Thanks to their partnership with Synergy Sports, the NBA keeps track of what type of plays are executed by teams and players. I thought I’d peek in and see if it tell us anything.
Here’s a summary of the frequency of play type, the points yield per possession, and where the Raptors rank in terms of frequency of running a particular play.
|PPP||PPP Rank||Freq.||Freq. Rank|
The highest yield of points comes from cuts. No surprise here since when you cut, you are either catching the defense napping, or at the very least, putting it behind you for a good scoring opportunity. A player also tends to get fouled a lot as the defense is trying to recover and fakes are more effective again. Where the Raptors can improve is the frequency with which they move without the ball and execute these cuts, they’re ranked 24th in the league in executing this play and even on the team, it’s only the 7th highest executed play despite its high yield. They should be doing this more often since their 4th in the league in points per possession in cuts, so when they actually do this, they’re quite effective.
James Johnson and DeMarre Carroll and the two best cutters on the Raptors, and given Johnson’s lack of playing time, and Carroll’s injury, you can see why the Raptors aren’t getting more usage out of this play.
Ball-Handling Generating Spot-Up Shots
There’s no surprise that a screen with the ball-handler retaining the ball is the most popular play for the Raptors, and they also happen to very good at it (ranked 3rd in PPP). Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan thrive on this sort of action and it’s the Raptors go-to play whenever they need points.
Related to this is spot-up shooting, which is generally the successor of Lowry or DeRozan driving the ball. To me, this is the ideal shot that you want to take because a spot-up generally means that you’ve been setup by a teammate, and have a clean look to finish. This is the second-most popular shot type on the team, yet the Raptors rank 20th in the league in taking it, and even worse converting the action to points (23rd in PPP).
Basically, the Raptors don’t generate enough of their offense through clean shots. The low assist numbers back this up: the Raptors are 27th in total assists, and 29th in assisted two-pointers. The yield of .91 points per possession would be a lot higher if Terrence Ross and Patrick Patterson (both high spot-up shot takers) would hit their jumpers. They’re shooting 30.9% and 33.3% on spot-up shots this year, which is absolutely dire.
Spark the Break
The second most successful play type run by the Raptors is “transition”, which is either getting out on the break, or more commonly, scoring in semi-transition when the defense isn’t set. The Raptors rank 21st in the league in frequency of transition plays, but are ranked #1 in it. Again, when they do get out and run, they get good results.
The easy answer here is to say we need to run more, but the problem here isn’t so much that the Raptors don’t want to run, it’s that they don’t clean up the defensive glass well. They’re ranked 17th in the league in DRB%, which means that opportunities for transition will be limited. Their bigs are also not great passers. Biyombo’s been getting a ton of playing time of late and when he gets the rebound, he elects for a safe pass to a point guard nearby, rather than an outlet. The same is true for Jonas Valanciunas, who prefers safety over adventure in these scenarios. It would be interesting to see how this stat would change if Lucas Nogueira got more playing time.
The handoff is an ambiguous category and it shouldn’t be confused with handing off a ball near the three-point line hoping for a switch. This is very much to do with a handoff near the baseline or in the paint which results in a direct shot. The Raptors do a lot of the former, very little of the latter.