Dwane’s D

How Much has the Raptors Defence Improved?
Many Raptors observers are looking at our defensive points allowed and are understandably impressed by the dramatic improvements. After five games (I’m writing this just before the Cavs game), the Raptors improved their average points allowed by 11 per game! (From 105.4 pts/g last year to 94.4 this year). This cut their league rank from 26th a year ago to 13th this year.

Hence the question posed to me (before the Cavs game): how can the Raptors only be ranked 21st in Defensive Rating (DRtg)? The answer is “pace”. Points allowed per game is not an overly relevant metric. Why? Well, if you are playing at a slow pace (“pace factor” is an estimate of the number of possessions per 48 minutes by a team, see calcuation here.) the opponents will less possessions to score points (as will you). Regardless, the improvement is impressive.

Update: incorporating the Cavs game data from last night, the Raptors jumped up the rankings even further. It moves them into the top half in Defensive Rating as well.

Point being is to look at defensive rating as the best measure of performance. You will see, for example, that the Raptors (i.e. offensive) points per game average is only ranked 21st, but their “true” offensive performance is 15th (as per the offensive rating). Pace always should be considered.

Other key metrics regarding the Raptors defense:

  • The Raptors are the ONLY team in the league holding their opponents under 40% for field goal percentage allowed.
  • They are sixth best for eFG% at 45.0% as they allow a relatively high 3 point FG% (39.8%).
  • Raps allow the third highest Opponents free throw rate (FTA/FGA) at 34.5%. This helps explain their low points-in-the-paint numbers as well as low opponent FG%. Casey prefers not allowing easy buckets and will take the foul instead.
  • Toronto has the fifth slowest pace factor in the league at 88.8 (source).

While the Raptors’ schedule was a bit on the easier side (ESPN ranks the Raptors’ Strength of Schedule in the middle of the pack, but note the Stoudemire sat out the NYK game), this remains a very impressive achievement – especially considering the short training camp. I believe the “Case for Casey” has been made.

DeMar DeRozan Deadly From Deep

DeRozan has hit as more 3s (10 made, in 16 attempts) in six games this year than all of his previous 159 games (68 attempts). He has the second highest 3 point FG% (62.5%) out of all players that have made 10 or more 3 point field goals this year.

His 10 for 16 start represents an incredible 93.8% effective field goal percentage (eFG%), up from 14.4% a year ago! No, he will not be able to keep up this pace, but his shot has definitely improved dramatically and it adds a very important dimension to his game.

As we noted in our “Thou Shall Not Shoot Long 2s (Often)” post at the end of last year: “if DeRozan would move back a average of four-ish feet and replace some of his long 2s with 3s, he could hit 14 less threes out of every 100 and be as effective.” Well, he’s certainly doing a lot better than that. His challenge now is to further reduce the percentage of long 2s he takes, which is still over 35% of all his shots. This year he’s only shooting 27% from the 16 to 23 feet range.

The Dauntless Distributor

“Jose is one of the best Point Guards in the league” – DeMar DeRozan during the post game interviews last night.

I was thinking a the same thing. So, of course, I ran the numbers.

Calderon’s season thus far ranks very well among the best PGs in the game:

Calderon is ahead of the cream of the PG crop in most categories with the exception of steal percentage and defensive win shares. His offensive output is currently second to no one in this group, even MVP calibre players like Rose and Paul. And he once again is at the top of that boring ol’ Assist-To-Turnover category.

Perhaps its time to give Calderon a little more credit.

New Forum Thread

Finally, Arsenalist introduced a new forum thread dedicated to “Statophile Q&A”. Most often I’ll try to offer a quick analysis/reponse right in the thread, while other questions I’ll save until a full Statopile post. I already see some excellent questions and will get to them shortly. If you prefer to send questions privately, you’re welcome to email me at tomliston [at] gmail [dot] com or find me on Twitter (@Liston).

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  • 2damkule

    hey tom – great read, confirms a lot of what we’re ‘seeing.’

    with respect to PG play – one name that i thought you’d include (but didn’t) is lowry, who’s playing light-effn-out for the rox…how does he rate in that comparo (and yes, i’m exceptionally lazy…).

