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.

  • rapierraptor

    Good stuff. Man, Milsap would be perfect in T dot. Never thought about that before.

    • Vimsanity

      Agreed, he’s like a rich man’s 2Pat. The only problem is that he will be 31 in 2 years. If he can maintain his production, he would look amazing alongside JV.

      edit: At the same time, you have to wonder if a 27 year old 2Pat will be more valuable/a better bargain than a 31 year old Milsap.

      • rapierraptor

        Yeah that’s a good point. 2Pat definitely still has room to grow. It’s really the first time in his career that he’s had a stable role – that should give him specific things to focus on in terms of improving his game. At the same time, Millsap’s is really good and game doesn’t really rely on athletecism so aging may not be a huge issue.

  • afrocarter

    The Amir vs. PDPatt question has perhaps been on my mind more than anything else this off season. I can’t imagine one getting more minutes over the other. All things considered, we’re doing OK at the PF position. Great stuff, DDL

    • DDayLewis

      Thanks man

    • leonidas

      Plus there’s Hansbrough behind them on the depth chart. PF is the least of our worries. Back up C is still a big concern.

  • 2damkule

    the love thing could affect the raptors long-term, and was mentioned by arse on the pod earlier this week…if wiggins is dealt to minny, then you have to think that the likelihood that he eventually winds up in TO is higher than if he stays with cleveland.

    • DDayLewis

      I think that’s a few too many moves down the line. We’re talking about what a player may do 5 years down the line, and we’re not even sure how his career will unfold. It’s such a small thing to put hopes on.

      • 2damkule

        totally agree, but the question was posed, and that was literally the only way i could see how the love situation would impact the raps, other than, as you mentioned, his impact to whichever team he ends up with (if it’s in the east) and how that simply makes said team better, and therefore another obstacle for the raps.

        years go by pretty quickly. there’s a lot of talk about durant going home in ’16. seems to be a thing now…so who knows? hell, wiggins may turn out to be nothing more than a really good role player.

  • Trini

    How exactly did you come to the conclusion that Amir missed ‘so many games’ last season? He played 77 out of 82. I know it’s July and all but damn

    • DDayLewis

      Yeah oversight on that one. Fixed.

      • Trini

        Get out and enjoy the sun Will Lou!

        • DDayLewis

          Best advice

    • 2damkule

      he may have only missed a handful of games, but there were plenty of games he played where he was clearly not himself, worn down or injured, and was much less effective than ‘normal/healthy’ amir.

      • Trini

        Ok but that wasn’t the argument. Doesn’t matter if he was hurt, guys play hurt all the time. He didn’t miss a lot of games and that was my point.

  • mcHAPPY

    Al Horford in 2016.

    If he can show the pectoral issues are a thing of the past, dude is a stud.

    Would compliment JV very well.

    Horford has always said, “I’m a PF and want to play it.” Atlanta has always said, “You’re playing C.”

    He’ll be 30 in 2016. He’d have a few productive years left and is a legit All-Star talent.

    • Will

      I actually disagree with you. I think Horford is a great player but I don’t think he’d pair that we’ll with JV. They’re both back to the basket type post players if they were paired together, they’d clog up the paint on offense. I think Patterson and Amir suit JV better because one stretches the floor and the other runs the pick and roll and only crashes the paint when it’s time to get an offensive rebound. They give JV room to operate.

      • mcHAPPY

        Fair enough.

        However though Horford only played in 29 games last season he shot 49% from 16-24ft on 141 attempts.

        Patterson, from December 8th, was 43% on 71 attempts from 16-24 feet.

        Amir was 44% on 68 attempts from 16-24 feet.

        To put that in perspective to Chris Bosh, a known jump shooting threat, he shot 48% on 263 attempts from 16-24 feet.

        In my opinion, you’ve got the perception of Horford wrong based on the perception he is strictly a post up C. This takes me back to part of my original point: Horford is likely to look for a place to play alongside a true C….. Toronto?

