Tag Archives: Amir Johnson

A Closer Look: How Things Could Go Wrong For The Raptors

This is another guest post by my buddy Julian. Like me, he’s a huge NBA fan in Toronto, so he has a lot to say about the Raptors. He’s previously written about their offense and their defense, from a bit of an optimistic point of view. Now, he’s going to take a step back and look at what obstacles stand in the way of the Raptors’ success in 2009-2010. Enjoy. Also, tell him to start tweeting again – he may as well delete his twitter account at this point.

With all of the new faces in Raptors training camp this season, there are many reasons for fans to be positive, especially considering the terrible 08-09 campaign. Bench issues have been addressed, and arguably, more talent has been added to the starting lineup. While visions of sugar plum second-rounds are dancing in many a fan’s head, it’s important to look at the multitude of ways that this season could go sideways. The eternal optimist in me says that the Raptors will have an incredible, unexpected level of success this season, but that is probably not going to happen, and there are going to be a number of reasons why. Essentially, this article is going to look at the pitfalls and perils that are most likely to hinder the Raptors this coming season.

Rebounding

Rebounding!

Rebounding is going to be a very big issue for the Raptors. They simply do not have good enough rebounders to do well in this department. Jermaine O’Neal wasn’t a great rebounder, but he was better than Bargnani, and Shawn Marion, who was an excellent rebounder at the 3, was a much better rebounder than Hedo Turkoglu. While people may mention that we picked up Reggie Evans, he simply cannot see too much court time next season. His PER numbers and TS% numbers over the past few seasons have been terrible (Career averages 11.6 PER and 50% TS%). When you put Reggie Evans in the game, you hurt yourself in a different way. He’s a useful role-player who is able to change the dynamic of the team when he is in, but I don’t think he should receive more than 15 minutes a game.

Amir Johnson has something to prove, and is also a good per-minute rebounder. He hasn’t received all that much time in his young career, and he has upside. Detroit tried to push his development along by inserting him into the starting lineup, but it didn’t go all that well. His problem was fouling at an inordinate rate, which hindered his ability to stay on the floor. The interest in Amir is that he is athletic and tall, finishes well, and can rebound. Those are talents that the Raptors could definitely use, so watch for Amir to get some time to prove that he can play. This franchise would like to see him reach his full potential, but then again, so did the Pistons.

The guard positions are not great for the Raptors either. Jose Calderon doesn’t rebound very well, even by guard standards, and neither do Marco Belinelli or Antoine Wright. DeMar DeRozan represents an interesting opportunity for the Raptors, as his college rebounding numbers were pretty impressive. 5.7 rebounds in 33 minutes is good for a guard. Projecting stats from College to the Pros is very dubious, so take that with a grain of salt.

Prognosis: The Raptors still have a rebounding problem. With Shawn Marion leaving and Bargnani playing center I don’t really see the Raptors doing very well in this regard. Expect nights where the Raps play good defence and shoot the ball well, but still end up losing due to a big chasm in the rebounding totals.

Defense

Defense!

This is something that I’ve talked about in my prior article, and many different things have to go right in order for the Raptors to be good (read: top 10) defensively in the upcoming season. Firstly, the defense at the big positions needs to be a lot better. Jermaine O’Neal was the Raptors’ best big-man defender last season, and he is no longer with the team. Bargnani and Bosh, while not absolutely awful defenders, are not “anchor” material. Bosh has made a big deal out of getting physically larger this season, and one would hope that that would translate to better defense. Bargnani has also added weight, and has been working on his inside game this off-season. Things need to get much better, however, especially seeing as the Raptors want to play both of them on the court for long periods of time, due to their huge offensive potential. If Bargnani and Bosh don’t get better, expect a lot of layups this season. When players aren’t afraid of what is waiting for them at the rim, they are much more likely to take it inside, which is obviously the worst type of shot to give up.

At the two guard and small forward positions there are also a few question marks. Jose Calderon has just come off an admittedly terrible defensive season, and has used the summer to rehabilitate his hamstring. He has never been a particularly stalwart defender, however, and he should still see 30+ minutes every night, backed up by Jarrett Jack. At the shooting guard position, there are a few options. Marco Belinelli, DeMar DeRozan, Jarrett Jack and Antoine Wright are all candidates to play the shooting guard position, and there are only 48 minutes available at that spot. Jarrett Jack is a solid defender, Belinelli is a decent defender and Antoine Wright started part of last season with the Mavericks due to his defensive prowess. DeMar DeRozan is a bit of a mystery, but he certainly has the tools to become a very good defender. At the Small forward position, Hedo Turkoglu figures to get the lion’s share of the minutes, and he is an okay defender. He is long and tall for his position, but is a little slow, especially when guarding smaller players. His defensive awareness is good as well, and rarely does he look completely overmatched by the player he is guarding.

