Category Archives: Stats

A Closer Look: Raptors Defense

This is another guest post by my buddy Julian, who writes the blog Comedy Landfill. Like me, he’s a huge NBA fan in Toronto, so he has a lot to say about the Raptors. His post on the team’s offense remains the most-commented piece in this blog’s history and now he’s going to look at the other side of the floor. Enjoy. Also, tell him to start tweeting again – it’s been over a month now.

Last year, the Raptors had the 22nd best defensive rating in the league at 110, down from 107, or 13th in the league the year before. On average, the Raptors conceded 110 points for every 100 possessions of basketball, which isn’t very good. To get a look at how important defensive rating is for a team, take a look at which teams were in the top ten:

1. Orlando (59-23)
2. Boston (62-20)
3. Cleveland (66-16)
4. Houston (53-29)
5. San Antonio (54-28)
6. Los Angeles (65-17)
7. Charlotte (35-47)
8. Denver (54-28)
9. New Orleans (49-33)
10. Utah (48-34)

The only red herring in that list was Charlotte, which finished outside of the playoffs. The rest read like the who’s-who of the best teams in the NBA. For reference, here are some of the teams that settled around Toronto:

19. Indiana (36-46)
20. Oklahoma City (23-59)
21. Memphis (24-58)
22. Toronto (33-49)
23. New York (32-50)
24. New Jersey (34-48)

Not the prettiest picture is it? Defense certainly has a lot to do with winning games, and bluntly, the 2008-2009 Toronto Raptors were not very good at preventing other teams from scoring.

There were a couple of defensive problems for the Raptors last season, and I will break down who I believe were the largest offenders for the Raps.

Bargnani replacing Jermaine O’Neal at center

Pau killing Bargs

Firstly, as anyone who watched the Raptors last season knows, Andrea Bargnani took over the center spot from Jermaine O’Neal last season after O’Neal sat due to chronic injuries. On the offensive side of the ball, Bargnani looked brilliant, ending the season averaging almost 20 points per game in the last three months. The problem was, however, that Jermaine O’Neal was one of the Raptors’ best defenders. He was intimidating in the paint, and could body up against the larger players in the league.

Bargnani on the other hand had a rough time learning the ropes, especially when it came to help defense and rebounding. While he wowed people on offense, on defense he was often out of position, and didn’t add the sort of fearsomeness that the center spot demands. Bargnani has struggled throughout his career, and in my opinion, a lot of that had to do with the coaching of Sam Mitchell. The two never really seemed to connect, and even when Bargnani recieved minutes, he was playing different positions and yanked when he made a mistake.

As much as that seems like an excuse to some, I believe that the results showed themselves when Jay Triano took over. Bargnani simply played better in almost every facet of the game. Can Triano continue to work with Bargnani to turn him into a reliable defender at the center spot? I think that every Raptor fan would hope so, simply because in order to succeed, Bargnani needs to play better in that area and I don’t think it’s out of the question.

Bargnani certainly has the physical tools to be a better defender at the Center position. He is quick on his feet, he has the height and he has the length to contest shots. What he needs to do is continue to add strength, and take more responsibility in guarding the basket.

Jose Calderon’s injury

Bibby beats Caldy
First, let’s square away that Jose Calderon has never been an excellent defender (happy birthday!). He has never even been a particularly good one, in fact. However, statistically, Jose Calderon had a poor season in 2008-2009 on the defensive side of the ball even by his standards, as he recently admitted. If you look at his DRating, this is what Calderon’s defense looks like:

2005-2006: 115
2006-2007: 108
2007-2008: 109
2008-2009: 112

As you can see, Calderon had a down year on that side of the ball, even though he was still one of the Raptors best offensive players by far.

Jose Calderon took the entire offseason off, rehabbing his injured hamstring. If Calderon can go back to being a so-so defender, the Raptors will be a much improved team. That is the strange thing about team defence; it has a ripple effect. One teammate not defending adequately puts pressure on teammates who have to overcommit in order to cover your errors. If you have multiple poor defenders, then you have a system that can be broken down. Switching is an inevitability in the NBA, but when you force teams to switch multiple times in one play, there are going to be openings to exploit. Passing lanes open up, and players become open on the perimeter.

Here is an example of one of the dreaded help defense schemes, referred to as “doubling down” that teams used to regularly exploit Jose Calderon’s defence:

1
2
3
4
5

This really needs to stop, or only be used some of the time next season, because teams were abusing Jose Calderon’ inability to recover after the post man passed the ball back out, as we did that on virtually every play.