    • You’re absolutely right.  I was selecting PG using the “name the best half dozen PGs off the top of your head” criteria – i.e. the general names fans would throw out there.  But I probably should have included Lowry as well.
      Calderon is *generally* ahead of Lowry, but he’s also playing at a very high level so far (main difference, Lowry is getting to the line a lot more).

      • LeeZ

        For stat newbs like me who don’t understand any of the acronyms, could you post a refresher column (or at least a legend) explaining what they all mean, or at least provide a link to a site that explains them? Thanks.

        • Yes, I started something – I’ll finish it and created a permanent link to it.  Thank you for the reminder.

  • Brasky

    Calderon is looking like the up and coming borderline all star he was 4 or 5 years ago. Might be a good time to sell high. Meanwhile, Bargnani and Derozan have taken their offensive efficiencies up a notch as well, and even look passable defensively. Tank derailed??

    • Hound

      If he plays this well, why would we get rid of him? And if we did, who would we get?

      • mountio

        Ive got to agree. It might be a tough pill to swallow (as our team would undoubtably look out of sorts for a while) .. but if we could get anything in the way or a young PG and/or outside shooting SF (and likely dump salary assuming we are taking a talent downgrade which would almost for sure be the case)  .. I think we have to do it.
        We have to remember that JC is NOT part of the long term picture here. I dont really think thats debateable. He hasnt shown the durability in the past .. and even if he stays healthy this year (unlikely) .. do we really think hell be contirbuting 2-3 years from now? I do not.
        This is in sharp contrast to AB .. who absolutely should / could be part of the future and, while we can always consider trading him for the right piece .. there is certainly no rush to “sell high” like there might be with JC

    • Nilanka15

      I wonder what Gilbert Arenas has to say about Calderon being an all-star, lol.

    • Hadi

      Pfffffftt … sell high your ass. You’re quite the investor! Looooooooooool ..

      • Brasky

        Yeah, because Calderon clearly hasn’t been plagued by chronic injuries over his career and at the ripe age of 30 is just entering his injury free prime. Point guard of the future! The whole point is to sell high. If the idea is to sell low we might as well trade Derozan and Davis for 2nd round picks. 

        • p00ka

          Any suggestions who we could get that will come close to helping with this evaluation/development year of the young core? Neither Bayless nor Carter serve much value in helping DD, ED, Amir, JJ, AB in his redefined role, through very good court management that Casey’s system is based on, and happens to be working rather well.

          • Nilanka15

            To narrow it down, we can make a list of teams that might need 2 years of PG rental to help them reach/succeed in the playoffs.

            The Lakers, Suns, Heat, and Knicks come to mind (maybe Memphis if they give up on Conley, and maybe New Orleans if they don’t think Jack’s the real deal).

            But it’s hard to imagine us getting anything more than a draft pick (plus roster filler/cash considerations) in return.

            • p00ka

              Suns would make no sense. the others: ” hard to imagine us getting anything more than a draft pick (plus roster filler/cash considerations) in return.’ exactly, which is counterproductive to the development plan. Leave that in the hands of Bayless? To get a late crapshoot draft pick? I’d swear if BC pulled a deal like that, and I know he won’t.

              • Nilanka15

                If the Knicks barely squeak into the playoffs as a 6-7 seed, then Calderon for 17-18 pick might not be that bad, especially if we can use it to pick someone like Marshall or Kabongo.

                Actually, check that.  The Rockets own New York’s 2012 first round pick.

    • Steve

      We have just one pont guard and you want to sell him!?

  • Great stuff. Love reading these advanced stats and their explanations.

  • Nilanka15

    I’m not concerned about being 26th in pace.

    When the playoffs roll around, teams usually slow down their pace by default, fully acknowledging that each possession becomes that much more valuable in the post-season.

    When the Raptors eventually reach the post-season, they’ll already be very familiar with a playoff-type pace.  Works for me 🙂

    • Great points.  Tom Haberstroh, a stats guru and an ESPN writer covering the Miami Heat, noted “In the last 20 years, how many title teams played as fast as the Heat are currently playing? The answer is zero.”
      Full article here: Miami is the 2nd-fastest team in the NBA right now, but can they win it all at this pace? History is not on their side. http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/story?id=7425150&_slug_=the-miami-heat-uptempo-game-risky-play-nba&action=upsell&appRedirect=http%3a%2f%2finsider.espn.go.com%2fnba%2fstory%3fid%3d7425150%26_slug_%3dthe-miami-heat-uptempo-game-risky-p

      • Connor

        Which team is the fastest in the NBA right now?

