Of late there is a lot of good discussion on the Raptors PG situation. I am of the opinion years of watching Jose Calderon play has warped Raptor fans sense of reality of what constitutes good point guard play. Do not get me wrong, I am not implying Calderon is not a good point guard - far from it. What I am saying is years of rosters comprised of players needing to be spoon fed to get theirs has created a false sense of what is "good" PG play. I do believe Lowry is a good point guard - not elite but very good.
Take a look at the following table. It is organized by current number of wins - top 16 teams in the league. All stats came from Basketball-Reference.com.
Current Playoff Team Assists/FG made Assisted FG% Offensive Rating/rank San Antonio 1509/2372 63.6% 109.6/6th LA Clippers 1428/2336 61.1% 109.5/7th Miami 1267/2188 57.8% 112.9/1st OKC 1276/2222 57.4% 112.8/2nd Denver 1455/2431 59.8% 109.7/5th Memphis 1199/2057 58.3% 104.1/19th Indiana 1208/2069 58.4% 103.5/21st New York 1064/2005 53.1% 110.7/3rd Brooklyn 1075/2066 52% 106.7/10th Chicago 1330/2055 64.7% 103.0/22nd Golden State 1326/2236 59.3% 106.1/11th Atlanta /1387/2129 65.1% 105.0/15th Utah 1344/2182 61.6% 106.8/9th Houston 1406/2318 60.7% 110.1/4th Boston 1338/2145 62,4% 102.4/25th Milwaukee 1251/2115 59.1% 102.9/23rd Toronto 1255/2124 59.1% 105.9/12th
First things first, it should be noted Toronto is not a 'bad' offensive team based on the season. However, the offense has certainly struggled since the acquisition of Gay.
A few things that stand out from the table, in my opinion:
1) 3 of the top offenses in the league (MIA, OKC, NYK) have an assist rate per made field goal lower than Toronto - with NYK having the least number of assists in the league but the 3rd highest offensive rating.
2) You can still be very competitive with bad offense (Chicago, Indiana, Memphis all bottom 1/3 offense in the league).
3) A high assist percent per field goal made does not mean there is great offense being run. Of playoff teams with over 62% assisted field goals, 3 of those teams have below average offense (Atlanta 15th, Chicago 22nd, Boston 25th).
4) Some of the best offenses in the league are run by "score first" point guards. Parker leads the 6th best offense in San Antonio with 7.6 assists per game but he also leads the team in shots per game at 15.5. Westbrook leads the 2nd best offense with 7.8 assists per game but he also leads the team in shots per game at 18.7. Lawson leads the 5th best offense with 7.1 assists per game but he also leads the team in shots per game at 13.7. Felton leds the 3rd best offense with 6.0 assists per game but he is practically tied for 2nd in shots per game at 14.6 (JR Smith has 14.7). Curry leads the 10th best offense with 6.5 assists per game and leads the team in shots at 17.3.
5) Some of the best offenses in the league are run by "shitty" point guards. Chalmers starts on the best offensive team in the league with just 3.4 assists per game and his backup is 1.7 assists per game (very special and unique circumstances with Wade and LBJ, I know, and it is easily argued *and agreed* Chalmers does not run the O). Lin is the starting PG on the 4th best offensive team in the league and he is hardly setting the league on fire (6.2 assists per game). Utah is probably the best example; since Mo Williams was injured December 23rd, the Jazz have still managed the 9th best offense and assist per field goal rate of 61.6% with Tinsley, Watson, Hayward, Foye, and Burks all running the offense.
6) Of the teams listed (all playoff teams) there is only one team with what I would call a true pass first PG and that is Paul with the Clippers but even they are "just" the 7th best offense in the league.
Some conclusions I have drawn:
1) Lowry is not the problem with the offense in Toronto. Lowry's problem in relation to the offense is he is not playing the way that has made him successful in the few seasons leading up to his arrival in Toronto. I've said it elsewhere and I'll say it again: he has been neutered. Another way to look at it is he is a square peg trying to be jammed in Calderon's circular hole (that was for you Heinz).
2) Talent is what matters in the NBA. I think Calderon is a much better floor general than Lowry but I think Lowry is a much more talented player. The Knicks have the least assists in the league but have the 3rd best offense. It is not only the players that need to adjust to suit their team - the coaching staff need to adjust to suit the talent on their team. With years of watching guys need to be spoon fed in Raptor land, there now appears to be players who can create their own offense (Lowry when uninhibited, Gay, and DeRozan in the post plus guys like Amir and JV on the offensive glass after penetration). Also when some of the most ball stagnant offenses in the league (with NYK being the poster child) have the 3rd best rating it tells you talent matters.
3) The Raptors offensive game plan is predominantly side to side and needs more in and out or vertical movement attacking the hoop.
4) Jack is full of poop when it comes to his nonstop "look at the assist total and the field goals!" That is not necessarily a sign of good offense.
5) Player movement/Ball movement VS. Player movement/Ball non-movement.
This is the biggest issue and I saved it for last. The Raptors coaching staff has implemented an offense whereby if the team can't score in transition off their defense, then the ball stops moving and players start running off screens (or of late Gay/DD take the ball and go ISO). In my opinion that is 100% crappy, crappy, crappy, crappy, crappy offense. I was always taught from a young age the ball moves faster than you can - so use that to your advantage. In my opinion the best example of this is San Antonio. Watching how the ball moves with the Spurs is beautiful and it shows why they can sit 4 starters and still compete with the champions (but at a cost of $250K). Also interesting is how San Antonio has evolved from 2007/08 at 28th for OffRtg to being 2nd last year and 6th this season.
Bottom line: the Raptors offensive problems of late start and end with game plan/strategy resulting in poor usage of players talents and strengths.
**The threads of the last few days (coaching and Lowry) got me thinking and this is what came of it. I'd be interested to read other perspectives or if there are serious flaws with my thinking here that I am missing.**