Anthony Parker’s decline

Parker gets dunked on
Anthony Parker, for the two years leading up until this past season, was one of the Toronto Raptors’ top defenders. He would draw the most difficult wing assignments, and consistantly do a pretty good job of defending them. This past season was completely different. Anthony Parker started to show his age. Here are parker’s DRatings over the past few seasons with Toronto:

2006-2007: 108
2007-2008: 108
2008-2009: 111

I think that the reality was a little more stark than the statistics suggest. Parker’s defense seemed to fall off a cliff last season. The number of instances where his cover would blow by him with the ball rose dramatically, and while this has nothing to do with defense, his offensive abilities seemed to suffer signifigantly as well. When your best perimeter defender starts to lose a step, your defense isn’t going to be as impressive.

With Calderon and Parker on the perimeter allowing players into the lane more and more often, the secondary defense (i.e. Bargnani and Bosh) were left to clean up the mess, and were definitely not up to the challenge. Calderon and Parker, while pretty poor on the defensive end last season, were definitely not the biggest offenders on that side of the floor. Enter one of the most universally hated Raptors of all time:

Jason. Kapono.

J-Killa tries to stay with Rip

Yes, Jason Kapono. Any Raptor fan who watched even the smallest peppering of games last year knows that Jason Kapono was a very painful, yet head-shakingly comedic player to watch. Clutch travelling turnover in the fourth quarter? GET IN THERE JASON! Need a bit of “The guy I’m defending just blew past me into the paint, so I guess I’ll just follow him”? J-Killa is the man you need. And don’t forget an extra sprinkle of never, ever taking a 3 point jumper when there is even a single person in your area code.

Jason Kapono was like the bad movie that all of the movie critics secretly want to review, because it allows them to unleash their inner sadist. Jason Kapono was like the Keystone Cops last year, bumbling around like there were invisible banana peels on the floor. In case you need a bit of evidence of how bad he was, Kapono had an absolutely brutal DRating of 115 last season, making him the worst defender on the Raptors by a mile.

Another equally scary thing to consider about Jason Kapono is that he played the 5th most minutes on the team last year. Almost TWO THOUSAND minutes of NBA basketball. Nearly two thousand of the possible twenty thousand minutes that could possibly be played by all players that played basketball on the Raptors last season, or around 10% of ALL minutes played. Chris Bosh played about three thousand minutes, for comparison’s sake.

That’s a lot of minutes of turnstile defense being played, and it hurt the team badly. If three of the players playing major minutes at your 3 perimeter spots are poor defenders, you’re going to have a bad defense. That’s just how it’s going to work.

Moving Forward

As we all know, and as I have mentioned on this blog in the past, the 2009/2010 Toronto Raptors are a much different beast than last year. Gone are Anthony Parker and Jason Kapono, in are willing defenders Reggie Evans, Rasho Nesterovic and Jarret Jack, as well as Jose Calderon’s two functioning hamstrings. Jay Triano now has a training camp to implement the type of defense that he wants to see played. Unfortunately, gone is the able defender Jamario Moon, who, while doing things that infuriated many a Raptors fan, was actually one of the team’s best defenders.

Hedo Turkoglu also makes an appearance, and he is and has been a relatively solid defender. Some would say (including the guy who runs this blog) that he’s a mediocre defender who got to play with Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard his whole career. Still, if he can eat up minutes that would have otherwise gone to non-defender Jason Kapono, things can only look better.

In a sense, the team looks to improve this season defensively, but to what extent? It’s this blogger’s opinion that it will depend on the success of the defensive system that is employed, and how successfully it can hide the shortcomings of this particular Raptors squad. This harkens back to the last blog that I created, which showed the effects that coaching can make on how a team performs. How many spots can the Raptors rise (or fall) this season? Stay tuned, because we will see very shortly.

6 Comments

Filed under A Closer Look, Guest Posts, Stats, Toronto Raptors

A Closer Look: Coaching Matters

VDN UPSET!

This is a guest post by my buddy Julian, who writes the blog Comedy Landfill. Like me, he’s a huge NBA fan, so sometimes we have arguments that end up in one of us wanting to write a blog post defending our case. So, here ya go. Also, tell him to start tweeting again.