Prognosis: The team has a lot of work to do on the defensive end. They have a couple of players that can play great defense, but the problem is that a lot of them are bench players who don’t have much to offer on the offensive end.

Injuries

Injuries!

I know that injuries are very difficult to predict unless a player is chronically injured, but I don’t think I need to remind Raptor fans that the injury bug can strike at any time and nothing de-rails a team faster than a key injury to one of their top guys. There are, however, some legitimate concerns when it comes to the Raptors this season, at least in the short term. While the early reports are that Jose Calderon has completely healed his hamstring, there is a possibility that it isn’t 100% and it could be re-aggravated during the season. Bosh also has a tweaked hammy, and has a habit of breaking down as the season wears on. Hedo Turkoglu, the Raptors’ big offseason acquisition has a knee injury that is said to be minor (aren’t they always?), and is suffering from fatigue having taken very little time off this summer.

Prognosis: There are no major injury concerns with this team, and the Raptors do have much more depth this season, which should help out if anyone goes down with injury.

Hedo Doesn’t Work Out

Hedo!

A big question in the minds of some of the skeptics is whether Hedo Turkoglu will be able to duplicate the year he had two seasons ago, when he set career highs in PPG, PER, assists and rebounding. This past season was not as good as that season, as Hedo was not nearly as efficient. Hedo may be a very talented player, but there is no question that he isn’t very consistent, and his play doesn’t just vary game-to-game, but also quarter-to-quarter and season-to-season. Which Hedo will the Raptors get? Will it be the efficient Hedo that we saw two seasons ago, or will it be the 2-16 (FG-FGA) Hedo that showed up in many Magic games last season? The chemistry that Hedo had with Dwight Howard was incredible, and their pick and roll was one of the Magic’s best offensive weapons. Hedo would hook up with Howard via an alley-oop, often in spectacular fashion. Hedo also played into the Magic’s gameplan, because a lot of the time, some of the off-balance shots that Turkoglu would put off the rim would actually be “assists” to Dwight, who would get the offensive rebound and put it back in. There is always the chance that things don’t gel as well as they did in Orlando with Hedo, because Bosh, while a very talented offensive player, isn’t exactly the type of guy you can throw 12-foot high lobs to and expect him to throw it down, nor is he the dominant offensive rebounder that turns every miss into a make.

Prognosis: It will be interesting to see how well Turkoglu will work here in Toronto, because he is not the most reliable player. It seems to be feast or famine with Turkoglu; on his best nights, he is hitting shots from all over the floor, making plays and creating mismatches, and at his worst, is hogging the ball and shooting you out of the game. The Raptors need a whole lot more of the former.

Bargnani Regresses

Bargnani!

I think this is one of the nightmares many fans have going into this season. Bargnani looked incredible last season, shooting a career high 56% TS%, getting 15+ PPG, and finishing the year with 3 straight months of ~20 ppg scoring. Many fans and people with the organization believe that he’s out of the woods, and that he won’t go back to the horrific stretch of play that he had in the 07-08 season, but are we being a little too premature? Bargnani had a very bad summer for the Italian national team, where he scored a meagre 10.3 PPG on 40% shooting, including going 2/13 from 3-point range. The Italian coach was admittedly very poor, and there was a rift between the player and his coach (not dissimilar to the Bargnani/Smitch situation?), and Bargnani pulled no punches when he talked to the Italian papers about it. Bargnani seems to have some motivation issues, which can turn into morale issues, so the question is whether he can be motivated and positive enough to continue to play hard even when he has an inevitable stretch of bad games.

Prognosis: While the chances of Bargnani going back to suck-mode Bargnani that we saw in ’07/’08 is slim, the potential is certainly still there. Jay Triano still has to work his magic with the big man, and give him a clear, defined role, as well as plenty of minutes to prevent a repeat of two seasons ago.

Conclusion

I believe that there are a number of ways that the Raptors could self-destruct this season, but that doesn’t mean that they WILL. There will be many things that will go right for the Raptors, and those things may be able to cancel out, and overtake some of the weaknesses of the club. Also, some of these weaknesses may not even be weaknesses at all! Hedo may work just fine, and Bargnani could have a stellar season and there could be no significant injuries to any of the star players. This is simply a list of the most likely things that could hamper the Raptors’ season. At the end of the year, if the Raptors fail to make any significant progress, I think that at least a few, if not all of these factors will have come into play.

