Nick Nurse explains Raptors resting Kyle Lowry for key game vs. Wizards
The NBA’s new play-in tournaments have reduced tanking.
But they haven’t eliminated it.
The Raptors played the Wizards in a crucial game last night. With a win, Toronto would’ve moved within two games of Washington for postseason position with five games remaining while holding the tiebreaker. The Raptors also could’ve gained ground on the floundering ninth-place Pacers. Though a victory still would have left them fighting the odds to make the playoffs, the Raptors would have had a significantly better chance with a win.
Toronto rested Kyle Lowry for the game – and lost by two in overtime.
My definition of tanking: Anything a team does driven, at least in part, to improve draft position through losing.
The Raptors sure appear to be tanking.
The players are still giving good effort. Sans Lowry, they put up a strong fight last night.
But the organization has looked extremely cautious with injuries. Sitting Lowry for rest in such a pivotal game really stripped the pretense. Toronto just doesn’t care much about making the play-in tournament.
At a certain point, that organizational direction can disillusion players and sabotage motivation – especially while stuck playing in Tampa. Raptors president Masai Ujiri or general manager Bobby Webster should address the situation rather leaving it to Nurse. These decisions are made above the coach’s head.
In the aftermath of their 2019 title, the Raptors have the political capital to choose whatever direction they want.
Especially after keeping Lowry past the trade deadline, that could have meant competing to advance as far as possible – even if it meant an early postseason exit. Simply making the playoffs and putting up a fight could have been rewarding in possibly Lowry’s last season with the team he has meant so much to. Nurse was right: Toronto could have been dangerous as a No. 10 seed. There is just little interest in getting to the play-in.
Tanking is a viable alternative. The Raptors currently have the NBA’s seventh-worst record, which is near their ceiling for lottery position. That’d come with a 32% chance of drawing a top-four pick in the lottery. But if Toronto wins more down the stretch, those odds drop sharply. The No. 8 (26%), No. 9 (20%) and No. 10 (14%) seeds in the lottery have much lower chances of picking top four.
If the Raptors move up in this draft that looks strong at the top, all would be forgiven. Toronto could add a top young prospect to a core of Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby.
But if the Raptors land a pedestrian player with a mid/late-lottery pick, it will have been disappointing to waste this opportunity to compete with Lowry. As tantalizing as it can be to plan for the future, sometimes it’s worth just enjoying the present.