I recently had a discussion with the creator of this blog, about the effects of coaching on a team. VDZ wasn’t convinced that coaching had all that much to do with a team’s fortunes in the NBA. I agreed that the NBA, unlike many different sports in the world, was player-driven, where the teams with the best players, in virtually all cases, were the best teams in the league. Kobe, Pau Gasol and Odom on the Lakers? Championship. Phil Jackson (one of the greatest, if not the greatest coach of all time) tried and failed to make Kobe plus a bunch of scrubs successful in the mid-2000s. Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen? Championship, and that was with oft-disrespected Doc Rivers at the helm. The year before that, they were one of the worst teams in the league.

My argument, however, was that coaches DID play an important part in the success and failure of a team. I pointed to Stan Van Gundy as a guy who made a significant, real impact on the Orlando Magic, turning them from an also-ran eastern conference team into a legit contender through a great rotation, a great gameplan, and some expert play-calling. This debate intrigued me enough to do a rundown on coaching changes that happened last season, in order to get a better idea of how coaching can change a team, for better or for worse.

Mike D’Antoni (NYK):
Offensive Rating Before: 104.7 (23rd)
Defensive Rating Before: 111.9 (29th)
Pace Factor Before: 91.6 (15th)
W-L Before: 23-59
Offensive Rating After: 108.1 (17th)
Defensive Rating After: 110.8 (23rd)
Pace Factor After: 96.7 (2nd)
W-L After: 32-50

After several outrageously poor seasons under the helm of Isiah Thomas, New York Knicks GM Donny Walsh decided to bring the Zeke era to a close, by demoting him and hiring recently fired Phoenix Suns coach Mike D’Antoni. D’Antoni’s system is a pretty intriguing one, and judging by his statistics, it’s not hard to see why. Take a look in the difference between the pace of the Knicks before he got there, and after he got there. Going from middle of the pack to the second-fastest team in the league (only behind warp-speed Golden State) in one season is incredible. The offensive rating, while making a jump, obviously did not increase by as much as the pace. The problem here, in my opinion, is that while the offensive structure was re-vamped for the better, the team still didn’t have players that were efficient enough on the offensive end to complete Mike’s vision of a Pheonix Suns east. Defensively, they improved as well, but I think that I’m going to chalk that up to Isiah Thomas being terrible, and Mike D’Antoni steadfastly refusing to play notorious non-defender Eddy Curry, as well as adding a defensive scheme that made at least SOME sense. The win differential was +9. That’s pretty darn good, but with the caveat that they won only 23 games the prior season, and the improvement landed them 9 games under .500, which isn’t something you can brag about to your friends if you’re a Knicks fan.

Larry Brown (CHA):
Offensive Rating Before: 104.6 (24th)
Defensive Rating Before: 109.4 (20th)
Pace Factor Before: 91.8 (14th)
W-L Before: 32-50
Offensive Rating After: 104.7 (27th)
Defensive Rating After: 106.1 (7th)
Pace Factor After: 88.3 (27th)
W-L After: 35-47

Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown took the reigns of a struggling Charlotte Bobcats team, and incorporated the players into his well-worn system. His system, of course, being a no-nonsense, defense-first, play-call-on-every-possession, slow, deliberate game. He also got a big overhaul midway through the season, landing the dynamic Boris Diaw and tough as nails defender Raja Bell for the chronic underachiever Jason Richardson. As a result of both coaching and personnel changes, the team’s defensive efficiency skyrocketed from 20th to 7th in the league, and it’s offense languished from and already miserable 24th in the league, to a near-bottom 27th. To no-one’s surprise, their pace factor also went from middle of the pack to slower than molasses. Even with that massive defensive improvement, the Bobcats went 35-47, improving by a meager 2 games (unimpressive considering how inept the guy Larry replaced was) and missed the playoffs yet again.

Rick Carlisle (DAL):
Offensive Rating Before: 111.1 (8th)
Defensive Rating Before: 106.1 (9th)
Pace Factor Before: 90.2 (22nd)
W-L Before: 51-31
Offensive Rating After: 110.5 (5th)
Defensive Rating After: 108.4 (17th)
Pace Factor After: 91.5 (16th)
W-L After: 50-32