  • jjdynomite

    Nice WillLou. Another positive of Amir that was left unmentioned is that, with Amir’s defensive acumen, he can at least attempt to hold his own against the bulky Cs in the East playoff picture, such as Gortat, BLopez and Big Al. This is a fairly critical dual role, since JV was quite foul prone in the Nets series, and backing up JV we have, uh, Bebe. True, 2Pat would pull Bigs out to the perimeter on offense, but I am not sure he would survive against those guys. Maybe Magloire can suit up as our 15th man. 😉

    Of course, the off-setting issue is that Amir’s ankles can compete with Steph Curry’s in terms of ticking time bombs made out of Swiss cheese.

  • Jensan

    who in their right mind believes that Raptors have a shot at Kevin Durant. Milsap, Aldridge, Love or Jefferson for Power Forward, Milsap maybe the only one who is willing to move. Atlanta is a lovely city, but not the image Toronto has after last years playoff series.

    • rapturd

      If the raptors can make it to the conference finals i think all of the above would at least consider the raptors as a legit option imho.

      • Alex Vostrikov

        This is not hockey my friend. even in nhl, only Canadian/european “border stars”, would consider Toronto as destination in FA. with all the culture, history and whatever the team has to offer.
        please remember, that americans are fanatics in everything to do with “who they are”, “where they live”, “who they play for”. so, for some one like Durant/love/aldridge, who can chose any place they wanna go… why on earth they go to Canada?
        and please, don’t bring lowry in to the mix…. he came here in a trade from bad situation, and happen to stay, what ever the reason was.

        • Nathan

          As a Canadian living the U.S. I’ve seen how it’s just as important and impressive for Americans to go elsewhere and bring the American vibe with them. To represent the U.S. outside of the U.S. is just as patriotic in their minds. They know where they’re coming home to eventually, so if you’re not a ‘dual’ citizen like I am Alex and aware of this then it appears…’re Wrong.

        • Rapchat

          Okay, if Americans are fanatics for “who they are” than why was KD’s favourite NBA team growing up the Toronto Raptors? He had any team to choose, and apparently his favourite one was in Canada.

          • Alex Vostrikov

            two words….. vince carter.

        • Jake

          since you are clearly living in the mind of any NBA athlete, and obviously know what motivates these guys, then I guess it’s fair to basically fold this team now because no American in their right mind would ever come here.

          Now that we got that out of the way – I recall a time when this team was winning and we had no problem getting people interested to play here.

          It’s not about where the team is if the team is top 4 and winning, is it?

          • Alex Vostrikov

            dream on boys…. there are big market teams, there are small market teams… and there are Canadian market.
            the day raps will sign any starting player under 30, that’s the day I will change my mind.

    • leonidas

      Millsap’s gonna get a lot of attention from a lot of teams. Especially if they can’t get Durant. I’m not sure how much ATL can offer him but, if they do well this season, expect them to throw beaucoup cash at him. Ujiri is interested in Durant but, he’s also a pragmatist. I don’t believe MLSE will be trying to woo either of those guys.

  • The Courthawk

    I remember the last half of the season as being played against teams that were not nearly as good as the teams in the first half and specifically, the first quarter.

    As Lou alludes to, I love how we played in the final four fifths of last season and it was way better than with Gay on the team. But that 1st fifth was against harder comp, correct? It’s just one sobering thought before I already start expecting a 55+ win season.

    WL, can you look up the toughness of that 1st fifth, versus the other 4?

    • DDayLewis

      How would you measure toughness?

      • Alex Vostrikov

        record and standings?

    • LuckyMystery

      Do you think they only played the heat, thunder, clips, spurs in the first 16 games last year.

      I’m trying to figure out how you even came to your conclusion

  • leonidas

    This is Amir’s contract year. Patterson & Hansbrough have already been extended so, what do you think will become of Johnson in 2015-2016.

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