FanPost

Touring the Eastern Conference, Volume II: Toronto Raptors

We're getting closer to Opening Night, so we'll keep on with our tour. The second stop on our trip takes us to the great city of Toronto. Jump and we'll get into the Raptors.

What was up with Toronto last season? Let's take a look:

2011-2012

Record

Offensive Efficiency

Defensive Efficiency

Offensive Rebounding %

Turnover Rate

Free Throw rate

Effective FG%

Opponent eFG%

Toronto Raptors

23-43 98.5 101.5 25.87 14.77 27.4 47.55 47.46

League Average

____

101.8

101.8

26.93

13.77

27.7

48.7

48.7

A big problem with the Raptors defense was the amount of fouls they committed. They led the league in opponent free throw rate, but as it turns out, it didn't hurt their defense as much as you'd think. Toronto's defensive efficiency was 101.5, which was right around the league average. On the surface, being league average defensively isn't a particularly big deal, but for Toronto, this was a huge accomplishment. For the previous two seasons, Toronto was dead last in defensive efficiency, allowing 110 points per 100 possessions. New head coach Dwane Casey noticed the bad defense & had this to say at his introductory press conference:

"Defensively, I'm going to be a hands-on control freak, so to speak

So what areas did Toronto improve the most in? That would be their defensive rebounding. After being in the bottom ten in rebounding the previous 2 years, Toronto leapt all the way to third in defensive rebounding in 2011-2012. Another was their at the rim defense. Their FG% dropped 5 percentage points from 2010-2011, which is surprising (to me at least) seeing as how the Raptors don't have what he pundits would consider to be an "inside presence." Their three point defense saw an improvement as well. In 10-11, they allowed the second highest three point % in the NBA at 37.6. Last year? 32.8%, which was fifth best in the league. I think there are two views one could have about these improvements. The first, more pessimistic, view is that the lockout played a big role in Toronto's improvement. The players had to get so much game action in in such a short time period with very few off days that their offense struggled as a result. And there is something to that, as offensive efficiency dropped by 3 points league wide and team True Shooting %s dropped by two points as well. But the other, more Raptors friendly, view is that Coach Casey's emphasis on defense was the cause of the improvements. I'm more inclined to believe the Raptors line of thinking since the roster was essentially unchanged from the previous season.

"We want to keep the pace up tempo with our young team because we have the athleticism."

-Dwane Casey at his introductory press conference

The thought was there, but it didn't show in the results. The Raptors played at one of the slowest paces in the league last year, averaging 89 possessions a game, down from the 93 per game under previous coach Jay Triano. In looking at the numbers, I was trying to see if there was anything that could tip us off as to why the offense declined from the previous season (their offensive efficiency dropped to 98.5 after averaging 103.1 points per 100 possessions the season before), and I think I might have found it. In 10-11, they were second in the league in shots at the rim per game at 28 per game. Granted, they weren't the most successful as they shot only 61.4%, which was sixth worst in the league. Last year? They were 23rd in the league, at 23 shots per game at the rim (their efficiency stayed the same). My next thought was "Maybe the roster underwent a major overhaul & I had forgotten about it?" But, the Raptors roster stayed relatively the same so that wasn't it.

Where else did the Raptors take their shots on offense? Well, they loved the deep two pointers (defined as 16-23 feet). Last year, the Raps averaged 23 shots per game from that distance, which was above the league average of 19 & good for fourth in the NBA. In general, I think deep twos are terrible shots and teams should try to limit their attempts in that area. They become even more terrible when you're not particularly good at shooting them, even though you take a bunch of them. Toronto shot 36%, which was 25th in the NBA. When we look at the roster, this isn't surprising seeing as how DeMar DeRozan & Andrea Bargnani were among the league leaders in shots from 16-23 feet. More on them later.

Key additions: Kyle Lowry (acquired via trade from the Houston Rockets), Landry Fields (signed via free agency from the New York Knicks), John Lucas III (acquired via free agency), Terrance Ross (draft pick), Jonas Valancianus (draft pick)

Key departures: Jerryd Bayless (signed with the Memphis Grizzlies), Gary Forbes (traded to the Houston Rockets)

The roster as presently constituted:

In this part of the post, we're gonna discuss the players on the roster, how they did last season, and what to expect of them this season. It's time!

