The solution to the bench problems is potentially right in front of our eyes

The Toronto Raptors need a secondary creator... and little did they know they may potentially have one already

The Toronto Raptors have been lacking a secondary creator on the bench ever since Norman Powell left the team, and Gary Trent jr. was too effective to shift to the bench. Every game, the opposition’s bench seems to severely outscores the Raptors.

That hasn’t been the case in the past two games, but that doesn’t mean Toronto’s problems are solved. In the Raptors’ clash against the Portland Trail Blazers last Sunday afternoon, the Blazers were missing Gary Payton II, Nassir Little, and Justice Winslow who are all key contributors off the bench for Portland. As for the games against the Charlotte Hornets, Kelly Oubre Jr was out with an injury. Before the injury, he was in the running for the Sixth Man of the Year award, and Charlotte is one of the worst and shallowest teams in the league. If Toronto’s bench didn’t outscore theirs, I’d have no words.

There seems to be a formula for success in the past two games. The better the bench plays, the more the core five (Pascal Siakam, O.G. Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr) gets to rest, and they’re ready to take over late. An additional benefit is that it helps with the health of players and long-term management.

Flashback to last year’s playoffs

VanVleet was tied with Siakam for the most minutes played per game last season, and during the playoffs, he dealt with a knee injury that harmed his performance.

Continuing to this season, not only are Siakam and VanVleet within the top two again, but now Anunoby has joined them in the top five for most minutes played per game this season. It isn’t even past the All-Star break yet and these three are risking injury playing a ton of minutes.

A secondary creator who can run the offense and steal some minutes for players like VanVleet, Siakam, and Anunoby is crucial to this team.

Now the question is… how does Toronto acquire that secondary creator who can come off the bench?

One method would be via trade… There are guys like Buddy Hield and Jordan Clarkson seemingly on the block, but it will cost a lot of assets to acquire one of them.

The second method is to develop a secondary creator from the system, something the Raptors are already familiar with doing.

Raptors 905

I had the pleasure of covering the Raptors 905 vs the Capital City Go-Go (Wizards G-League team) on Monday night. I saw one player with whom we are all familiar who has the potential to be that secondary creator.

That special player is the kid from Rexdale, Dalano Banton.

Dalano Banton

In December with the Raptors, Banton put up a career-high 27 points and 4 assists on 56.3 percent shooting to lead the Raptors to a win against the Pistons. He has shown that he can be that guy on the big stage if you give him the right amount of minutes, which he hasn’t received. At his best, he’s electric. After getting sent down to the 905, he is 25th in the entire league in scoring.

Against the Go-Go on Monday night, Banton lead the 905 to a win by scoring a team-high in points and closed out the game with a couple of big plays.

Banton did it all against Capital City. He aggressively attacked the rim and used his length for some unreal dunks…

And that’s not all. He took over the game late in the fourth and ultimately closed the game out with a clutch three from a beautiful pass by Saben Lee.

He ended the night with 29 points on 10-21 shooting and 3-7 from three along with 7 rebounds and 2 assists. Banton was spectacular. This is what Coach Khoury had to say about him after the game.

“I thought Dalano played well especially on the defensive end. He was aggressive. He’s such a talented player, both in half court but especially in transition. He injects pace into the game and he brings everybody along for the ride. It changes the way we can play and it changes our dynamic. It’s something that’s translatable to any league he’s gonna play in. I thought that was one area he was great in today and he definitely made timely shots.” – Raptors 905 Coach Eric Khoury

Banton can potentially be that guy with the main club from time to time. The Raptors are not asking him to do anything absurd like score 20+ points off the bench in limited minutes. His role as a secondary creator would be to run the second unit and try to keep it afloat.

There have been continuous debates about whether Banton or Malachi Flynn should occupy that spot. My answer to that is why not play both? Rest for the starters seems to be working, and there’s no better means of resting the main guys than playing two guards off the bench. Flynn plays very well off the ball and has the ability to make an open pull-up three. Banton can shoot from three off the catch, attack the rim, and spray the ball across the court on the drive. Having a player like Barnes on the floor with Chris Boucher and Precious Achuiwa with a backcourt of Banton and Flynn has the potential to be a good second unit. Barnes has had a fantastic few weeks behind his playmaking and creation. This unit has the right mix of scoring, playmaking, rebounding, and defense.

It may be time to give Banton a second shot on the Raptors. He’s been dominant in the G League. Not only does Banton’s length fit the Raptors style of play, but he has shown he can create his own shot and play off-ball, both of which are components the Raptors need if their bench is going to survive against others’ reserves. If the Raptors want a secondary creator without giving up any assets, Dalano Banton would be their best shot.

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