You Cannot Fly with Clipped Wings

Small forward: “Most… are highly versatile and highly essential in a line-up.” – Wikipedia
Shooting guard: “Ideally, a guard that can shoot.” – Tom Liston

News flash: our wings cannot score with any resemblance of efficiency. How bad is it?


Bad. While Usage (USG) percentage is slightly above average, the Raptors’ wings are much less productive with the ball. True Shooting percentage (TS%), an effectiveness measure that incorporates 3 point, 2 point and free throw shooting, is much worse than the average wing. This is a combination of poor shooting overall, but also a function of Butler and Johnson not getting to the line (both average less than one attempt per game, while the league’s best get to the line 4+ times a game).

James Johnson appears to be the only wing that isn’t a ball stopper. The rest are certainly well below league averages. Ball movement was critical in Dallas’ run to the championship and will ultimately give the team better looks. I suspect as Casey has more practice time to dedicate to the offence, we will see improvement here.

The wings rebound reasonably well with respect to league averages, with James Johnson again being the highlight. And Johnson is the only player with a “Win Share” (WS) score above the average.

The good news? Well, there isn’t a lot. I’ve included Kleiza and will win the “presentation of the world’s worst sample size award” by doing so. Obviously, we cannot take much from one game. However, Kleiza’s historical TS% and rebound rates are nicely above league averages. Certainly he looked good in limited minutes last night. We also see Kleiza performing well in the post (start reading at “So, how could we do this?”), which is backed up by Synergy (last year’s data) and could pair well with our “stretch” 4 in Bargnani (on offence, as defensively this pairing doesn’t perform as well – with Casey, perhaps a healthy Kleiza improves)

Andrea the All-Star

Yeah, yeah. It’s way too early to be calling Bargnani an all-star, but the alliteration works. Work with me.

I believe I can safely say he’s currently playing at an all-star level. Especially considering he has so little support at the wing positions and, while effective, a power forward with some limitations at the offensive end. Hence, despite the primary focus of opponent’s defenses, he’s been more efficient then ever. Add a compressed schedule and limited offensive sets (as Casey’s focus has been on defense in their limited practise time), his performance has been nothing short of impressive.

While his numbers, are up across the board, his TS% is a highlight. It is driven by not only better two point shooting (his 3pt shooting – as well as attempts – are down), but almost twice as many trips to the line as his career average. This is one of the most dramatic changes to Bargnani’s game – more diversity, and more aggressiveness on offence. His rebounds are also up nicely while his fouls are down. The latter indicates he should be more aggressive on the defensive end with help defense and alleviate some of the pressure on Amir Johnson, who is most often covering the opponents’ 5.


The downside of Punishment in the Paint

One statistic that shows the most dramatic change in the defense this year, is Toronto’s top ranked position for opponent’s FG% “at the rim”. The Raptors are also an impressive fourth best for opponents FG% allowed from 3-9 feet range. Thus, no other team creates more difficult shots in the paint as Toronto.

However, there is a downside to this. My theory: the Raptors’ aggressiveness in the paint both forces difficult shots but also naturally results in more fouls. Indeed the Raptors are 27th – i.e. allow opponents to get to the line at a higher rate, where they are shooting ~75%. It is not a simple sacrifice to make: when you foul, you are giving up 1.5 points AND putting highly effective players like Amir Johnson closer to foul trouble such that he’s forced sit (and thus sacrifice more offensive rebounds etc…) The consequences of this strategy are signficant. Of course, with more experience and practice within this defensive framework may result reduced foul rates and its certainly something to monitor.


Forum Thread

Questions? Arsenalist introduced a 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. 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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  • Juicy

    It would be cool to see Andrea’s stats matched up against other Power Forwards (or forwards in general) to see if he’s truly playing at all-star level.  Maybe even more fun would be to compare his stats to Bosh Spice.

      • BCStefanskiCaseyGots2Go!!!

        Except CB is winning in Miami and AB is losing in the TDot- the only stat that matters is Ws & Ls.

        • mountio

          I think its safe to say that AB (or any stiff in the NBA for that matter) would be winning alongside LBJ and DW. In this case, (ie trying to measure how effective CB is / has been) not sure his Ws in Miami matter much at all …

          • BCStefanskiCaseyGots2Go!!!

            Let you tell it.

            CB4 was taking Toronto to the playoffs and contending for the playoffs- Bargnani the Lottery….

            • mountio

              .. which is a fair argument… and I grant you is true.  
              The fact that he can successfully ride as a distant third banana to LBJ and DW is not ..