Mark Cuban, the fiery owner of the Dallas Mavericks, hates, and I mean loathes losing. If you’ve ever seen him on the sidelines playing your favourite team, you’ll instantly realize that he both takes the game waaaay too seriously, and also that he would do anything to make his Mavericks a better team. That’s the main reason why he sacked the former Coach of the Year, elf-voiced Avery Johnson after getting (Marv Albert impression) REJECTED by Golden State in the first round two seasons ago. Enter Rick Carlisle, another former coach of the year, and regarded by most as an all-around good coach, albeit with a reputation of alienating his players after a few seasons. In any case, as you can see, the team got a bit better on offense, and a lot worse on defense. One of the reasons for both of those things might be the acquisition of Jason Kidd during the offseason. Jason Kidd used to be one of the best defenders at the PG position in the league, but Father Time has waved his magic time staff and slowed Jason Kidd down considerably. Especially laterally. Father Time hates side-to-side movement. Anyway, they sped up marginally and won 1 less game. Pretty much treading water. What does that say about Rick Carlisle? I guess it says that he’s a mediocre coach? That may be a bit harsh, but I’m sure that Mark Cuban expects a better result than treading water. The huge drop in defensive efficiency from 2 years ago to last can’t be considered good, and it can’t all be blamed on personnel changes.

Vinny Del Negro (CHI):
Offensive Rating Before: 103.9 (26th)
Defensive Rating Before: 107.2 (14th)
Pace Factor Before: 93.0 (11th)
W-L Before: 33-49
Offensive Rating After: 108.4 (14th)
Defensive Rating After: 108.7 (18th)
Pace Factor After: 93.1 (9th)
W-L After: 41-41

After reading these stats to my friend, who hates Vinny Del Negro, he instantly said “THEY GOT DERRICK ROSE STUPID” (Ed.: That was me). Well, I suppose that’s true, but the Bulls still jumped up a very impressive 12 spots from 26th to 14th in the league, while only dropping about 4 spots on defense (which also might be “Derrick Rose stupid!” considering how poorly he defended last season). Another reason for the uptick in offense was the brilliant trade made halfway through the season, where the Bulls shipped out an underperforming and overpaid Andres Nocioni for the versatile and efficient John Salmons. The difference in speed between the two seasons was almost negligable, but the massive jump in offensive efficiency was enough to catapult them out of the basement of the Eastern Conference into the middle of the pack, and coupled with their relatively middle of the pack defense, gave them the ultimate middle of the pack record of 41-41. The reviews coming out of Chicago were mixed. Some were forgiving of Vinny’s rookie-coach mistakes, while others were not. They said that his rotations left a lot to be desired, and that the plays he drew up out of time outs rarely worked. However, the offense looked a lot better, and he put the ball in the hands of Derrick Rose and Ben Gordon, which seemed to work pretty well. He also wrung a pretty great season out of Joakim Noah, allowing him to play through his mistakes, while keeping a lid on the dressing room drama. While he may have his detractors in Chicago, he certainly had quite an impressive season for a rookie coach (making it to the playoffs, giving a shorthanded Boston a run for it’s money).

Scott Skiles (MIL):
Offensive Rating Before: 105.3 (21st)
Defensive Rating Before: 112.8 (30th)
Pace Factor Before: 91.3 (17th)
W-L Before: 26-56
Offensive Rating After: 106.7 (23rd)
Defensive Rating After: 107.9 (15th)
Pace Factor After: 92.6 (11th)
W-L After: 34-48

It’s interesting that we get to examine how an outgoing coach does on another team after analyzing his replacement, and we get to see that with Scott Skiles on the Bucks. Now, to be fair, Skiles is getting a bit of a raw deal here, because the ratings on offensive and defensive efficiency during his last season with the Bulls are tainted by a dreadful interim coaching job done by a man by the name of Jim Boylan, who coached the team for 56 games in 2007-2008. Milwaukee has been one of the worst run franchises in the league for a while now, and looking at the stats, it’s not hard to see why. Dead-last in defense, bottom ten in offensive efficiency, one of the worst W-L records in the league; Scott Skiles had his work cut out for him when he arrived. What happened was a pretty impressive turnaround, not unlike Larry Brown’s, where the Defensive efficiency went through the roof, and the offensive efficiency increased as well, but actually slipped in the rankings (I suppose the league in general was less efficient in 2007/08). Unlike Larry, they didn’t play at a super-slow pace; in fact, the pace went up under Skiles! In fact, in his time coaching the Bulls, the pace factor never dipped below 11th in the league. This may be surprising, because most people equate excellent offenses with speed, and speed with a porous defense, when in fact, it’s the opposite under Skiles. The formula worked, at least partially, because like Mike D’Antoni, his team improved by 8 games, from 26 to 34 wins. It’s amazing what a functioning system and identity can do for a team, isn’t it? With D’Antoni, the Knicks became a run and gun squad, and with Skiles’ Bucks, they became a gritty, hard-nosed defensive team, when before, they were simply floating around, amorphous and directionless.

