There is a lot of negatively around these parts and its not difficult to understand why. We barely had a 30 win team at the start of the season and plenty of injuries have made the situation even worse.

A couple topics are top of mind:

  • Demar DeRozan’s solid January #s
  • How poorly Andrea Bargnani’s effort stats are
  • Should Sonny Weems start?
  • Amir Johnson‘s contract – value or not?

DeMar DeRozan’s January


DeRozan has his weakness, but I’m impressed that he’s the first one to admit his deficiencies and put in the work to improve. DeRozan’s points per game are up over 60% from the first two months of the year. He also made it to the line 4.8 times a game in January, shooting a solid 84.4%.

DeRozan’s rebounds per game are also up to 3.8 per, from 3.3 per in November and December. However, his points per game increases have come at the expense (albeit small) of efficiency: he’s shooting 45.6% versus 48.1% in December and 45.9% for November. He’s relied on even more given all of our injuries. This certainly had an impact on double teams and the him being subject of defensive focus, which has weighed on his efficiency.

Overall though, he continues to improve. And I won’t bet against him.

Bargnani’s effort stats


Rebounds, steals, blocks, defense. All involve elements of grit and hustle.

Unfortunately, last year, Bargnani said this in an interview with NBA.com. The question was how does he get beat on the boards.

Being lazy maybe. That’s the only reason it can be. I’ve got the body, I’ve got everything to take 10 rebounds a game. It’s just sometimes I get lazy.

Perhaps that was good that he admitted there was a problem. Sadly, he hasn’t done much to improve.

Despite the loss of Chris Bosh, Bargnani’s rebounding has actually regressed. Surprisingly, all of his hustle statistics have declined versus his previous 4 year average, with the exception of steals – and that’s on an insignificant number.

On offence, he hasn’t been able to offset this regression. His TS% of 52.8% is his lowest since his difficult second year and his three point FG% of 32.9% is a career low.

If Andrea Bargnani is our star and second highest wage earner, he needs to perform at a higher level. Talent is fixed, but effort is variable. And he needs to start giving a little of the latter.

The team goes largely as Bargnani goes. Look at this distinct contrast:

Should Sonny Weems start?


I had a good “debate” (if one can debate via Twitter) with Tim Chisholm (one of my favourite writers) from TSN on starting Wright vs Weems. We agreed more than disagreed, but more importantly the discussion brought out my 4 key points to start Wright over Weems.

Obviously neither is a starter on a contending team (but we need something to chat about during a 10 game losing streak, don’t we?!), but I tried to make my point four ways:

  • Our starting lineup is quite weak defensively, but are solid offensive players. It can only help by inserting our strongest wing defender (Wright).
  • We can play Weems more minutes than Wright, but not as much against the opponent’s starting unit. Weems defense will not be exposed as much and he will have a relatively easy time scoring against the opponent’s second unit. As well, our second unit is much weaker offensively and this creates balance.
  • It rewards those who put in the most effort on D (Wright). This is a trait we need to instill in our young squad today – in order to properly build a winner.
  • It’s a misconception that Wright negatively affects the offense. In fact, the Raptors have a offensive rating 2.18 points higher with Wright on the floor. [Raptors defensive rating is an impressive 6.44 points better when he's on the floor as per point #1]

Amir Johnson’s salary and value


I had to add this after reading all the inaccuracies in the comment section of this post.

Everyone has their favourite player that they wish to defend, but please at least use correct data in your argument. No, Amir does not make “6-7 million” per year. He makes $5 million this year, and will average $6 million over 5 years. Andrea Bargnani does not make $10 million this year (he makes $8 million) and will average $10 million.

This summer, I took a lot of flack against defending Amir Johnson’s contract against two similar contracts at the time: Drew Gooden’s and Travis Outlaw’s. To me, the relative value was an easy call. But not many agreed.
Given the recent discussion confusion in the comments section today, I have also added Andrea Bargnani’s statistics and salary numbers for an interesting comparison.

I shouldn’t need to comment. The numbers speak for themselves. Amir Johnson is generally putting up better numbers across the board despite being owed the least. Also he’s ahead of Bargnani in every category (besides AST%) while being paid 40% less Bargnani over his contract. Bargnani obviously has much more range, but also has many more weaknesses. Not sure that you can make a strong case against Johnson, who will make $20 million less than Bargnani over their contracts.

Oh, and the comment about Amir Johnson cannot stay on the floor? He’s at a career low 5.4 fouls per 36 minutes and a career high 25.3 minutes per game (despite some in game injuries). He’s only played under 20 minutes 9 times and only 3 of those were due to foul trouble out of 48 games played (equaling 6.3% of games). Those are the facts, but don’t let them get in the way of a good argument.

Questions? Email me: [email protected] or find me on Twitter.

Sources: basketball-reference.com