              • BCStefanskiCaseyGots2Go!!!

                Alot of players would rank third on a team with DWade & LBJ- your point?

                So distant a 3rd that he led Miami to a victory over the Atlanta Hawks w/o Dwade or LBJ  who were out of the line up with injuries- it looked alot like his TDot days- CB4 and a bunch of bench/role players.

                Plus hit a game winning shot in the NBA FINALS while BC & AB aren’t even sniffing the playoffs but swimming in Lottery balls. 

                • Ihatehaters

                  What’s your point, asshat?

            • cesco

              One thing is definite , the Bosh experiment in Toronto was a big failure (two quick exits in the playoffs with Bosh making a disappearing act each time). With Andrea , if the right pieces are acquired via pick(s) , trades and FA’s  (and acquiring those pieces is a good possibility ) + JV , the playoffs are coming soon and then we will see who will have more success of the two .

              • BCStefanskiCaseyGots2Go!!!

                They made the playoffs w/ CB- key fact.

                Playoffs coming soon w/ AB….how soon… sound like BC……IF…..lmfao

                • cesco

                  If Chicago or OKC prevent Miami from becoming champions , you will see Christine on her knees crying and be traded afterward .

                • BCStefanskiCaseyGots2Go!!!


                • Awesome argument. Because Bargnani wasn’t on the team when they made the playoffs… oh wait.

                  And, as shown clearly above, Bargnani should be winning: J Johnson + R Bulter = D Wade + L James. So, no excuses.

                • BCStefanskiCaseyGots2Go!!!

                  Did I say that AB wasn’t on those playoff teams LED by CB?

                  No I did not.

                  BC gave CB a bunch of overhyped (50 win predictions)role players to lead- AB included, and he led them to the playoffs and contended for the playoffs with them.

                  If AB was on CB’s level he would step up and fill that 20 10 void and compete but his heart nor body is in it in relation to CB’s TDot days.

                  As far as DWade & LBJ go- BC helped to make it happed as Riley schooled him big time.

                  Save your facetious drama for ya mamma……smart alec….

                • Ihatehaters

                  So, you’re saying CB + AB > AB…


                • You are to smart to understand that is quite impossible to reach the PO with this team even if Bargs or Bosh played like an All Star. The comparison between the two guys is useless expecially now. In fact if we compared the teams that had played the PO with Bosh/Bargnani and now we could see how poor in talent is this team.

                • BCStefanskiCaseyGots2Go!!!

                  Who put this team together?

                  Not impossible especially with all the injuries around the League starting to pick up to key team players but Raptors would have to stay healthy in relation thereof.

                  The teams that CB led to the playoffs had questionable talent levels hyped up by BC in the media.

                  And the one team with Turk that missed the playoffs had enough talent just the wrong coach plus when CB went down with injuries (nose, ankle?) no one stepped up to fill that void AB included.

                  Both players are really good on offense but CB is the better defender and all around effort player by far even if one is including these past 10 games from AB.

              • sleepz

                Lol, so without the right pieces Bosh took them to the playoffs, but with those same pieces you re affording Andrea wouldn’t he stand to have even more success?

                • p00ka

                  Perhaps you can remind the guy you’re laughing at when Bosh played on the Raptors with Carter, Butler, Magloire, Davis, Bayless, Calderon, Gray, Kleiza, JJ

                • p00ka

                  *strike Calderon, make that Barbosa*

                • sleepz

                  You have a problem with ‘lol’?lolz

                  The argument being made was where would Andrea take the Raps if he had more talent. I can argue the same thing as Bosh wasn’t playing with major talent either. In fact, when Bosh was hurt a few years ago at the end of the season (same team, same roster) Andrea had his opportunity to step up but take the team to the playoffs and didn’t.

                  Mind you that AB is different then the one we have seen for the first 10 games of this year, but I’ve already seen Bosh take an inferior talent team to the playoffs whether any of us view him as a franchise player or not. The facts are Andrea has yet to do that yet. One consistent with both of them is I think they have played with average to below avg talent but CB has accomplished more in his career thus far (6-time all star and 1 time 2nd all-NBA team)

                • p00ka

                  That wasn’t your argument at all. Not even close.
                  I don’t have any problem with people laughing (lol) at something funny, but used as nothing but a smartass insert in an attempt to embarass another poster expressing a valid opinion,,,, yeah, i don’t like. Doing that while posting a totally senseless rebuttal is an invitation to criticism.

                • sleepz

                  Embarrass whom precisely?

                  It’s an expression my friend.


