Preseason. The chance to catch long-awaited first glimpses of our big acquisitions in the offseason, and be either overly optimistic or pessimistic about our season’s outlook. With 11 new faces in training camp, and a final regular season roster that will likely feature 8 of those new faces, as fans, we’re kids in the preseason candy store.
I’ll preface the below statistics with a note that they’ll likely have no meaning whatsoever. They’re just interesting points to think about this time of year, when only injuries, surprise roster moves, or the announcement of a new court design can trigger any sort of real reaction from fans, prior to the real deal set to begin on October 28th.
Early (Very Early) Performance Assessments – 2015 Acquisitions
After a quiet start in game 1 with a passive approach, DeMarre Carroll played solid in preseason games 2 and 3, scoring an efficient 15 and 18 points respectively and playing actively, as advertised, on defense. Based on usage in the past 2 games, DeMarre appears to be a reliable offensive option while providing some defensive stability at the traditionally weak wing spot for the Raptors.
“I’m feeling really comfortable. I’m getting used to where I can get my shots. On the defensive end I’m trying to get more vocal now. I think it’s me getting used to guys, knowing what I can say to guys. I’ve gotta give Kyle and DeMar credit, they’ve really been bringing me in with open arms. That makes me feel good and confident. I’m getting very comfortable with this team and I think we can be very good.”
– DeMarre Carroll on his early preseason experiences
Whether surprising or not, Cory Joseph and Luis Scola both have had solid initial outings with the Raptors, particularly Scola who, just based on these 3 games, seems to be carving out a spot as an anchor of the second unit. With a FG % close to 55% so far, active rebounding, and a great plus/minus indicative of a strong bench impact, Scola on many nights in the regular season could be Casey’s best bench player. Not to mention the fact that Terrence Ross, while mildly impressive at times defensively, continues to be an inconsistent factor offensively. A key question for Dwane Casey will continue to come up in the regular season and that is – will Terrence Ross’ inconsistent performance have major implications for the bench rotation and makeup? Considered a first or second bench option coming into this regular season, it will be interesting to see what Ross’ role could look like mid-season.
In his first year as a starter for the Raptors, Patrick Patterson, in what we’ve seen so far, appears to still be adjusting to the new role. After a quiet start in game 1 against the Clippers, Patterson only played 15 and 16 minutes in games 2 and 3, and while likely not a large enough sample size, Patterson looks like he’ll need some more playing time with the starting core of DeRozan, Lowry, Valanciunas and Carroll to really figure things out. The bread and butter of Patterson’s game is the 3-pointer and he has yet to make one in the preseason thus far.
ICYMI, Here’s Patterson after practice on Saturday, and our piece on Patterson yesterday evening:
Kyle Lowry 3.0
In what has developed into one of the major story lines of the early preseason for the Toronto Raptors, fans are continued to be amazed at the transformation of Kyle Lowry’s physique. Something that keeps all of us wondering – will it lead to better point guard performance for the Raps?
Kyle Lowry 2.0 arrived in 2014, and we may just be on the verge of Kyle Lowry 3.0. The head of the snake as he’s often referred to by Raptors players and head coach Dwane Casey, Lowry is clearly the team’s most valuable and impactful player. Do the stats back it up? You bet they do.
Kyle played in 70 of the 82 regular season games in 2014/2015. In 56 of those games, he performed very well in at least 1 of 4 major statistical categories as summarized below.
In games where Lowry shot 50% or more from the field or had 7 or more assists, the Raptors were a blistering 13-3 and 29-9 respectively. In any of the games where Lowry scored 25 or more points, shot 50% or more from the field, shot 40% or more from three, or had 7 or more assists (a larger and likely more meaningful sample size), the Raptors were 39-17.
This leads to two obvious, yet meaningful conclusions:
- When Kyle passes, leading to assisted baskets, the team tends to win
- When Kyle shoots well from the field, the team tends to win
Most of these facts could be summarized with one performance – in Los Angeles against Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and the Clippers on December 27th, 2014. A game where Lowry scored 25 points on 53% shooting (43% from 3), along with 7 assists.
Given that Lowry played amongst the most minutes per game on the team last season, and as starting point guard, likely touched the ball most from possession-to-possession, it’s clear that this team goes as Lowry goes. What will be even more interesting this year is that with a more refined arsenal of running mates, the impact of Kyle Lowry as the head of the snake, could be much bigger; something that has held true so far in the preseason. Albeit in just 2 preseason games that likely mean nothing, it’s no surprise that both games Lowry played in (averaging 25+ ppg, shooting 65% from the field, and 63% from three), were reasonably comfortable Raptor wins.
Is the Lowry impact trend likely to continue in 2015/2016? Almost certainly.