      • Nilanka15

        Interesting article.  Is there any way you can post the full one in the forums?  I don’t have ESPN Insider access.

  • Juicy

    Nice to see the emergence of Demar’s 3-point efficiency but I dont want to see his short-range game dissapear.  His at the rim is down (though a little more efficient).  But more concerning is the large drop at 3-9feet, coupled with a large drop in efficiency in that range.  Perhaps he needs to be attacking the basket more, and with better focus.  Balance is key though.

    • Before I use to cringe when Drear would shoot outside, but not anymore.  I see that his form has greatly improved.  he gets great elecation when he shoots as well.  I just hope that he does not follow the fate of numerous shooting guards and fall in love w/ his jumpshot like I have seen so many SGs do.  

      • Nilanka15

        I still cringe at his long 2 point attempts (just inside the 3 point line).  Actually, I cringe when any player takes such a shot.  It’s easily the worst shot in basketball (unless wide open).  These long range pull up jumpers coming off pick & rolls (or pick & pops), annoy the hell outta me!

  • BCStefanskiCaseyGots2Go!!!

    Any team/individual stat taken in this early season are going to be skewed as team’s are still getting their game legs to go along with the condensed schedule among various other related particulars.

    All stats for this 66 game season should have an asterix beside them.

    After around 50 games we can get a better read yet still nothing beats 82 games as a true data point for NBA comparison stats.

    We should sell both Jose & AB high while they are playing well as the returns could be most beneficial for the future of the Raptors who know BC could probably thrown in Kleiza (when healthy by end January) with both, one and/or the other.

    • p00ka

      Can we trade this guy to another team’s fan site? I’d take a used cork that might be useful in shutting the mouth of the next cracked whine bottle that comes along.

      • Schultz

        I hope he takes you with him.

    • You always find something to hate on do you.  Is it because the Raptors are proving you wrong.  God you are so pathetic. 

    • KJ-B

      Not a popular opinion, but I too wonder what will be the raps fate, when players get into NBA shape, and teams start getting physical with #7 and Jose–also what about that schedule–it only gets worse…we’ll see!  I think MLSE is drinking its own Kool Aid!

    • Good point.  We should only do one post per year.

    • Brain Colangelo

      Why do you think NBA teams think more of a six game sample size than you do? No one will give additional value for bargnani and Calderon at this stage.

      Totally separately, bargnani for monta Ellis and a pick would be insane! Let’s hope Bargs has a great year!

      • Nilanka15

        If we acquire Ellis, what do we do with DeRozan?  I don’t think he’s capable of playing SF.

        • sleepz

          These are all ficitional scenario’s but acquiring talent at positions of duplication (outside of PF) shouldn’t matter at this point.

          Raps are paper thin and need all ths talent they can get. Calderon is playing well but that shouldn’t prevent us from acquiring another good pg if that was an option.

          • p00ka

            That’s true unless you’re trading the only PF even resembling a starter at this point, playing at an all-star level, for a duplicate of a guy projected to be the long-term starter. Seriously deplete one position to duplicate another? Not a GM in the league would do that.

  • Ryan

    I’m concerned about that 16-23 feet shooting percentage for DD. What seems to happen (just from my observations) is that DD knows that he’s not a great 3-point shooter, so when he shoots a trey, he consciously focuses on the shot (and the mechanics in particular, it seems), resulting in a good shot and high percentage.

    However, when he tries to create off the dribble, or tries turnaround shots, or fading, or any other shot, he seems to revert back to his old form because he’s not thinking about it.

    What this tells me is that his shot still has a long way to go, until it can become automatic.

    In the meantime, he needs to rediscover how to drive. He’s taking way too many jumpers, in my opinion. Slashing and getting to the rim and maybe drawing fouls was supposed to be his bread-and-butter, but he’s settling for the jumper much too often (see his shot distribution for At Rim and 3-9 feet compared to last year).

