The Runner Sports

The Toronto Raptors Should Start CJ Miles

The Toronto Raptors are coming off another successful season, despite what many people think was a disappointing playoff showing. They won 51 games, amid a slew of injuries, including Kyle Lowry missing significant time after the All-Star game. The Raps finished with the 6th ranked offensive rating and the 11th ranked defensive rating.

The team has changed a little bit over the summer, losing significant contributors like Patrick Patterson, PJ Tucker, and Corey Joseph. They traded a hefty Demarre Carroll contract and made a few minor moves at the end of the roster. The biggest addition, aside from re-signing Lowry and Serge Ibaka, was the acquisition of CJ Miles.

Miles has been an underrated two-way player for a few years now. He is a solid defender, with the ability to connect from deep. He is a career 41.3% shooter from downtown, and last year had a True Shooting Percentage of 59.2%. Known as a catch-and-shoot specialist, he has always done well playing with stars, like Paul George in Indiana, or Deron Williams when he was in Utah.

But Raptors fans have been excited about the prospect about Norman Powell ever since his breakout playoff series against the Pacers in 2016. Everyone in Toronto has the fond memory of Jurassic Park roaring while Powell tied the game on this thunderous dunk in Game 5 of that first round series.

Powell got better in his second season, putting up 8.9 points per game on 44.9% shooting from the field. His three-point stroke leaves something to be desired, at 32.4% last year, but he has shown the ability to shoot it at times, and just needs to be a little more consistent.

Powell has also been an energetic defender since coming into the league, and has often been the Raptors’ best option against top scorers, just like Paul George. The Raptors turned that series around when Powell came into the starting lineup and was tasked with slowing down George.

So the question everyone has been asking is, who should Dwane Casey start alongside Demar Derozan on the wing? The young, athletic Powell, or the steady shooter, Miles?

A quick roundup seems to have people split. Some felt that Powell is a perfect compliment to Derozan, and balances out the things that Derozan is not great at. Either player would allow Derozan to guard someone other than the opposing team’s best wing scorer.

Miles is probably a little more versatile on the perimeter, and can guard most swingmen respectably. As a one-on-one defender, Powell is better with quicker guards than Miles, and can switch onto point guards in a pinch.

To make the most of both players, Miles should be the one to start

Miles, and not Powell, is the better fit alongside Lowry and Derozan. The Raptors have needed a knockdown shooter for a few years, and have never found him. They tried first with Terrence Ross, then Carroll, and just could not find a two-way guy to go alongside the rest of their star power. Miles is a proven shooter and defender, and should benefit from the open looks Derozan and Lowry generate.

Powell may be ready to take over the second unit, and might even close games for this team. The bench unit is going to be a very young group, led by Powell, Delon Wright, and Lucas Nogueira. All of those guys have gotten their feet wet over the last couple seasons, including some playoff experience, but it remains to be seen if they can be in control of that bench.

Don’t be surprised if the Raptors are trying some different lineups throughout the year, or even if it becomes a matchup-specific rotation between Powell and Miles. They may even go small at times, with Ibaka at the 5, and Powell and Miles out there together. Versatility is key in the NBA, and Toronto is going to have to find as much of that as they can.

After a few of the most successful and exciting seasons in franchise history, the Raptors are going into an uncertain year. They need to maximize what they have right now, and try to stay competitive with the top teams in the East. The job of coaching this team is going to be a tough one this year, and Dwane Casey has got his hands full. If he can get the most out of this team, it is going to make things very interesting in the Eastern Conference.