                • sleepz

                  btw if you review what I said I responded to the comment that if both have been playing with inferior talent and if you are to afford andrea more talent wouldn’t bosh in the smae situation stand to have success considering he’s already taken inferior teams to the playoffs???

                  That was my point.

                • BCStefanskiCaseyGots2Go!!!


            • Kells

              RuPaul was taking us to the playoffs in a far weaker Eastern conference, the days when the Cavs and Pistons were the top teams lol. The Eastern Conference has much better teams now.

              He too would lead us nowhere with Bulls, Miami superteam, Boston, Indiana, NY, ATL etc running the show.

              Why do you call Bosh’s tenure of leading us to the playoffs (only twice in 7 years?) and the resulting 1st round exits a success? Do you enjoy this team being in perpetual mediocrity? How would you recommend improving this team? Bandaid patchwork solutions? Fairytale trades and signings? Stop being an impatient SOB and wait until draft time rolls around and see what kind of pick we’ll get.

              Until then, stay stuck on stupid, rewind it, loop it, & shoop-shoop it. 

              • sleepz

                And the East is a powerhouse now? Outside of Miami and Chicago the conference is wack.

                • BCStefanskiCaseyGots2Go!!!

                  I don’t think that poster has a clear idea of the current NBA landscape….smh lol

                • p00ka

                  Geez man, if you’re going to criticize another posters point, at least make sense. He was saying WEAKER then, not powerhouses now. Other East teams that are stronger now than then: Boston, Indiana, NY, Atl, Philadelphia, Detroit, Milwaukee,

                • p00ka

                  *oops, strike detroit

                • sleepz

                  If your going to jump on my comments and support another poster you both should verify the facts.

                  The last time the Raps made the playoffs, Boston was 66-16 and won the title. Cavs were only a 4 seed and both Atl and Phi made the playoffs.

                  Yes the landscape has changed slightly but you are going to see sub 500 teams making the playoffs for the lower tier seeds in 2012.

                • Kells

                  Exactly, someone who gets it. 

                  My point is that, and we can all agree on this, that the Eastern Conference has much better teams/players now than back then. 

                  At sleepz below, if you don’t realize that the East has A LOT more talent now than it did then, then you are blind to the facts.

                • p00ka

                  There’s some fixations that are hard to break through in these parts, but hang in there.

                • sleepz


                  Many fixations around here.

                • Kells

                  Yeah, no kidding.

                • sleepz

                  Realize what facts? The fats are that a team from the East won the title that year and had argably 3 legit contenders for the chip at the time. Would you argue that any team outside of Miami and Chicago could win it from the East?

                  It’s not about being blind to anything , it’s about opinion.

                • Kells

                  It’s not about which teams have the greatest chance of winning it, something you still don’t comprehend. 

                  “It’s not about being blind to anything, it’s about opinion” Really? Then stop passing off your opinion as a fact.

                  I’m saying if you compare the Eastern conference now to the Eastern Conference then, you’ll find more talent, and better teams (and notice that “better” does not necessarily mean championship calibre) that would make it much harder for the Bosh era Raptors to compete against, which means more reg. season losses and more difficulty getting into the playoffs.

                • Nilanka15

                  Yeah, but that’s just your opinion.  It’s not necessarily true that it’s harder to make the playoffs in today’s East compared to 5 years ago.

              • BCStefanskiCaseyGots2Go!!!

                The East is still weak especially at the bottom- Wash, Cle, Char, Det, NJ, Tor are all weaker than Snoop Dogg on the bench press.

                I enjoyed the playoffs and competing moreso than all the losing and Lottery Ball/Tanking BullChit- straight up & down.

                I’m not the Raptors President nor GM nor do I have the related pertinent details of what trade offers BC has been offered so I won’t go into any fallacious trade scenarios only dealing with the reality of the Raptors current basketball and how it got so bad under BC.

                Good to see that I’m so heavy on your mind and that my posting style has stay embedded in your memory banks- imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

                So you my friend can stay stuck on stupid rewind it and lopp it- shoop, shoop it.

                • Ihatehaters

                  “related pertinent details”?
                  “fallacious trade scenarios”? “embedded in your memory banks”?
                  Are you Oswald Banks?


                • Kells

                  You’re not heavy on my mind lol, when you regularly post the same horseshit 10X a day, it’s quite easily remembered. 

                  The problem with you is that you think if you post it enough times, it’ll become true. Sorry to break it to you, but it won’t.

                  Enjoyed “playoffs and competing” lmao what competing? We barely put up a fight against NJ and Orlando in the 1st rounds of the playoffs, that’s competing? It’s all the same in the end buddy; watching other teams fight it out for a championship from television set in June.