Starting Point Guard:

20120421_jla_ac6_597_extra_large_huge_medium

Photo from Straight Outta Vancouver

Metric

Kyle Lowry 2011-2012

Point guards in 2011-2012

Lowry's career

Minutes per Game

32.1

23

26.9

True Shooting %

55.8

52.4

54.5

Assist rate

42.46

38.1

Rebound rate

8.2

5.9

7.4

Turnover rate

17.8

17.8

16.1

Usage rate

22

20.94

19

Player Efficiency Rating

18.9

13.48

15.9

Win Shares per 48

.157

.100

.118

Wins Produced per 48

.189

.099

.150

If Deron Williams had left to join another team, I would've wanted the Nets to go hard after Kyle Lowry. He's super productive, young, is entering the prime of his career & is signed to a team-friendly deal going forward.

One very encouraging trend for Lowry the past two years has been his shooting from downtown. Before 2010-2011, Lowry shot in the mid-upper 20's from deep. But, he has shot 37% from three point range the past two seasons. He also saw his attempts from deep rise, which was probably a result of playing for Rick Adelman, whose teams have finished in the Top Ten in three pointers attempted 13 times. While I was doing this section, this article by Mike Prada immediately came to mind. I remembered the Rockets (& to be more specific, Kevin Martin) being mentioned as one of the league's best at shooting transition threes. But the article didn't match my memory. Granted the article was from February & I don't have access to Synergy Stats so if this did change I wouldn't be aware of it, but the Rockets were actually one of the worst at the transition three. And to relate it to Lowry, he was one of the worst individual shooters, as he hit on only 3 of his 18 transition threes.

I wanna pause at the transition threes point to discuss another encouraging trend in Lowry's offensive game. I mentioned earlier that Lowry's three point attempts went up as a member of the Rockets. What's also true is that his attempts at the rim have been trending upwards as well. Since joining the Rockets during the 2008-2009 season, Lowry has seen his attempts at the rise as he has taken on more responsibilities on offense (as measured by usage rate). He's been hit or miss, as some seasons (08-09 &10-11) he's been one of the better finishers at the rim, and in others (09-10 & 11-12) he's had difficulties converting on baskets close to the rim.

To bring the point home about transition threes and shot locations, I wanna take a look at how often Lowry drew fouls and got to the free throw line. Last year, Lowry drew fouls 12.8% of the time, which as a point of reference, was higher than Kobe Bryant, Deron Williams, & Dirk Nowitzki. Of course, we have to apply a whole ton of context seeing as how Bryant, Nowitzki and Williams were and currently are the focal points of their team's offenses. Getting back to Lowry, he attempted a little over four free throws a game & shot 86.4%, which was good for 15th best in the NBA. I think viewing the transition threes with relation to his success at drawing fouls and converting on his FTAs is important because it plays to a larger point about efficiency. In general, shots at the rim are the best shots in basketball. You have better odds of converting the goal & even if you don't convert, intuitively, there's a greater probability of having a foul called in your favor if you consistently attack the basket. And in the case of Lowry, if he were to trade those threes in transition for closer shots at the rim, he'd have a better chance of scoring, & even if he didn't hit the shot, he has a propensity to draw fouls and is a solid free throw shooter, those attempts would increase his efficiency (quick sidebar: a player like Lowry is a perfect example of why True Shooting % is a better measure of shooting prowess than regular Field Goal%. When we look at Lowry's career, we see that he has consistently had a FG% in the upper 30's-low 40's. If we were to just look at that & stop right there, we would reach the conclusion that Lowry is a detriment to his team when he shoots the ball. But, Lowry has always done a good job of drawing fouls & has recently begun to incorporate the three pointer into his arsenal, so he is providing value to his offense even though it may not be reflected in his FG%. Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post has more on True Shooting %.) as would provide easy points for a Raptors offense that was below average last year. I'm thinking the Raptors might need to increase the pace in order to maximize Lowry's potential, but he can still be effective even if they don't play fast.

We can't forget that Lowry has good ball handling skills as well. Throughout his career, he's sported an above average assist rate, and that has translated to rising assist per game marks as his minutes have risen. He's been OK in terms of turning the ball over, as he had a league average turnover rate last year. That league average mark would be a boon for Toronto, who had a bit of a turnover problem. The Raptors sported a 14.77 turnover rate, which means they turned the ball over about 15 times every 100 possessions.

