Analyzing The Raptors' "Bench Flow"

Breaking down a common set play for the Raptors' bench unit

The Toronto Raptors’ bench unit of Ross, Biyombo, Joseph and Patterson, as well as starting point guard Kyle Lowry, form to be one of the league’s most effective five-man lineups. This grouping has the highest Net Rating of any group that has played more than 200 minutes together, registering a blistering +22.2 points per 100 possessions while on the court. 1

One of the groupings most effective sets is Bench Flow. This play allows two of the team’s best shooters in Lowry and Ross, to come off screens in a fluid manner which also allows for open shots.

Lowry and Ross each attempt almost four “catch and shoot” three-point attempts per game, both with incredible accuracy by shooting 47% and 41% from deep respectively. This set play allows for those two to thrive in that context.

Here's the diagram for Bench Flow

The play starts with the primary ball-handler, typically Lowry or Joseph, swinging the ball to mid-court where Patterson will receive the pass. The initial ball-handler will then come off an up-screen from Biyombo where they will head towards the paint.

As this is occurring, the eventual end-receiver cuts towards the basket while another wing, in this case Johnson, cuts towards Patterson to receive a dribble hand-off (DHO). Johnson becomes the final passer of the play and must wait for the shooter, Ross, to come off a staggered screen on the opposite end of the court. Once the separation is gained, Ross will get the pass and rise up for a great three-point attempt.

Of course, opposing teams will scout and defend this play properly, in which case the shooter who comes off the staggered screen must be able to read and identify what the defense gives them. Most teams like to overplay the middle of the court and sometimes will shoot the gap to do so, in which case Ross has shown he is capable of putting the ball on the floor in an attempt to get a better shot.

While the 5-man bench plus Lowry unit is impressive, it isn’t ideal to play it every minute of every game for obvious contextual reasons. When DeRozan is added to this group, he is generally tasked with the responsibility as the final passer in the play, but sometimes opts against it to run a high pick and roll, in which he is incredibly proficient at.

The Raptors’ stellar bench unit, featuring two premier catch and shoot players, is one of the many positive factors that has lead to the team’s tremendous success. Head Coach Dwane Casey has opted to start other wing players over Terrence Ross, such as Norman Powell and James Johnson, not because they are superior players, but because he wishes to keep this tremendous unit in tact while Demarre Carroll recovers from surgery. It is pretty  hard to argue against it when the bench unit delivers.


1 According to Accurate as of March 20th 2016

2 According to Accurate as of March 20th 2016


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