                  See it, believe it, achieve it.

                • p00ka

                  99% of his shtick here is all about getting jollies believing he’s getting himself heavy on minds. That’s his game, as sad and sick as it is.

                • Kells

                  Yep, that’s called a troll.

            • renato

              uhh… Bosh did it just with Andrea’s help, before he never managed to go there, actually he helped landing the #1 pick. Maybe you should go too.

              • 2damkule

                well, to be fair, if you look at the #s provided by Tom in the article, they paint a pretty bleak picture of just what kind of ‘help’ bargs was providing bosh.  in fact, the main point of the article is really about how much better bargs is playing NOW vs. THEN. 

                perhaps the most pertinent question that should be asked is: if bargs contributed THEN what he’s contributing NOW, just how different would the raptors – as a franchise – be today?  so, we give him his 1st season as it was, but by his 2nd season, he was showing this level of consistent effort on D & on the boards (yes, the #s aren’t there, but the focus on boxing out is).  do they make the moves they did?  would it ever have ‘worked’ with bosh & bargs playing the ‘4.5’ together?  would they have avoided making the o’neal trade, and instead kept that pick & dealt ford/rasho in a lesser trades that brought back just depth or a prospect or a pick…or would they have dealt them at all?

        • voy

          if the bargs was in miami and bosh in toronto would the results be different?

          • mountio

            Likely the same (or worse) and in salary cap hell ..

          • BCStefanskiCaseyGots2Go!!!

            CB is not in Toronto & AB is not in Miami- fact……………

          • AB7.38pt.on.CB4

            WADE    =  BATMAN

            LEBRON =   ROBIN

            BOSH    =   CATWOMAN (?)

            • Nilanka15

              Lebron’s Robin according to you?!?! 

              Who’s Bargnani then?  Hanz Moleman?

              • Statement


  • Bearvon

    great read tom. thanks! always appreciate the thought and effort in these posts.

    seeing that the the wings are obviously playing below average, is there any way to tell how much better we might be if they were playing averagely at best?

    • I could probably estimate additional PPG – will try.

  • RaptorCowboy

    is that total average or wing player average for the first comparison? i would venture to guess that wings vs the average would tend to have lower TS% and AR given their role.

    other than that, great read as usual. nice job!

    • Tim L

      If you look at last season’s data, the league’s average TS% was 54.2%. Shooting guards averaged 54.0% while small forwards averaged 54.4%. Nothing supporting wing players tend to to have lower TS% based on their role.

      Again looking at last year’s data, the league’s averaged 19.39% AR. Shooting guards averaged 18.33% while small forward averaged 16.06%. The 2009-10 season shows the league averaged 19.29%, shooting guards 20.9% and small forwards 14.55%. You may be onto something when you suggested a small forward’s role may have something to do with their lower Assist Rate.

  • Statement

    What is Bargnani’s WP/48?  I noticed you put it for the wings but not for Bargnani.

    • Statement

      Nevermind, I just found it somewhere else.

      Thanks for the post.

  • Nilanka15

    Another downside to our great “pack the paint” mentality is that it provides the opposition with more open looks from deep.

    Raps lead the league in 3-pointers attempted against, and sit 3rd in made 3-pointers against.

    • sleepz


      And so far that bears itself out in the games as the teams that usually have slapped them around had the 3 ball going.

      In this type of shortended season with shooting taking awhile to come around it’s a smart gamble, however they will definitely need to improve in that area going forward.

    • p00ka

      Certainly something to correct, and DD is one that could at least offer a little help in that regard, but hasn’t helped at all. Overall though even with that coverage lacking from some players, being 8th in league in points allowed, makes those individual stats somewhat moot. Teams are going to get points somewhere, and the overall effect of forcing more 3 pt attempts than anyone else id producing good results, n’est pas?

  • BCStefanskiCaseyGots2Go!!!

    Raptors miss Sonny Money Weems alot say what you want to but Sonny had a better effect on the Raptors wing position than Kleiza, JJ or Butler plus DD was his road Dawg- DD may be missing that chemistry he had with Sonny on & off of the court as he struggles.

    Hopefully Sonny will be back in the TDot come the 2012-13 season.

    Sonny with a game winner on Jan 12 in Europe:

    • KJ-B

      Sonny is a Euro Leaguer! Let it go…

      • BCStefanskiCaseyGots2Go!!!

        That should make him even more desirable to 

        I hear that he has some (multi year?) contract offers to come back to the NBA after his season is over in Europe.