Lowry's calling card is his defense. He's strong enough to handle guards in the post & quick enough to more than hold his own on the perimeter with the quicker guards in the league. On an individual level, he held opposing PGs to an eFG% of .468 & a PER of 15.7, which were both around league average. When we take a look at Lowry through the team lens, it still looks good. With him on the court, the Rockets allowed 101.2 points per 100 possessions, which was a little below their overall mark of 102.1. One of Lowry's biggest strengths is his rebounding, in particular on the defensive glass. Lowry's defensive rebounding rate (which is the percentage of rebounds he grabs while he's on the court) was 13.6, which was one of the best marks for point guards in the league. With him on the court, Houston got 74% of the available defensive rebounds, which would have been Top 10 in the NBA. Lowry's strength on the glass plays right into Toronto's new found strength. As mentioned earlier, the Raptors were one of the league's best defensive rebounding teams, and Lowry's performance in this area will only help to improve their overall defense.

So after all this praise for Lowry, why would a team trade a good young player on a fair deal?

"If things aren't addressed coaching-wise, I guess I have to be moved."

Nevermind.

Starting Shooting Guard:

20120222_ter_ag9_061_extra_large_medium

Photo from Posting and Toasting

Metric

Landry Fields 2011-2012

Shooting guards in 2011-2012

Fields' career

Minutes per Game

28.7

23

30

True Shooting %

50.6

52.7

55.5

Assist rate

25.03

17.95

22.5

Rebound rate

8.5

6.6

10.3

Turnover rate

15.10

12.56

14.4

Usage rate

16

19.79

14.6

Player Efficiency Rating

12.07

12.59

12.9

Win Shares per 48

.085

.099

.094

Wins Produced per 48

.170

.099

.198

*Note: Terrence Ross might become the starter by Opening Night

Even though he's mostly known as being the owner of the couch Jeremy Lin slept on the night before he put a beating on Deron Williams and the Nets, Landry Fields is a perfectly acceptable NBA player. In a perfect world, would you offer him $20 million over three years? Probably not, but riskier contracts have been offered to players in the not too distant past.

But one thing that sticks out about Fields is his poor shooting. His True Shooting % took a 10 point dip, & it's easy o see what caused the decline. He's always been a poor free throw shooter going back to his time at Stanford University, but last year was something else. He shot only 56% last year, which was one of the worst marks for shooting guards in the league. He was also subpar from behind the three point line. Luckily for the Knicks, he only took 2 per game, but he still shot an abysmal 25%. He's perfectly acceptable at the rim, as he shot 64% at the basket, so I expect the Raptors todesign plays for Fields that have him cutting to the basket.

One big thing about Fields is his rebounding. After being one of the best rebounding guards in the NBA during his rookie season, his production on that end took a dip, but he was still very productive. If I had to guess a reason as to why his rebounding went down, I'd say it was due to the presence of Tyson Chandler. Chandler was one of the better defensive rebounders in the league last year, & with the exception of 31 minutes, Fields was always on the court with Tyson Chandler. Contrast that to 10-11, the overwhelming majority of his minutes came with Amare Stoudemire, Wilson Chandler & Danilo Gallinari on the court, three players who aren't what we would consider good rebounders.

His defense took a step forward from his rookie to the sophomore season. In his rookie year, NYK allowed close to 108 points per 100 possessions with him on the court vs. 105 without. Year 2? They allowed 96.8 per 100 with him on the court vs. 100.9 without him. Now, that sounds good on the surface but I think that was more due to the presence of Tyson Chandler on the court with Fields than Fields' defense himself. When we move down and take a look at him individually, that belief has some credence to it. Opposing two guards shot an eFG% of .532 & had a PER of 15.2, both of which were up from the year before. That's probably one of the reasons why he saw his minutes decline from the year before.

Starting Small Forward:

Gyi0063575384_huge_medium

Photo from Straight Outta Vancouver

Metric

DeMar DeRozan 2011-2012

Small Forwards in 2011-2012

DeRozan's career

Minutes per Game

35

22

30.3

True Shooting %

50.3

52.7

52.5

Assist rate

10.92

15.99

9.71

Rebound rate

5.6

9

6.6

Turnover rate

10.5

12.78

10

Usage rate

25

17.98

22.5

Player Efficiency Rating

12.8

11.96

13.4

Win Shares per 48

.054

.099

.058

Wins Produced per 48

-.030

.099

.014

As someone who doesn't pay attention to the Raptors on a daily basis, I've sort of formed the view that Demar DeRozan is some easily replaceable player that's just a dunker and not much else. But, according to our friends at Raptors HQ and through taking a look at DeRozan's performance, that view is 100% wrong. From Brandon Graham at Raptors HQ:

The point here is that in my books, DeMar DeRozan is no lost cause.

