Summer Mail Bag Vol. 1 – Amir vs. 2Pat, 2015 Free Agents

Answering your questions to fill the haunting void that is the offseason.


If you ever want a topic to be broached on this forum, send me an email at [email protected] or on Twitter @william_lou. Thanks for your help.


oo7: How different do we play with 2Pat at the 4 instead of Amir?

This is a great question. Thanks to their relatively even playing time distribution (28.8 MPG for Amir Johnson, 23.3 for Patrick Patterson), there’s actually data we can use to answer this question.

For the most part, the stats back up the eye-test. Amir is the defense-first half of the platoon, while Patrick Patterson is the offensive sparkplug. The Raptors attempt more three-pointers, shoot more free-throws and shoot a higher three-point percentage while the starting unit (Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas) plays with Patterson, but in comparison, rebounding, turnovers and assists suffer.

johnson pattersonUnits measured in Net (own – opponent) per 100 possessions. Data from basketball-reference.

What’s more interesting, however, is how those numbers came to be. The biggest difference is the trade-off between three-pointers and free-throws. The jump in three-pointers is obvious — Patterson is a stretch-four — but the big change in free-throws attempted is a bit perplexing.

My theory is that Amir is the superior defender (3.13 vs. 1.10 defensive RPM), and therefore concedes less foul shots to the opponent. This is corroborated by data from nbaWOWY, which shows that opponents shot 0.303 free-throws per possession while Patterson was on the floor, while Amir conceded 0.244. On a shallower level, Amir also has a higher free-throw attempt rate.

But despite conceding more free-throws, Patterson helps the cause by increasing the rate of free-throws attempted by his teammates. Valanciunas, Lowry, Ross and DeRozan all post a higher free-throw attempt rate with Patterson as opposed to Amir, which likely traces back to Patterson’s floor-stretch abilities. With Patterson drawing an opposing power-forward to the perimeter, there are less defenders clogging up the paint, making the onus on opposing centers to rotate and contest shots, which often leads to fouls called.

mcHappy: Post Gay trade, didn’t Raps have best record of eastern team versus west?

Not entirely sure about how their inter-conference record stacks up, but their post-Rudy Gay trade record against the West was 15-7. As a whole, I feel that Raptors’ post-Gay record is not being fully appreciated. With Gay, the Raptors held a record of 6-12. In the 64 games after he left? 42-22. Here’s how that record stacked up as compared to the rest of the NBA.

  • 4th in win-percentage (65.6 percent)
  • 1st in Eastern Conference win-percentage (closest was the Heat at 62.9)
  • 5th in plus-minus
  • 9th in Offensive Efficiency (second in East)
  • 9th in Defensive Efficiency (fourth in East)

Arbitrary end-points in the schedule are often abused and massaged in sports media to accentuate rises and falls. It’s often an irresponsible practice, as meaningless snap-shot of randomness fails to capture what’s real.

However, in the Raptors’ case, there was an inciting incident — Rudy Gay (30.8 USG, 46.8 TS%) was dealt for three productive players and John Salmons. That’s real. And what’s more impressive, the turnaround came mid-season, and the team had to adopt an entirely new offensive scheme. It wasn’t a mirage. The Raptors were legitimately great for almost four-fifths of a season.

So having said all that, here’s a pro-tip: Vegas has the Raptors as 25-to-1 odds to win the East. It might make for a cheap hedge bet, in case that’s your thing.

puffer: How about a look at the assistant coaches. Who actually does what?

I don’t have any insider access, so this is really just a research project on my part. As per their official team page, the list of Raptors assistant head coaches are listed below. Their responsibilities, as described by Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun, are listed thereafter.

  • Nick Nurse – offensive coordinator (likes up-tempo, credited with the three-point shooting game)
  • Bill Bayno – player development (worked particularly with Jonas Valanciunas)
  • Jesse Mermuys – player development
  • Tom Sterner – defensive coordinator
  • Jama Mahlalela – player development

Mack North: Who are some of the realistic attainable free agents the Raps can sign in ’15 or ’16?

If my estimations are correct, the Raptors should have approximately 18 million in cap room next season, which is just about the amount needed to offer a free-agent the 30% maximum (there’s different tiers, as described in section 16 in Larry Coon’s CBA FAQ). The list of available notable free-agents that fit that bill are as as follows:

Smalls Wings Bigs
Rajon Rondo Arron Afflalo Paul Millsap
Goran Dragic Luol Deng (P) Al Jefferson (P)
Tyson Chandler
Roy Hibbert
Marc Gasol
DeAndre Jordan
Kevin Love (P)
LaMarcus Aldridge

Out of the aforementioned names, it seems implausible that the Raptors acquire any of the names marked in red. While it would be nice to bolster the front-court with a player like Love or Aldridge, they’re likely settling in more visible locales, or markets closer to championship contention.

Personally, I think grabbing a player like Paul Millsap for three seasons for $45 million would be a great deal. He’s the embodiment of the modern four — able to play inside-out, mobile on defense, can shoot threes, can pick-and-roll, facilitate out of the high post — he’s a well-rounded player. He averaged 17.9 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game last season, with an above-average TS% and a PER of 19.8. He’s best suited as a second or third option, but with Lowry and DeRozan stacking the hierarchy, he slots nicely into the team.

And in 2016, there’s a dude name Durant, and another named LeBron available. I say the Raptors should try those two.

kopite91: How the Kevin Love saga affects the Raptors.

Easy. If he goes to Cleveland, they become the team to beat in the East. If he goes to Boston, they’re a dark horse to improve mid-season with a trade for some real wing or a defense anchor in the paint. Otherwise, it doesn’t affect the Raptors at all.

If your idea wasn’t broach here, there’s a chance it’s been pocketed, and will be touched on down the line. Thanks for the questions. As always, shoot me an email or tweet me anytime.

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