#1 - Rebounding
Last year the Raps ranked 24th in O boards, 26th in D boards and 28th overall.
10.6 O-Boards per game
29.5 D-Boards per game
40.2 Total per game
Amir led the team with 2.8 OB per game. JV was 2nd with 2.0
Tyler had 2.0 O-Boards per game (playing 16 MPG) and 4.2 OB per 36. Tyler has played 21 mins in each pre-season game and Amir played 28 MPG last year. Tyler should avg around the same OB per game as Amir, depending on his exact minutes. If he stays at 21 MPG, he likely lands around 2.65 OB per game.
That's 7.5 extra possessions just from those 3 players. If the rest of the team can chip in, we should easily surpass our last year's average of 10.6 per game.
FWIW, Gay avg 1.3, DD 0.6, Lowry 0.8, Ross 0.5, Fields 1.2, Acy 1. That's another 5.4 per just from those guys. Considering the guys we send out all were poor O-boards (Barg's had less than Lowry), we don't have a lot of production to "replace" with incoming guys.
If the Raps can add 3 offensive boards per game (addition of Hansbrough and internal improvement from JV especially), that would put us at 13 per game, and a total of 1066 over 82 games. That total would be good for 3rd in the NBA in last year's ranks (Denver had 1092, Milwaukee had 1068). If we can score on half of those extra possessions (I use half because scoring off a offensive rebound is a higher percentage than a traditional half-court set), that would increase our scoring by over 1000 points on the season. An additional 1000 points puts us at the top of last season's points scored ranking.
So while the numbers can't be predicted accurately, it is safe to predict that we will trend upwards and that it will have a positive impact on this team's ranking. Extra possessions = extra points, and when you have high volume inefficient scorers, extra possessions are key.
Bonus stat - the Raps only gave up 877 offensive boards to opponents last year, 6th best in the league. Quite surprising since we ranked quite low in D boards. Our opponent FG% of 45.8% probably didn't help (12th worse).
#2 - Free Throws
Last year the Raps ranked 14th in the league at getting to the line and shot the 5th best % as a team.
In Lowry, Derozan and Gay, we have 3 starters who excel at driving to the rim. This should be lots of free throw opportunities, and could get our opponents going to the bench quickly. Off the bench, Hansbrough has always drawn fouls at a high rate.
Lowry 3.67 FTA per game since being a starter. Shot 80.8% over that time.
Demar 4.5 FTA per game in his career. 81.1% FT shooter.
Gay 4.0 FTA per game career. 77.7% career FT shooter.
Hansbrough 3.8 FTA per game career. 76.6% FT shooter.
JV 3.0 FTA per game last year (4.5 per 36 mins) and shot 78.9%
Last year, the Raps averaged .216 FT per FGA (#10th best in the NBA). The addition of Hansbrough and with the strength of our offensive boards gaining us more possessions, it is reasonable to assume that the Raps will attempt more free throws per game than last years 14th best rank and we should continue to hit at a high rate.
#3 - Defence
The Raps were middle of the pack in opponent eFG% (17th) with .500% (league avg is 0.496%). Middle of the pack in opponent turnover % (13.6 for Raps, league avg 13.7). We gave up the most FTA per FGA (.247 for Raps, league avg was .204).
Hansbrough 101 and Augustin 104 DRtg from last year would make them the best defenders on the team (statistically speaking, obviously benefitted from a great team defence). Augustin played on some awful Charlotte teams to start his career, so his career DRtg of 110 is probably a bit high, so split the difference and he's like a 108 or something with the Raps. Hansbrough is a career 104 but it was all with the Pacers.
So why is defence a strength for this team?
We finally have players that can play defence and a coach who can coach defence at the same time. 2 years ago Casey took a team with a 112.9 DRtg and got them to play 104.5 on the season (good for a last to 14th rank improvement). With JV's continuing developing, the exodus of defensive liabilities like Bargs and Jose, the addition of players who know what it takes to play D, there is optimism that this team can develop a strong defensive identity.
#4 - Post-Ups from the wings
As the league trends towards 3PT shooting and more teams use 2 point line-ups, having interchangeable parts on the wing that can post up makes for a very difficult match-up. Both Gay and Demar are good post up players for their position. With both of them on the floor, there is a high probability that one of them will have a good match-up in the post. If I were the defending team, I'd rather have Gay post up and Demar outside than the other way around since Gay is the better outside shooter, but either way, it is a tough match-up for most teams.
Since the NBA trend is perimeter play, it is less likely that many of the 2/3 wings are consistently working on their post D, so the Raps can take advantage of doing something well, that isn't the norm in the league.
In conclusion, the first 2 strengths point to a rugged offence that can grind out points. Ideal for a playoff series (gasp!). The defence has better pieces to work with and good potential to be good (or at least above avg). If the Defence can bring it all together, the Raps can scrape together some offence using their wings in the post and by crashing the glass. Rebounding will likely be our biggest team strength and we need to milk it for all it's worth.