    • WHAT THE

      Dont worry DD is studing some Barbosa and Ray Allen tapes and will be working out with Dwade and Rose next off season or the following one working on his handles

    • Jason_atwood85

      See the thing is, DD is known for his slashing and driving to the basket so a lot of teams are playing him for that, they are staying off him and protecting the lane, what ges doing now makes sense, cause now he has the jump shot falling so players will have to play him tighter which allows him to be able to drive past them and draw contact. Hes doing an amazing job thus far besides the percentage at the 3-9 feet range but that has a lot to do with players being in the right spot on defence

    • LeeZ

      Bang on, Ryan. I’ve noticed the same thing. When he spots up and has some time, his mechanics are great. When he’s trying something on the fly, he reverts back to his bad old habits: taking the ball behind his head and “flinging” it (not so much a shot as a two-handed over the head pass), plus he doesn’t release it at the height of his leap, but holds onto it a split second more than he needs to.

      • p00ka

        Some are saying he has to drive more, and he certainly has to long term, but until he has better handles on his dribble, which is atrocious right now, and may lake many hours of practice to improve, he has three choices: take a pass and shoot when he’s set, or pass (he needs to think in that direction a little more and he’ll see the ball more), or be a slasher ready to receive a pass, a la that pass from Jose in the lane last game for a dunk.

  • Tinman

    You didn’t bring up the PF position?
    No one wants to talk about those stats, the most noticable improvement in this brief stint?
    Je ne comprends pas.

    • I will.  Takes me 8-10 hours for each post as I go through a lot of data (and build my own databases).  So I pick a few topics that “jump out” and save a few for the next post.  I will address the 4 spot soon.

  • hateslosing

    Jose for MVP.

  • draftedraptor

    great to see. But I cannot help but think this is skewed. allow few more games for normal service to resume. 

  • AB7.38pt.on.cb4


    I like his numbers in general so far. The improved range will allow the team to spread the floor for easier 1 against 1.Thats a key on all offence systems.

    In the other hand I would like DD getting to the rim (read ft) more often.

    • Kchadha

      Man just stop hating and watch the game! These players work their heart out in the gym to improve so you guys could watch some ball. Try getting up your ass and improve like DD and the raptors have. Theyre certainly better than last season!!

      • AB7.38pt.on.cb4

        Hating ? What are you talking about. Hoping DD game will have more ft means hating for you ? Have a sleep and think about it

      • Nilanka15

        I never understood the “well, I’d like to see you try what they’re doing” argument.  These guys are professional athletes getting paid millions of dollars to put on a show.  It’s not unreasonable for the paying public to expect/demand excellence.

        • p00ka

          Maybe it’s just semantics, and we agree, but I think the only thing that’s reasonable to expect/demand is that they give the best they have in the effort to achieve excellence. That goes for players, coaches and management.

  • ed davis

    After 6 games the Raptors core is looking good  Bargs is 7th in scoring, Demar is 3rd in 3 pointers and Jose is 2nd in assists

    • Nilanka15

      By the end of the season, Bargs will probably be 15th in scoring (assuming he averages 21 ppg), DeMar will probably be 50th in three point percentage (assuming he averages around 38%), and Calderon will probably be 10th in assists (assuming he blows a hamstring in the next 2 weeks, lol).

      • AB7.38pt.on.cb4

        Derozan  22 pt  44% 5 reb
        Bargnani 21 pt  46% 7 reb
        Calderon 12 pt  48% 8 assist
        Barbosa    9 pt  42% 
        Ed Davis   9 pt  60% 8 reb
        A.Johnson 8 pt  60% 8 reb
        Kleiza       8 pt 45% 4 reb
        J.Johnson  5  pt  40% 4 reb 1blk 1steal
        Bayless    7  pt  40% 2 assist


        • p00ka

          lol, either of you guys have LottoMax predictions?

          • AB7.38pt.on.cb4

            Good one. My raptormania sometimes take over..

            • p00ka

              Just kidding. I don’t get into that stuff, but understand some having fun with it.

  • Steve

    Hey Tom, where do you get your stats from (apart from basketball reference)? Do you make those colorful looking tables or get them from some site?