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Filed under A Closer Look, Guest Posts, Toronto Raptors

Looking Forward Roundup

I’ve finally finished the Looking Forward series, where I took a look at each team in the NBA in terms of how they did in 2008-2009, how they improved (or didn’t) in the off-season that has just now come to a close with the start of training camp, and what to expect out of them in 2009-2010.

I wanted to put them all in one all in one place, and since I started this in July I felt it was appropriate to provide brief updates where they are necessary. Here we go.

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics – Added Shelden Williams. If he ends up in the rotation, it probably means Garnett is out, so let’s just hope we don’t see much of him this year.
New Jersey Nets – Roster-wise, nothing’s changed. But there’s a new owner in town, making the (Brooklyn) Nets a much more attractive free agent destination next summer.
New York Knicks
Philadelphia 76ers – Brought back Rodney Carney, plus they’ve got Stromile Swift, Primoz Brezec, Sean Singletary, and Dionte Christmas on their training camp roster. Expect one or two of them to make the team.
Toronto Raptors – Signed and traded Carlos Delfino to Milwaukee along with Roko Ukic, in exchange for Amir Johnson and Sonny Weems. Johnson seems like a great acquisition, as he is capable of playing multiple positions and adds some much-needed athleticism and rebounding in the frontcourt.

Central Division

Chicago Bulls
Cleveland Cavaliers – Good thing they signed Anthony Parker, ‘cause nobody knows exactly what’s going on with Delonte West right now.
Detroit Pistons
Indiana PacersRod Benson is on their training camp roster, which is awesome. Shame they arleady have Troy Murphy, Solomon Jones, Tyler Hansbrough, and Josh McRoberts at the 4, though.
Milwaukee Bucks

Southeast Division

Atlanta Hawks – Added Joe Smith and Jason Collins to the frontcourt. The former should receive playing time. Mike Wilks, Juan Dixon, and Aaron Miles will compete in training camp for an emergency guard reserve spot.
Charlotte Bobcats – Flip Murray was a bargain, but he’s just short-term help.
Miami Heat
Orlando Magic – Could actually warrant another post now, since they’ve kept on spending and this piece was technically before I started “Looking Forward”. Kept Gortat, signed Matt Barnes, Jason Williams, and Linton Johnson. Absolutely stacked, fans better thank the ownership. Rashard Lewis is out for the first 10 games for failing a drug test, but they should win almost all of them.
Washington Wizards

Western Conference

Southwest Division

Dallas Mavericks – As always, Kris Humphries is impressing in training camp. I have high hopes for Tamm Llorac, too.
Houston Rockets
Memphis Grizzlies
New Orleans Hornets – Shockingly made a good basketball trade when moving Chandler for Okafor (it’ll cost them money in the long run, but Okafor makes less than Chandler for the next two years). Should be improved, a bit, but they have to stop giving Peja so many minutes.
San Antonio Spurs – Signed Theo Ratliff and Keith Bogans. They needed another shot-blocker and they needed another backcourt shooter. Nice.

Northwest Division

Denver Nuggets – J.R. Smith is out for the first 7 games because of an old reckless driving incident, but they’re still good enough to win most of those games. Also, they let Linas Kleiza join Josh Childress and Von Wafer at Olympiakos and acquired more athleticism in Joey Graham and James “Flight” White.
Minnesota Timberwolves
Portland Trail Blazers – Signed Ime Udoka and Juwan Howard to fill out the roster. Both are heady veterans who will not see much court time unless the team is hit by injuries.
Oklahoma City Thunder – Added Ryan Bowen, Michael Ruffin, and Kevin Ollie. Vets who will challenge the young guys in practice and are capable of spot minutes if there are injuries.
Utah Jazz

Pacific Division

Golden State Warriors – Still have the same talent, but this is a mess. Captain Jack wants out, Monta says he can’t share the backcourt with Stephen Curry, and I can’t blame either of them.
Los Angeles Clippers – Coach Dunleavy has stated that Blake Griffin will come off the bench, which almost made me punch a wall. On the plus side, Baron Davis came into camp in shape.
Los Angeles LakersIt’s a bit of a circus, but the Lakers are good with that. Still the favourite.
Phoenix Suns
Sacramento KingsUgh, they signed Desmond Mason. Kings fans are thrilled.

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Filed under League-Wide Stuff, Looking Forward

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

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