The Raptors practiced on Sunday between 2PM-4PM back at the ACC without Chris Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu, although both took shots. Joining them on the sidelines were Sonny Weems and Antoine Wright who were both out with sore knees and are unlikely to play on Tuesday in London. That’s about the only “news” to report from Sunday. The scrimmage really whet my appetite for some basketball and I find myself looking forward to a pre-season game more than I ever have. We’ll finally get a chance to see these guys against real competition even though it’ll be for a maximum of a quarter or so. We’ll know more about the status of Bosh and Turkoglu today but I’ll be surprised if either take part on Tuesday. Bosh I can understand because he’s injured but just exactly how fatigued is Turkoglu?

The only interesting quote from Jay today was about Jack and Calderon:

It’s competition in practice every day. It makes you concentrate more and play harder every day and play better in practice and because of that I think they’ll push each other. I think that when we go to the bench we’re not going to skip a beat, we’re have a different look, but at the same time they are both similar in the style they play and their ability to push the basketball. The intensity of which we play with will be at an all-time high because we have two point guards who can run the show. They both have the size to be able to guard twos if they have to. That’s going to afford us the opportunity to play them together.

Call me crazy but I don’t think they’re very similar at all. One’s a bullish physical specimen with a tight handle and a drive whilst the other is a better shooter, a more precise passer and more inclined to run the offense than go rogue. He’s right about one thing though, and that’s that we’ll be much improved at the 1 for a much longer time than last year. It’s also interesting to note that there’s no debate as to who the starting point guard will be. Everybody has accepted that Jose will be given the reigns but the decision to do so is questioned every day in practice, not by Jack’s mouth but his play.

As for them guarding the SG? Jack played 48% of his minutes there last year and held his check to a lower PER than himself. I don’t know how much to make of that stat but it at least shows that he’s not a liability there. Calderon didn’t even muster enough minutes at the SG for 82games.com to even consider. Both are 6’3″ with Calderon at 210 being 13lbs heavier, however, Jack’s physique and strength appear to be superior, especially in the upper body. That’s probably the main reason Jim O’Brien could afford to play him so much at the off guard. I do agree with Triano though, 6’3″ is good enough size to guard the SG for limited minutes, but what he didn’t address in his quote is defensive ability and lateral quickness which Jack has in spades over Calderon.

Back to practice and I made this point over the summer a couple times and it’s worth repeating. One of the biggest problems last year was that our starters had nobody to compete with in practice and they came out to the games all mellow and untested. This year that’s been fixed and it is the main reason we saw such a competitive scrimmage (Game in 6). DeRozan-Belinelli, Calderon-Jack, Bargnani-Rasho, Bosh-Evans/Johnson and Turkoglu-Wright are solid matchups for any practice session. Jack, Evans and Wright are all defense-first guys who’ll challenge the “Big Three” of Bargnani, Bosh and Calderon every day. Those three will test not only the skills of the core of our franchise, but also their toughness and mental strength.

The three players that I’m most interested in seeing in pre-season are DeRozan, Belinelli and Johnson because their performances will have a massive impact on the start of the season. Both Belinelli and Johnson are players that have been discarded by their original teams, in other words they were considered “not good enough” and have a lot to prove. There’s an excellent chance we’ll be asking them to be the primary backups at their respective positions and that’s a situation they’ll never have been in before (Johnson’s career MPG is 13.6 and Marco was in Don Nelson’s doghouse the last two years). Triano is bound to have a longer leash with DeRozan, both because of his rookie status and the lack of depth at the SG. Rookies are usually eased into teams that hope to contend but the Raptors are different, they don’t have much of a choice which means he’ll get to play through his mistakes, a luxury rookies on “contending” teams never have.

On to some stats stuff. The adjusted +/- has been on my mind since the last couple days, here’s a brief description of the stat. I think we all agree that +/- is for the most part total BS because a player shouldn’t have to pay for somebody else’s mistakes. Well, the adjusted +/- looks at a player while considering all the lineups he’s played in. For example, if player X had a bad +/- playing with a certain lineup and a good +/- playing with a different lineup, maybe his real +/- is somewhere in between. By the same rationale, if player X has a bad +/- in all of his lineups, maybe that stat is reflective of something significant. The sample size needed to make this stat meaningful is quite large. For example, if Jose’s getting burned on the perimeter while playing 35 mpg with 30 of those minutes with Chris Bosh on the floor, it’s hurting Bosh’s +/- stat and he only has 5 minutes to make up for it with another PG. Ideally, you’d like to have many different lineups with relevant permutations of old and current rosters for this to make any sense. Anyway, just bookmark this site and follow it along during the season to see if it jives with what you think. I had dismissed it last year but will give it a shot this season.

Many analysts like Hollinger and Berri dive into stats and attempt to extract information out of data, something which is a very difficult task because even though you’re working with pure mathematics, the stats you choose to give weight to and the ones you choose to play down, will always be subject to debate. No matter how much we all try, there is no foolproof way to look at stats and derive information that can’t be countered using another statistical angle. Let’s stick with the +/- example, the only way one can assign a player blame or credit for any given possession is to watch the game on a possession-by-possession basis. On every score and every stop you have to rank the players that were responsible for that score or stop. If player X is broken down by player Y who glides in for a layup, I’d assign 85% of the blame to player X, 15% of it to the big man who was late in helping. I’d give 100% of the credit to player Y, unless of course he got a solid screen from player Z who would then be given around 20-30% of the credit depending on how much space the screen freed up. Every possession is different and requires you to watch the game when forming an opinion of the effectiveness of individuals. Can you say possession-outcome chart?

Did you know that statistically speaking, Andrea Bargnani and Marco Belinelli were the 13th and 16th most improved players in the league last year? If you want to see graphical representations of the “four factors” and some advance team stats in the box scores, keep an eye on statsheet.com. To see how substitutions and lineups impact the flow of a game, there’s no better place than popcornmachine.net.

The team will practice again on Monday before heading to London on Tuesday.

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