He has shown vast improvements on the defensive end, and while the stats don't bear it out, there were areas that we saw noticeable growth on the offensive end as well. He got to the basket with more regularity, especially as the season went on, and while his 3-point stroke was hardly that of Ray Allen, it did take a big step forward from his rookie season.

When we start to unpack his performance, this belief holds up. He didn't spend much time out there, but his three point % almost tripled from 2010-2011. Granted, he only shot 9% from downtown in Year 2, but shooting 26.1 percent is actually a major step up for DeRozan.

As Brandon Graham noted, the stats don't bear out DeRozan's improvement. And to be a little more direct, the numbers look pretty ugly. Derozan was 10th in the NBA (4th among SGs) in shots from 16-23 feet, but he only shot 35%, which was a decline from the 40% he shot in his sophomore season. It's one thing to throw up a ton of deep twos, but it's another to take a plethora of deep twos and be bad at it.

I don't wanna be too negative because there are positive attributes to DeRozan's game. For one thing, his attacking the basket gets him to the line a good amount. He drew fouls 14.8% of the time and was 15th in total FT attempts. And while his % at the rim did decrease, I wouldn't worry too much about that. He's super athletic & has shown an ability to finish at the rim in the past, so he should bounce back.

Moving onto his defense, his defense played better at the SG position than it did at the small forward slot. He held 2 guards to an eFG of .457, which was well below the average eFG of 48.7. At the 3, it wasn't as good as small forwards shot an eFG% of 51.8%. He hasn't played that many minutes at the small forward position in the past two years, so it'll be very interesting to see how he adapts to playing their on a full time basis.

I'll end this section with some words from Brandon Graham:

But there's no question that with his contract coming due, time is running out for DeMar, with this season likely showing fans if he's ready to flourish, or if the bar has already been set as high as it can go.

Starting Power Forward:

20120310_maw_af2_179_large_medium

Photo from Brew Hoop

Metric

Andrea Bargnani 2011-2012

Power Forwards in 2011-2012

Bargnani's career

Minutes per Game

33.3

21

30.5

True Shooting %

53.8

53

53.9

Assist rate

9.54

12.85

8.09

Rebound rate

9.8

13.6

9.6

Turnover rate

11

13.43

10.5

Usage rate

28.7

18.61

24.1

Player Efficiency Rating

17.9

14.47

14.6

Win Shares per 48

.104

.099

.064

Wins Produced per 48

-.040

.099

-.076

There are questions out there as to whether or not Bargnani is even a serviceable NBA player, which is shocking to me. And I don't mean shocking in the sense that a #1 pick isn't as good as his spot in the Draft indicates he should be, that part isn't shocking at all. The shocking part to me is that Bargnani received a $50 million extension when his play at the time didn't warrant that kind of deal (Side Note: If I were a Raptors fan, reading that link would piss me off. Hedo's massive contract & Chris Bosh's will he or won't he resign? Ugh.)

So why are there questions about Bargnani's competence as a player? His defense & rebounding are a good starting point. He had a career year on the defensive glass, grabbing 16.6% of the available defensive rebounds while he was on the court. The problem with that is that was still below the 19.5% of d-rebounds grabbed by the other centers in the league. Because rebounding is so important at the center, Bargnani's absence in this part of the game has earned him negative marks when we look at wins produced.

As a defender, the picture doesn't become prettier. In 2010-2011, opposing Centers shot an eFG of 58.8% against him, which is hilariously bad. When we step back and look at how Toronto did with him on the court, it gets even worse. The Raptors allowed 112.5 points per 100 possessions with Bargs vs. a more respectable 106 with him on the bench. When you watch him, you see a defender that isn't particularly quick, physical, or agile. And in an NBA with power forwards like Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Love, etc., that's a dangerous cocktail.