    • Nilanka15

      Sonny shouldn’t be playing SF if he returns.

  • leftovercrack

    On the bright side, isn’t it easier to sign/acquire quality wing players than true centers or elite point guards?

    • cesco

      When next season start we should have a quality pg and wing . The draft + free agency and trades should get us those pieces .

  • Raps

    DeMar will change that.

  • There are only 11 games but is funny to see AB grabs more rebs per game than Nowitzki (6.5 to 5.5)!!!! Also more FTA (6.1, Bosh 5.3, Nowiztki 5.4, Aldridge 4.9). It’s a pity for the assit stats, because the teammates have been unable to score.

    Everyone knows if AB will play tonigh?

    bcstef and the haters… enjoy this moment instead to complain about

    • BCStefanskiCaseyGots2Go!!!

      Wow, you are really reaching…….especially by including a 33 year old Dirk (who averages 8.3 rebounds for his career compared to AB’s is 4.9 rebounds) that needs time to get going w/o a full training camp…whatever makes you feel good inside…..11 games into this season…..lmfao

      Dallas, PO & Dallas all currently have winning records & playoff hopes you see basketball is a team game built on individual fame where Bargnani doesn’t even have a name being a NBA ‘No Star’.

      Too bad after 5 years of enigmatic half ass lethargic play the 1st time AB is held accountable for his effort on both ends of the floor it lasts all of 10 games before he goes down limp in game 11- Jose is next my over under on him getting injured is 24 games (I had AB at 33 games but Casey played him to death in this recent b2b2b expediting AB’s injury process).

      5 years >>> 11 games

      • I remember really well what AB had done before (almost shit considering his potentiality). The only think I wanted to emphasize the stats is the fact that now he is a decent player and for the first time he has a comparable stats even for 11 games.

        Do you think that behind the Casey’s work (too minutes for AB and JC) there is a strategy to win a few games, to have a more chance to the lottery? Do you think BC had asked this to Casey? I hope not but I am not completely surprised.

        • 2damkule

          it’s simply untrue that this is the first time andrea has played well over a stretch of games; going back to Jan of his 3rd year, he put together a stretch of a few months in which his stats were comparable to a number of much more respected front court players.  the problem has ALWAYS been that he’d fall back, that his effort level would stagnate, etc.  and that’s pretty much the question mark at this point as well.

          • mountio

            Well said. While I dont think this is the point you are making .. this reminds me to question all of the “hes had 5 years” posts. Agreed that he wasnt a perfect player over his first five years (far from) … but he was definitely a very solid NBA player, who has repeatedly shown signs of potentially being a great NBA player. Thats why I have shown patience in him .. not our of some blind admiration.
            People act like AB was a total bum and then this play came out of no where. Its not the case at all. He has always needed more consistency (and still does.. 10 games does not make consistency) .. but there has never been any doubt in mind that he could do it …

            • mountio

              “out of some” .. I meant to say

        • BCStefanskiCaseyGots2Go!!!

          I keep on hearing player development coming out of BC’s camp for the past 2 years yet Jose is still starting at pg while Bayless is benched and AB is/was taking up a majority of the PF minutes (Casey said Ed would play PF only earlier) while Ed (not Eddie Casey) stews lacking consistent game minutes.

          Casey as the head coach is most likely trying to win as many games as he can but with the Lottery being a gamble (Raps fell from 3rd to 5th last season) I don’t know if you can count on it as an end all, cure all for the Raptors basketball issues.

          I do find one aspect believeable that it’s all ‘one mind’ under BC in the TDot as BC has his hands in everything related to Raptors basketball like a Raptors svengali.

          BC has previously said in the media that he ‘feels sorry for Casey (having to coach this team under this season’s conditions)’ and that he would like to take a ‘4 month scouting trip (to avoid watching the Raptors team that he put together take the court & play)’ – do the math.

    • WHAT THE

      i wonder if  the real DIRK in Dallas will be an allstar this year

  • I am a Barg’s fan since he played for Treviso basket in Italy and the coach was Ettore Messina, now assistant coach in LA. The past is the past and nothing can change now, but for the first time in his NBA career he has a real coach. And I really sorry for him and for his teammates for the last two years.  I don’t know if you have seen the european competitions but Bargs had played well in the National team because of the coach Pianigiani, one of the best in Europe. All of this to say that Bargnani committed a lot of mistakes for his guilts and for the coaching staff losing a precious time to become better than now. I hope that Casey push him towards to improve constantly.

  • Destro

    Comparing his season REB total thru 7-8 games versus his career number which is laughable by a SG standard is a complete argument FAIL…