Conclusions

From this list, I think you can make a couple of intriguing observations: one is how much a coach can change how a team operates. Mike D’Antoni’s system had a real, observable effect on how his team played. The pace went through the roof, as did the offense. Skiles increased the pace, and made the defense much stingier. Larry Brown slowed the game down to a crawl and instituted a defense that was one of the best in the league. These aren’t just small swings, some of them are 15-ranking swings, which can’t just be attributed to personnel changes. The style of ball changed when the new coaches arrived. In terms of actually winning games, the evidence is not as strong. Skiles and D’Antoni boasted large improvements in this category, but from god-awful to merely “poor”. A more impressive jump was Mike D’Antoni’s second season in Pheonix, where he took the team from under 30 wins to over 60. That is obviously a result of the system matching the players perfectly, as well as the addition of a pointguard that could actually carry the gameplan out.

I think that by looking at these new coaches, we can actually see that coaching does have an observable effect on the fortunes of a team. Sometimes dramatic ones. I think that it’s at least evidence towards teams performing better when they have an identity, rather than directionless. It’s certainly very strong evidence that coaches are very good at implementing their system. Most importantly, I think that this illustrates why the NBA isn’t just a “player’s league” like so many people seem to believe, and that coaching has a strong influence on how the game is played.

5 Comments

Filed under A Closer Look, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Coaching, Dallas Mavericks, Guest Posts, Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks, Stats

A Closer Look: TS% and the Toronto Raptors

This is a guest post by my buddy Julian, who writes the blog Comedy Landfill. Like me, he’s a huge Raptors fan. Also, he’s fond of playing with numbers, so get ready for a barrage of stats the likes of which have never been seen before on this site! Anyway, enjoy. And follow him on twitter.

Since the Bryan Colangelo era began, the Toronto Raptors have been a team that looked to punish opponents with its long distance shooting and offense in general. During the 06/07 season, the Raptors put their excellent shooting on display and managed to win the Atlantic Division (albeit in a year where there wasn’t much competition for the honour) by tying the franchise high 47 wins in a season. Since that point, the Raptors have been mired in mediocrity to just plain not-goodness; this past season being a lot of the latter, mixed with a bit of the former. I think any Raptors fan might be wondering what went wrong. Why were we so gosh darn awful this past season? Are the Raptors going to be any better in the upcoming season?

Getting to know TS%

First of all, let me introduce to you one of my favourite basketball statistics. True Shooting Percentage (hereunto referred to as TS%), is a statistic that measures how efficiently you score the basketball. Most of you, if you’re slightly more than a casual fan of basketball, understand what FG% is. FG% is the number of shots a player makes divided by the amount of shots a player takes, put into percentage form. This was the statistic that was used by the NBA for a long time, long before the 3 point line was introduced to NBA Basketball in the 1979-1980 season. The problem with FG% is that it doesn’t account for 3 point shots, nor does it account for free throws.

FG%

For instance, if you take two players, both of them shooting 40% in FG%, you would assume that neither of these players are very good. However, if someone informed you that “Player A” shot all of his shots from the 3 point line and “Player B” shot all of his from 2, it would be quite easy to see that Player A is a more efficient shooter, because his shots are worth 1.5 times more than the other guy’s! But FG% just sits there judging both players as the same. “It’s not fair!” you’re probably yelling at your computer screen right now. I agree. Let me give you another example: Let’s say that there are two players that shoot 45% FG%. Now, looking at those stats, you would assume that both players are pretty average scorers. But if I were to tell you the “Player C” shot 10 free throws a game, and hit 90% of those free throws, and “Player D” went to the free throw line 1 time a game and shot 50% from the stripe, you would realize that FG% has failed us once again! “Player C” is a far more efficient player than “Player D”!

The solution to this problem is TS%. TS% accounts for two point shots, three point shots and free throws when gauging how efficient a player is from the field. “All right!” you’re probably saying with a fist-pump. I agree. TS% is awesome! Now TS% isn’t an end-all, be-all statistic. It doesn’t account for rebounding or turnovers, so the number of possessions must be accounted for as well, and if you’ve read the sports pages in any newspaper, you will know that the Raptors were a very poor rebounding team. However, TS% does allow us to examine the offenses and defenses of teams and players around the league.