But something happened along the way to bust the "Bargnani is really bad at defense" truism. That something was Dwane Casey. Speaking to Hardwood Paroxysm in January, Casey had this to say about Bargnani's defense:

"I found out defensively we have better talent than I thought," Casey said. "Andrea’s done an excellent job defensively, impacting pick-and-rolls, playing the post, doing the things we need him to do defensively to make an impact on the game, so that’s been a huge surprise – how talented he is, not only on the offensive end, but on the defensive end."

When we look at the numbers, this emphasis on defense shows itself. Raptor opponents shot only 59% at the rim, a mark that was down from 63% in 10-11 and good for 4th best at the rim defense in the NBA. With Bargs, the Raptors allowed 103.3 per 100, which was a little bit above their overall mark of 101.8, but is a MAJOR (I can't stress this enough) improvement from where they once were with him. In 2010-2011, they had a defensive eFG of 53.1% with Andrea on the court, which would have been "good" for worst in the NBA (FWIW, Toronto had the 3rd worst eFG overall). Las year, they had a 48.3% defensive eFG, which was right in line with their team mark.

As an individual, we can see the improvements as well. He held opposing centers to an eFG% of 50.2% and a PER of 15.2, which were both around league average. If the Raptors are gonna make a run at the Atlantic Division crown, Bargnani is gonna have to continue to make strides on defense.

He's known as being a superb offensive player, but does that viewpoint hold up under close inspection? He had a league average True Shooting % of 53.8%. Now, I wanna take a quick timeout and discuss roles. While it is certainly true that there were a bunch of centers that shot better than him in 11-12, I wouldn't call them better shooters or more useful to their team's offense when they're at their best. An example of this (granted, this is on the extreme end of the spectrum) is DeAndre Jordan. Now if you were gonna construct an offense and looked at TS% alone without taking other factors into account, you'd take Jordan over Bargnani without hesitation. But as it turns out, you'd be limiting yourself on offense. Jordan is a terrible free throw shooter that rarely handles the ball, doesn't have many plays called for him & operates almost exclusively near the basket.

That point about shot location is key when it comes to discussing Bargnani's game. He has an ability to stretch the floor, as evidenced by his high amount of deep twos and three point attempts. He's quite good from 16-23 feet, as his 42% was above the league average of 38.1%. His three point shooting wasn't as good, as he shot a career low 29% from downtown. It's important to note that he was dealing with calf injuries and I'm sure that had a huge impact on his long range shooting. With the influx of new talent, I would expect Bargnani's shooting efficiency to rise as a result.

Another great development in Bargnani's game is the increase in free throw attempts. Because Bargnani is a threat on the perimeter, he takes advantage of susceptible defenders with a series of pump fakes that catch them off balance. He averaged close to 6 FTAs a game and shot a robust 87.3%. I think he could get to the line even more if he traded some of his deep twos for some shots in the post.

Starting Center:

117159350_standard_1348579456_352_medium

Photo from SB Nation

I'm not familiar with Jonas Valanciunus' game, so I'll let Adam Francis of Raptors HQ discuss the potential pros and cons of this rookie:

The Bench:

Kevin-garnett-jose-calderon_medium

Photo from Canis Hoopus

Metric

Jose Calderon 2011-2012

Point guards in 2011-2012

Calderon's career

Minutes per Game

33.9

23

28.4

True Shooting %

54.7

52.4

57

Assist rate

76.77

38.1

69.09

Rebound rate

5.2

5.9

5.3

Turnover rate

17

17.8

16.7

Usage rate

16

20.94

16.9

Player Efficiency Rating

16.7

13.48

17.4

Win Shares per 48

.136

.100

.131

Wins Produced per 48

.208

.099

.198

Simply put, Calderon is one of the best passing guards in the league. For six years now, he's been at the top of the leaderboards in assist rate, which is very impressive. Calderon's passing is best when he's feeding guys at the basket. Of his nine (well, 8.8) assists a game, about 4 of them came at the rim. He and Andrea Bargnani work well together in the pick and roll, so expect that success to continue.

When we take a look at his shooting, we see that he loves the midrange game. On the whole, he shot 44% from deep two, which is quite excellent. When we dig into it a little further, we can see he's at his best on the right side of the court. According to the shot charts on Vorped, Calderon was at his best on the right side of the court. On the right elbow, he shot 58.6% on 70 FGAs, which was an 18% improvement from 10-11. That success in the midrange generally tracks with the perception of Calderon being an excellent shooter.

