steph

The Raptors have challenges at the wing position. Hedo, … well we all know the issue there – even though there are signs of improvement at least in terms of effort in recent games. DeMar DeRozan has loads of potential and the consensus view is to keep his development going by having him start. The primary issue remains who plays in the second unit – and how much they play.

The backup wings are: Belinelli, Wright, Weems and potentially Jack (see why Arsenalist , I and 98.9% of Raptors Nation dislike Jack at the 2).

So how have they performed so far?

Source: basketball-reference.com, as of 1/25/2010

None of the data points should be a big surprise. Belinelli is generally a bit better on offense while Weems and Wright are better rebounders. Belinelli is by far the better 3 point shooter.

What about normalizing the data over 36 min?

Source: basketball-reference.com, as of 1/25/2010

Now a few metrics stand out. Belinelli still gets the edge on offense – especially vis-a-vis Wright. But Weems appears to be a better passer than we give him credit for – he even has more assists per 36 min than Belinelli (albeit modestly). Weems also is far superior to Wright in terms of steals and blocks. Weems also commits the lowest number of turnovers among the three. Finally Weems puts up more points than Wright as well. The only area in which Wright excels is rebounding – and that versus Belinelli only.

Altraps hates (note sarcasm) when I write a post without a little dash of adjusted +/- analysis thrown in. Adjusted +/- “aim(s) to assess all the contributions a player makes when factoring in the strength of his teammates and opponents.” See the great site basketballvalue.com for further details.

I have sorted the adjusted +/- ratings by this year. Remember that this stat does attempt to adjust for player strengths – e.g. if Sonny is playing with some of his best teammates against an opponent’s second unit – while running up a big score while on the court, this will get “adjusted” downwards. I am careful to point out that with Sonny’s limited minutes can cause significant variances in this statistic in the near term.

Source: basketballvalue, as of 1/24/2010

The one year adjusted +/- yields some interesting results. No surprise, our stars Bosh and Bargnani are at the top of the list. And another fan observation is confirmed – Jose Calderon has the team’s worst defensive rating. Anything else stand out? (Besides Amir’s remarkable defensive rating, which I will NOT, I repeat NOT, point out here if I ever wish to be published on RR again)

Sonny Weems! Sonny’s defensive rating is the best among our wings and second only to Amir Johnson overall. What’s one of our key issues? Defence from the wing position. As well, Sonny appears to add to our offensive rating while on the court versus sitting. So, the early tables showing Sonny as a superior passer, shot blocker, rebounder and caretaker of the ball appear to be supported by this adjusted +/- table.

Not to put too fine a point on this, but our friends at Hardwood Paroxysm recently posted every player’s usage versus PER rating:

(http://www.hardwoodparoxysm.com/2010/01/25/graphic-offense-a-look-at-usage-and-per-mid-season/)

See the post for full details. But what stands out? Antoine Wright’s near zero PER despite reasonable usage. Clearly Weems and Belinelli make more effective use of the ball. PER is certainly an offensive focused metric, but we noted above that Wright is not likely superior on defence. Thus, another case is made for further playing time for both Belinelli and Weems.

So, how many minutes should each of the three get? Turkoglu has played 33 min a game this year, while DeRozan has played 21 min a game. First, I would like to see a few more minutes (especially in the fourth quarter, but not at crunch time) for DeRozan and a bit less for Turkoglu. Turkoglu’s energy (effort?) has been lacking and less minutes in the middle of the game would be a wise move – give him that extra rest in order to perform better in end of game situations.

We will still get to allocate 40 minutes. Based on the analysis above, I would like to see how Weems reacts if given another 5 min a game – i.e. in the 20 min range. And a few more minutes for Belinelli as well – to average a little over 20 min a game. Of course, this is situation dependent. I would increase Weems’ minutes even more when we are facing a wing with a strong offensive game. Adding his rebounding capability and defensive presence will increase the balance that is missing in many of our line-up combinations. And I would give Belinelli more minutes when facing a wing with “average/below average” quickness as he can excel at both ends.

Finally, I believe Wright should only see significant minutes at end of game situations when Triano is switching offense for defence (i.e. play both Weems and Wright and then sub Belinelli and Turkoglu back for the offensive set). Not there may be a “hidden” reason we are playing Wright a bit more currently – he could be a decent asset at the trade deadline. If Colangelo believes he can improve the bench by moving Wright, then I am fine with showcasing him before the deadline. However, I want to see more of both Belinelli and Weems post the deadline (and before if Wright’s not on the block) – both have under 2,000 career minutes and may be key role players down the stretch and into the playoffs. Thus, getting experience now is critical.

Key combinations:

Jack Weems Turkoglu Bargnani Bosh
Calderon Belinelli Turkoglu Bargnani Bosh

(Also see 82games.com here or here for why I like these lineups)

As well,

Jack/Calderon Belinelli Weems Bargnani/Johnson Bosh

are effective combinations. Weems for defending the wing, while Belinelli presses on offense and adds a three point threat. Add Jack/Johnson and you’re running and gunning or Calderon/Bargnani for more half court sets.