TS%

Applying TS%

Now, back to the question of why the Raptors stunk so badly last season. As a team, the Raptors scored the ball at a 54% TS%. While this is not awful, it is nowhere near the efficiency that the top teams in the league can boast. Cleveland, for example, scored the ball at a 56% TS%. You may be saying to yourself “Hey, are you actually saying that the Raptors and the Cavaliers are only 2% apart in terms of shooting the ball as a team?” And the answer is YES! If you are surprised by that statement, the thing that you are probably not considering is that a basketball game consists of many, many possessions. Cleveland, for example, took 58 2 point shots a game, 20 3 point shots a game and 24 free throws a game. If they scored on 100% of those attempts, they would have scored about 202 points per game. Considering that, a 2% difference in shooting efficiency is going to account for around 4 points per game, which is actually quite a big difference. The 06/07 Pheonix Suns, for example, one of the greatest offensive teams of all time, had a TS% of 59%! Still “only” a 5% difference from the 08/09 Raptors in efficiency. This is why those seemingly small percentage differences actually do matter in the grand scheme of things.

Because a lot of you probably have an idea of what a good FG% is and what is a bad FG% is, I’m going to give you my analysis of how to rate TS% when it comes to players:

1- The Mendoza line: A TS% of 48% or below. If you are shooting a TS% of less than 48%, you are hurting your team every time you take a shot. Players who shoot this type of percentage are usually fringe utility players that play deep on a team’s bench, and are brought in (occasionally) for rebounding, defense or playmaking. Most of the time, this type of TS% means you will be out of the league soon.
2- Awful: A TS% of 48% to 50%. This is still quite bad.
3- Poor: ~51% TS%.
4- Not good: ~52% TS%.
5- Acceptable: ~53% TS%.
6- Fine: ~54% TS%.
7- Good: 55% to 56% TS%.
8- Very Good: 56% to 58% TS%.
9- Excellent: 58% to 60% TS%.
10- Outstanding: 60+% TS%. Anything over 60% TS% will put you near the top of the league for efficiency. At this point, you are either a guy who is an unbelievably efficient scorer (think Steve Nash), or you are a guy who scores only by way of dunking or laying the ball up via an assist (think Tyson Chandler — former center for the New Orleans Hornets — who got gift-wrapped dunks and layups from Chris Paul).

Now, this same logic doesn’t apply to teams, because teams of players usually incorporate not only very good scorers, but also defensive players, rebounders and playmakers, who may not be as efficient scorers as the star players on the roster. What happens is that while you may have a player that is exceptional at scoring the basketball, the TS% of the team maybe dragged down by other players on the team who shoot a much lower percentage.

TS% and the Raptors

Perhaps at this point you are saying to yourself, “These statistics are great and all, but how do they explain last season’s woes?” That’s a good question. As I just explained, the best scorers on a team in terms of TS% may be dragged down by the rest of the team. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the players on Toronto’s roster last season.

Below are the players who played for the Raptors (minus a few players who rarely saw floor time), with the amount of shots (FGA) and free throws (FT) they took, as well as their true shooting percentages.

-Chris Bosh: 1263 FGA, 617 FTA, 56.9%
-Andrea Bargnani: 958 FGA, 266 FTA, 55.9%
-Anthony Parker: 754 FGA, 145 FTA, 52.4%
-Jose Calderon: 644 FGA, 154 FTA, 61.3%
-Jason Kapono: 604 FGA, 42 FTA, 52.5%
-Joey Graham: 480 FGA, 160 FTA, 54.2%
-Jermaine O’Neal: 456 FGA, 142 FTA, 52.6%
-Shawn Marion: 342 FGA, 62 FTA, 52.3%
-Roko Ukic: 324 FGA, 60 FTA, 43%
-Jamario Moon: 317 FGA, 65 FTA, 56.2%
-Will Solomon: 181 FGA, 24 FTA, 51.2%
-Pops Mensah-Bonsu: 96 FGA, 41 FTA, 42%
-Kris Humphries: 90 FGA, 48 FTA, 51%

A few things on the above list may pop out at you. One could be “Wow! Jose Calderon is outstandingly efficient!” or “I thought Jason Kapono was a really good shooter, why is he only shooting a 52.5% TS%?” or maybe even “We had a lot of really inefficient scorers on our team last season.”

First, let me tackle Jose Calderon. Yes, Jose Calderon was incredibly efficient for the Toronto Raptors last season, even though he was injured. He has also been a very efficient player over the past 3 years as well, boasting a 58.8% and 60.7% TS% mark in his previous two seasons with the club. From my own experience, this is because he takes a lot of good shots, and hardly ever takes a bad one. He shoots when open, and when he isn’t open, passes the ball. This also explains why a guy with such a high TS% doesn’t take more shots. I think every Raptors fan would like to see Jose take more shots, however.