Another perception of Calderon is that he's a poor defender. And that perception holds up when we dig into the numbers. Opposing points shot an eFG% of 51.1%, which was above the league average. And in a year where the Raptors improved a great deal on defense, that wasn't the case when Calderon was on the court. They allowed 104.4 points per 100, which was almost seven points higher than their defense without Calderon. With the acquisition of Lowry, the Raptors should continue to gain ground on defense. Which is probably one of the reasons why Toronto management was looking to trade him.

20120415_jel_aw5_170_extra_large_medium

Photo from SB Nation

Metric

Ed Davis 2011-2012

Power Forwards in 2011-2012

Davis' career

Minutes per Game

23.2

21

23.9

True Shooting %

54.4

53

56.5

Assist rate

13.37

12.85

10.88

Rebound rate

16.8

13.6

16.9

Turnover rate

14.9

13.43

12.4

Usage rate

13.8

18.61

13.5

Player Efficiency Rating

14.2

14.47

15

Win Shares per 48

.121

.099

.120

Wins Produced per 48

.200

.099

.202

I wanna take a step back and return to 2010. Here's what Draft Express had to say about Ed Davis:

Offensively, Davis remains extremely raw, being mostly limited to finishing plays in the immediate area around the basket and having a difficult time creating his own shot. His lack of strength makes it tough for him to establish position deep in the post and finish through contact in traffic, something that forces him to settle for difficult shots outside of his comfort zone. His footwork is raw and he avoids his right hand like the plague (he’s left-handed), not looking all that impressive when forced to improvise on the fly, and having a very difficult time against more physical defenders.

Two years later, does that assessment ring true? If we view "creating his own shot" through the prism of how often he's assisted on his baskets, then yes he does need to improve his shot taking ability. He was assisted on 71.5% of his makes, which was above the league average of 60%. One thing he does very well is finish at the rim. He shot 75% at the basket, which was one of the highest marks in the NBA. With Calderon and now Lowry on board, it wouldn't be unreasonable to suggest that Davis will see an increase in shot attempts at the rim.

Two years in, Davis is already one of the better rebounders in the league. When he was on the court, he snagged 23% of the available defensive rebounds. The Raptors as a team picked up 77% of all defensive rebounds with Ed Davis playing vs. 74% with him on the bench. Davis in the team context was solid as well. The Raps allowed 101.9 per 100 & an opponent eFG% of 47.7, which are right in line with what they did on the whole.

Davis suffered a knee injury before the start of his rookie season that caused him to miss the first 17 games of the year. Davis hasn't missed a game since.

I'll end the Ed Davis part of the tour with some words from a Raptors HQ interview with Assistant Coach Eric Hughes:

Eddy's development has slowed a little bit because he hasn't had the opportunity that a normal player gets as far as his progression goes. Eddy's a guy that wants to learn, he never shies away from workout out and wants to get better. But during a lock-out you can only do so much. So I thought Eddy made great strides in Summer League and I'm glad that he decided to play.

Gyi0063907962_medium

Photo from SB Nation

Here's an assessment of Terrence Ross' game by Zach Lowe at Sports Illustrated (he's now at Grantland)

Ross looks like he’s going to be a feisty defender. He bumps those big guys hard and he’ll fight them for rebounds in the paint. He won’t always box out his own man with that same vigor, and he has an occasional tendency to reach for balls instead of maintaining good position. But scouts and executives in Vegas agree that he projects as a good defender. The consensus seems to be that Ross won’t be a star, but that he should be a very productive starter on a good team.

And that projection as a good defender should get him a fair amount of minutes this season. ESPN's depth chart has him in the starting lineup already, but I would think coach Casey wants to give Landry Fields and DeRozan the chance to contribute as starters.

20120404_hcs_sy4_010_extra_large_medium

Photo from Liberty Ballers

Metric

Linus Kleiza 2011-2012

Small Forwards in 2011-2012

Kleiza's career

Minutes per Game

21.6

22

20.1

True Shooting %

52.1

52.7

54.7

Assist rate

8.88

15.99

8.58

Rebound rate

11

9

10.4

Turnover rate

12.4

12.78

11.2

Usage rate

23.1

17.98

19.9

Player Efficiency Rating

12.4

11.96

12.6

Win Shares per 48

.066

.099

.083

Wins Produced per 48

.036

.099

.057

I was gonna get ready to say Kleiza is all shooting and nothing else, but that might've been true four years ago. Ever since he signed with Toronto, his shooting hasn't been where it was when he played in Denver. In his two years as a Raptor, his TS% hasn't gotten close to where it was in his peak year in Denver. He takes about 4 per game, but only converts on about 35% of them. Maybe that's why he was overpaid last year.

