Tom is an Equity Research Analyst by day and a long-time Raptors supporter at night. You can contact him by email (tomliston at hotmail.com) or follow him on Twitter
There is a ton of speculation on where the Raptors will land in the standings next year. There is a low of 39 wins – and just out of the playoffs – and plenty of optimistic 50+ win predictions on the chat boards.
I, like many, think it’s difficult to speculate. However, I believe there are a few keys IF the Raptors are to get somewhere in the 45 win range – which would likely place them in the 4 to 6 spot in the East. However, I believe meeting this goal may be a stretch.
So, what needs to happen in order to get there (i.e. ~ 45 wins)?
1) Defence – reduce the opponent’s FG percentage by 1% from last year. Doesn’t sound like much, but over the last few years, holding your opponent’s FG to 45.5% or better generally translated into 45 or more wins. See my earlier article for some further detail.
In Toronto’s wins last year, the Raptors held its opponents to a 42.3% FG% while losses on average were due to 49.3% FG% shooting by its opponents.
So what about that “magic” number of 45.5% above? It seems it was a key number for the Raps last season as well:
>45.5% Opponent’s FG
Wins 8 17%
Losses 39 83%
<45.5% Opponent’s FG
Wins 25 71%
Losses 10 29%
Jay Triano, in an excellent interview by TSN’s Tim Chisholm, seems to agree:
“We have to have a toughness and a desire to want to play defense. I mean, the best teams in the league are the best defensive teams. We were twenty-first in field goal percentage allowed last year, and that’s why we weren’t in the Playoffs.”
The key here, I believe, is to have our perimeter defence force the PG or wings away from the middle. It’s much easier to trap in the corners, while allowing penetration up the middle most often leads to an easy dish for a score or foul.
2) Andrea Bargnani stepping up. Bear with me here – we’ll take a couple of different angles. First I tried the “Wins Produced” approach on the new Raptors roster and had a result of 46.7 wins. Before we all get excited there are two significant issues: 1) it is tough to use last year’s numbers to project forward given all the changes to the roster and 2) the author (Berri) properly noted to me that the error rate goes up (long story) by calculating it this way. So, let’s keep it simple. In past years, using Berri’s work, Calderon and Bosh produce roughly 23 wins when reasonably healthy. Thus, we need to “find” 22 more. Last year, Turkoglu “produced” 6.7 wins while Evans was pegged at 2.6 wins produced. Given that both will likely see even a small bump in rebounds, we’ll round this number to 10. Jarrett Jack (3-4), Amir Johnson (~2, but has upside), Rasho Nesterovic (~1), and Marco Belinelli (~1) give us another 7 or so. Thus, we more or less need Bargnani to account for at least 5 wins.
So, Andrea Bargnani needs to become….. Brad Miller?!!
Brad Miller didn’t get a lot of national TV attention in his career given he was stuck in Sacramento the last number of years. However, in the playoffs (especially vs Boston, game 6) we saw his versatility. While everything but flashy (and despite the bad tattoos), he is an effective center. And I submit that if Bargnani could replicate his effectiveness, we would have a solid shot at producing > 45 wins. Below is a comparison – with several metrics using a per 48 minute base.
What is clear is Andrea’s rebounding and passing deficiencies. Certainly after the Jermaine O’Neal trade, Andrea’s rebounding numbers increased. However, I believe we still need to see his total rebounds number above 10 over 48 minutes. With that change and another assist per game, Andrea would be above the 5 “wins produced” metric. Even if you may not buy into Berri’s work, the comparison alone should highlight where Bargnani needs to improve – which should translate into additional wins.
3) Matchups (coaching strategies). Jay Triano is lacking solid defenders. But he does have a few. Bosh, Nesterovic, Evans, Johnson and Wright are all reasonable. Triano also has many opportunities for mismatches – big lineups that can handle the ball (i.e. the proposed started lineup) or tougher lineups (with Jack, Evans, Johnson). Plenty of great shooters as well. On defence, having our (slower) perimeter defenders force the action towards the corners/baseline will allow proper help from our bigs, with less easy dishes for easy scores.
Thus, I submit that 45 wins will be anything but a “layup”. I think our expectations are best set at a 500-ish team (i.e. ~ 41-41). Several of the top teams have had serious injuries to some of their top players (Garnett, Brand, Arenas, O’Neal etc), many of whom are predicted by “experts” to bounce back to normal form. As we learned from our own O’Neal example, this is often difficult on old legs (Arenas may be the exception given his age). Thus, we may see a few more wins as our younger team hopefully will hold up better than some of the ageing key players on teams above us. However, we obviously cannot depend upon it.
As always, I welcome your thoughts. And I’ll leave you with this:
Q: How do you tell the introverted statistician from an extroverted statistician?
A: The extroverted statistician is the one staring at the other person’s shoes.