Secondly, Jason Kapono’s TS% is not an aberration. In fact, if you watched most of the Raptors games last season, you’ll know that Jason Kapono, while a good 3 point shooter, was absolutely awful whenever he was not shooting a 3 point shot, which was actually quite a bit. While his 3 point average of 42.8% is quite impressive, his two point percentage of 43.4% was not, and he took about 150 more 2 point shots than 3s. Also, if you take a look at the above graph, Jason Kapono averaged an anaemic 42 free throw shots for the season! Jason played 1,831 minutes that season, which roughly translates to 0.02 free throw attempts per minute, or one free throw every 45 minutes of playing time. In comparison, Pops Mensah-Bonsu played only 263 minutes and got virtually the same amount of free throws. It’s no surprise that he didn’t score very efficiently when you take those factors into account. On top of that, Kapono was by far the worst defender on the team, but that’s a story for another day.

Lastly, and most importantly is that the Raptors DID have a lot of sub-par scorers taking a lot of shots last season. Kapono, Parker, O’Neal, Marion and Ukic all did not impress on the offensive end. But surprise surprise! If you look down the list, virtually all of the players apart from Bosh, Bargnani and Calderon are either no longer apart of the team, or figure to have a much smaller role with the club next season. So, let’s take a look at the players that will either be gone, or have their minutes marginalized next season:

-Anthony Parker: 754 FGA, 145 FTA, 52.4%
-Jason Kapono: 604 FGA, 42 FTA, 52.5%
-Joey Graham: 480 FGA, 160 FTA, 54.2%
-Jermaine O’Neal: 456 FGA, 142 FTA, 52.6%
-Shawn Marion: 342 FGA, 62 FTA, 52.3%
-Roko Ukic: 324 FGA, 60 FTA, 43%
-Jamario Moon: 317 FGA, 65 FTA, 56.2%
-Will Solomon: 181 FGA, 24 FTA, 51.2%
-Pops Mensah-Bonsu: 96 FGA, 41 FTA, 42%
-Kris Humphries: 90 FGA, 48 FTA, 51%

In all, those players took 3,644 shots last season, accounting for well over half of the Raptors’ 6,673 shots total. A curious mind such as my own wondered what the TS% of that group of players was. I did the calculations, and found that that group of players averaged a TS% of 52.6%; rooted somewhere in between “not good” and “acceptable”. Not exactly an offensive juggernaut, that group. I think this plainly shows the “drag down” effect, which mitigates the accomplishments of Bosh, Bargnani and Calderon on the offensive end.

With that in mind, why don’t we take a look at their replacements? While the roster may not be totally completed as of yet, we now have a idea of what the Raptors roster will look like come tip-off time. Below is a list of players that we have acquired this summer, with their number of FGA a game (I’m using per-game metrics because some of them were injured and missed time), FTA a game and TS%.

The Replacements

Hedo Turkoglu: 13.3 FGA/G, 5.1 FTA/G, 16.8 ppg 54.1%
Jarret Jack: 10.4 FGA/G, 3.2 FTA/G, 13.1 ppg 55.4%
Marco Belinelli: 7.5 FGA/G, 1.2 FTA/G, 8.9 ppg 54.7%
DeMar DeRozan: X, X, x%
Reggie Evans: 2.3 FGA/G, 2.2 FTA/G, 3.3 ppg 51.4%
Rasho Nesterovic: 6.1 FGA/G, 0.5 FTA/G, 6.8 ppg 52.4%
Antoine Wright: 6.6 FGA/G, 1.5 FTA/G, 7.3 ppg, 50.1%
Amir Johnson: 2.6 FGA/G, 0.6 FTA/G, 3.5 ppg, 60.8%

Running the calculations on that group of players, their average TS% was 53.8%. Notice that I didn’t even attempt to extrapolate DeMar DeRozan’s stats, because unlike some statistical experts (*cough* Hollinger *cough*), I have absolutely no faith whatsoever in the college-to-pros numbers game that people like to fool around with, especially when it comes to unfinished “project” players that DeMar figures to be.

While these guys already project to be better than the group of players that they are replacing, I’m going to make a couple of guesses about these stats to paint what I believe to be a more accurate picture of what will transpire next season. I think that Antoine Wright’s minutes are going to go down, and as a result, his shot attempts too, because of increased competition at the 2 spot from Belinelli, Jack and DeRozan. I also think that Jack’s minutes and FGA are going to take a hit from alternating with Calderon. I also believe that Belinelli’s minutes and FGAs are going to increase, now that he’s not in Don Nelson’s doghouse. I think that Johnson will compete with Evans for the backup 4/5 spot, and should get more minutes at the 5 (he’s 6’10”) if Rasho Nesterovic continues to decline.

