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.
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).