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
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.
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).