So now let’s have a little fun and see what the ultimate TS% projects to be for our team, using the non-adjusted stats from last season.

Chris Bosh: 16.4 FGA/G, 8.0 FTA/G, 22.7 ppg, 56.9%
Andrea Bargnani: 12.3 FGA, 3.4 FTA/G, 15.4 ppg, 55.9%
Jose Calderon: 9.9 FGA, 2.3 FTA/G, 12.8 ppg, 61.3%
Hedo Turkoglu: 13.3 FGA/G, 5.1 FTA/G, 16.8 ppg 54.1%
Jarret Jack: 10.4 FGA/G, 3.2 FTA/G, 13.1 ppg 55.4%
Marco Belinelli: 7.5 FGA/G, 1.2 FTA/G, 8.9 ppg 54.7%
DeMar DeRozan: X, X, x%
Reggie Evans: 2.3 FGA/G, 2.2 FTA/G, 3.3 ppg 51.4%
Rasho Nesterovic: 6.1 FGA/G, 0.5 FTA/G, 6.8 ppg 52.4%
Antoine Wright: 6.6 FGA/G, 1.5 FTA/G, 7.3 ppg, 50.1%
Amir Johnson: 2.6 FGA/G, 0.6 FTA/G, 3.5 ppg, 60.8%

First of all, this shouldn’t be taken 100% seriously as a real projection, because there are a lot of problems with doing this sort of calculation. One of the problems of course is that we score 107 points and use 84 possessions with only these players, a large jump up from last season, which isn’t likely seeing as we haven’t even included DeMar DeRozan or the scrubs yet, who figure to get around 5-10% of the minutes. What this means is that some of the players are likely to have their minutes and shot attempts scaled back. The TS% of the team works out to 55.2%; a 1 percent jump from last season. Seems like a decent improvement.

Synergy

I think when looking at the upcoming season, you have to understand something. Future projections are always educated guesses that rely on data being the same, or growing in ways that follow a historical or statistical trend. But this is not always how things work in real life, rather, that’s just how things work MOST of the time. The Pheonix Suns of 04/05 are a great example of this. Prior to that season, they were an abysmal 29-53 (very similar to the 08/09 Raptors!) and had a rookie coach who came in mid-season and went 21-40 (extremely similar to Jay Triano!), and had just signed a 30-year old Steve Nash to a contract that everyone thought was insane (very similar to Hedo Turkoglu!), and everything was put together by Bryan Colangelo (very similar to… Well, you get it) and fans were gearing up for a disappointing season. But the Suns came in and blew the doors off, tying the franchise record in wins at 62 and bucking all of the expectations that were placed upon them by stat-head prognosticators such as myself.

But how was the Phoenix rebirth possible? I attribute it to something called synergy. Synergy is the state in which all parts of the team are working together smoothly, like a well-oiled machine. Synergy is when the system employed by the coaching staff fits the roster perfectly. Synergy is when disparate elements come together to become much, much greater than the sum of their parts, and synergy is something that every awful team that has done a bit of tinkering in the offseason can hope for. Before Steve Nash entered the equation, guys like Marion and Amare Stoudemire were putting up the stats, but were not even close to as efficient before he got there. Steve Nash, in turn, had a career year that propelled him to his first MVP trophy.

While the influx of new players seems like it will improve the offense of the ballclub a fair amount on paper, I think that every Raptors fan with a heartbeat hopes that Bryan Colangelo manages to catch lightning in a bottle twice, and the 09/10 Raptors will emerge a synergistic team with a knockout offense able to overcome the obvious shortcomings they have on the boards and defense, much in the same way Phoenix was able to five years ago.

Update from Vittorio: I’ve got to thank Julian again for posting the most-commented article on this site thus far. I like all the discussion. Perhaps I should make start making controversial claims like “Kevin Durant will be better than LeBron James” in my blogs now (not that Julian did anything like this). Anyway, this post and Khandor’s comments have inspired Tom Liston to do some statistical analysis of his own. Here’s his graph, showing the correlation between opponent’s TS% and wins:

Liston's Graph

36 Comments

Filed under A Closer Look, Free Agency, Guest Posts, Stats, Toronto Raptors, Trades