Scola starting with Patterson backing him up is sub-optimal in the long run no matter what the short term “yields” are. He needs to be the stretch/playmaking four that he was planned to be. He needs to be shooting threes at the 38-40% clip that he was when the Raptors acquired him, and if he’s not doing that, the Raptors have to look at getting a player who can. The production out of the “Patterson role”, whoever that person may be, needs to be higher and of a different type than what Scola is providing.
The stretch four is a key cog in the Raptors offense which likes to go small, and inserting Scola into these offenses may get you the odd great game and a somewhat consistent mid-range jumper, but the defense is completely willing to live with that knowing that Scola is a known quantity and his production doesn’t project out to 36 minutes, let alone 82 games. Most importantly, it’s very unlikely to be a factor against half-decent teams hell-bent on playing defense, like they do in the post-season. The “position by committee” isn’t something I believe in, and it has never worked for the Raptors, be it at point guard (e.g., Ford/Calderon, Calderon/Jack) or now at power forward. There needs to be a clear #1 and a clear #2.
Second, Scola’s defense has been bad and is being masked by his occasional good offensive game, and also how bad Patterson’s looked. He has been burned by the likes of Derrick Favors, Darrell Arthur, C.J. Miles and any forward that can remotely stretch the floor this season, and that trend will accentuate in the post-season where teams will target him to the point of him becoming unplayable. Think Andrea Bargnani vs Hedo Turkoglu way back when.
On the flip side, the Raptors bench is producing 25.4 points per game, which is ranked 29th in the league. The bench has lacked a big who can play pick ‘n roll and provide efficient offense all year, and that’s where Scola can help. He could even increase his current usage if he played with the bench unit as he’d provide a good pivot to run the offense through. This also happens to be Patterson’s shortcoming, he’s not a great passer of the ball and has essentially no roll game, which makes a Joseph/Patterson pick ‘n roll very predictable.
More than anything, Lowry and DeRozan definitely need help, and since it isn’t coming from Terrence Ross, Dwane Casey has to think about what his other options are. It’s very easy to slip into a dangerous comfort zone provided by regular season wins, and expect the current offensive setup to produce in the playoffs (see last post-season, or the one before that), and the one lever that Casey can turn is how the power forward position is managed.
Before you laugh at me for suggesting to give more minutes to a player who I openly admit has been bad, understand that I’m looking at what the realistic ceiling of the Raptors is, not holding on to the floor. That ceiling, as per the current roster, has Patrick Patterson playing a Draymond Green, Chris Bosh, or even Ryan Anderson role than what he’s doing now. We have about two months till the trade deadline to sort this position out, whether it be via Patrick Patterson or someone else.
Last year Masai Ujiri made the fatal mistake of not dealing with the obvious weakness of rim protection at the deadline, and the Raptors paid the price as they got trounced in the paint by Washington’s backcourt. This year’s version of that weakness is stretch four production, and in an East that’s wide open, it would be a crime not to address it. Before we swing any trades, though, we have to see what Patrick Patterson can give us in the role that was planned for him in the off-season. Feast or famine, live or die, we have to give it a try. Start him, play him, and see what he’s got because if he doesn’t have it, we need to make a move.