20120313_ajw_aq4_680_extra_large_medium

Photo from SB Nation

Metric

Amir Johnson 2011-2012

Power Forwards in 2011-2012

Johnson's career

Minutes per Game

24.3

21

19

True Shooting %

60

53

61.2

Assist rate

16.77

12.85

9.4

Rebound rate

15.4

13.6

15.6

Turnover rate

20

13.43

15

Usage rate

14.3

18.61

14.3

Player Efficiency Rating

14.4

14.47

16.2

Win Shares per 48

.122

.099

.147

Wins Produced per 48

.188

.099

.202

And to bring it home, we have Amir Johnson. He's your prototypical low usage, high efficiency that operates almost exclusively around the basket. He has a propensity for finishing at the rim, as he shot 72% on his 3 attempts at the rim a game. Johnson should see some more looks at the basket with Lowry on board.

He's very productive on the defensive side of the ball. With him on the court, the Raptors allowed 99.7 per 100, which was better than their overall mark of 101.8. He does a good job individually as well, holding opposing power forwards to a .45% eFG, which is a very good mark. He's a solid rotational player that can step in & provide good rebounding/defense at a moment's notice.

What do we expect this year?

On paper, the Raptors appear to have the weakest team in the division. They don't have the dominant inside presence that Philadelphia has in Andrew Bynum or the high usage star that Brooklyn, Boston & New York have in Deron Williams, Paul Pierce & Carmelo Anthony. But they do have a terrific player in Kyle Lowry. Lowry's on court performance has improved the past three seasons & to me there isn't anything that indicates he'll take a step back. They also have some interesting young guns in Ross and Jonas who have some promise. And there's always the off chance that a major injury could hit one of their rivals' star players and increase Toronto's playoff odds.

But at the same time, the Raptors are placing a lot of faith in DeRozan & Bargnani, two players who, although talented, haven't been able to play at an All-Star level (or in the case of Bargnani, being a player worthy of even being in the NBA according to Wins Produced). He's coming off of a career year, but he did miss 35 games related to injury and we have to wonder if the defensive improvements will carry over into Year 2 of the Casey head coaching tenure. I love the Lowry acquisition, but he has been hit with the injury bug (literally) the past couple of years.And while Calderon is more than capable of doing a good-great job in the lineup, the dropoff from Lowry-Calderon to Calderon-JLIII is severe and would cripple the Raps' playoff hopes. I have questions about Fields' defensive abilities and I have close to no confidence in his jump shooting abilities. Ross and Jonas do have promise, but they're rookies and adjusting to the NBA game is gonna take some time so I would expect them to struggle out of the gate.

The first month of the season projects to be difficult, as they take on Indiana twice, Brooklyn, Minnesota, Oklahoma City, Dallas, Philadelphia twice, Utah, Boston, San Antonio and Memphis. They do have what would appear to be easy games against Charlotte, Orlando, Detroit, Houston and Phoenix so it's not all bad in November.mproved the roster from last season to this one. But I don't think they've improved enough to be able to make a run at the Division Title. I mentioned injuries playing a part in Toronto's chances, and for at least the early part of the season, their opponents will be weakened. In Chicago, Derrick Rose is trying his best to return as soon as possible from the injury he suffered in the playoffs & Luol Deng is delaying wrist surgery again, this time until the Summer of 2013 (Note: Deng delaying surgery again seriously pisses me off. Like, it makes me irrationally angry & I don't even root for the Bulls! ) In Washington, John Wall will be out a least 8 weeks with a knee injury & Nene is dealing with the after effects of plantar fasciitis so the Wizards will be moving slowly with him.

There's no question the Raptors' roster is improved from the 2011-2012 season to this one. But is it enough to
bring them to the top of the Atlantic Division? I don't think that is the case. The other teams are just too strong and Toronto didn't improve enough in my opinion to make a run at the crown. But can they compete for a seven or eight seed in the East? I believe that they can.

Required Reading: Raptors HQ

Previous Volumes: Philadelphia 76ers

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