Stats point to Raptors as East’s best starting backcourt

There's one thing left to make the 2016 NBA All-Star Game in Toronto perfect - voting in the East's best back court duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan as starters.

With Toronto hosting the All-Star Weekend this year there has been an emphasis to vote in at least one of Kyle Lowry or DeMar DeRozan as a starter with the hope the other would be selected by the coaches.

I had a minor panic attack this past weekend as my concern became what happens if neither guard gets voted through initially and due to the tightly grouped Eastern Conference the coaches end up voting in someone else. The hard cold fact staring me in the face was there is a real possibility Toronto might not have any representative on the Eastern All-Star squad if we don’t do our due diligence this week.

If that sounds impossible, let me remind you DeRozan recently recorded arguably the best month of his career and still didn’t win December’s Player of the Month. In fact, he didn’t even make the list of honorable mentions, though the League swears that was an over sight.(see Blake’s article).

If Chicago remains second in the East, one would have to assume Jimmy Butler is a lock to make the team. Then there is the issue of whether the player who did beat out DeRozan for P.O.M: John Wall gets rewarded for his production or if his demonstrative comments regarding who deserves to be on the team has leverage with the coaches.

Though Washington enter the day seeded twelfth, a returning Bradley Beal and timely win streak could vault the Wizards up the ladder and inspire some coaches to rank Wall ahead of both Raptors guards. For that matter, after the coaches ensured 4 Atlanta Hawks were on the team last season ahead of other talent, what’s to stop them for putting both Rose and Butler on the team if the Bulls go on a big winning streak?

Last week the second round of ballots showed Dwyane Wade firmly cemented as a starter with almost twice as many votes to his nearest competitor (562,558) and unlikely to be usurped. Sitting in second was the Cavaliers Kyrie Irving almost 30 thousand votes ahead of Lowry and DeRozan was a distant sixth.

Irving being allowed to even receive votes calls into question the fact that the rules need to change. He’s played in just barely 25% of Cleveland’s games this season and in at least half of those 9 games was just focused on getting his timing back. Certainly voting takes on a degree of popularity, but if you never make an All-Star team to be seen globally how exactly do you develop that type of recognition?  In fact, other than the Raptors back court starters I’d cite players like Nicolas Batum (though I still consider him a small forward), Reggie Jackson and even Isaiah Thomas as being more deserving than Irving of the spot.

Justifying who deserves the All-Star spots opens up the debate on why and how each individual votes:

  • Popularity
  • Recognition
  • Ability
  • Career best performance in this season
  • Rewarding one player on a team who is excelling
  • Rewarding a career ‘Legend Vote’ i.e. what Kobe is currently experiencing

When I was thinking over why each fan votes it reminded me of a recent conversation on the site following a Raptors win with respect to where our starting back court ranks in the East. That led to me assembling the data in the chart below in case there are individuals out there who would vote for Lowry and DeRozan if it was proven they are the most deserving. To that end, the following chart is a compilation of all Eastern Conference starting back courts listing their individual and combined stats up to the end of Saturday January 9th.

While many of the results were expected there is some shocks in the mix with one team moving firmly into the never ending conversation of who ranks among the NBA’s top back courts.

 

Eastern Conference Back Courts

Notes:

  • *Jack included because he only got injured a week ago
  • **Irving has played In just 9 games, his numbers are: 15.8 points, 3.5 assists, 2.8 rebounds, 0.8 steals, 2.0 turnovers  and 23.8% from three
  • ***Oladipo has been in and out of starting line-up
  • ****Of note: Beal has started 17 games and Temple 16

Highlights:

  • Though Cleveland boasts a deep roster (not to mention an expensive one) they won’t be vying to usurp the title for best back court anytime soon. In fact Irving is shooting extremely poorly from behind the arc which may just be a matter of him shaking off the rust, but it’s worth noting.
  • Beal for his part can’t stay healthy having already missed half of Washington’s games. In four seasons he’s yet to play a full slate of games. So, how much stead can you put into a back court duo who are always going to be questionable in terms of durability. Further the duo of Wall and Beal produce the greatest number of turnovers by far. Plus, observing Wall’s 3-point shot is akin to him hoisting a hail Mary each and every time which pinpoints exactly the best way to guard him.
  • An interesting takeaway is many of the teams three point shooting hovers between the 30% to 35% range. If we consider Chicago and Miami as Toronto’s greatest competition for second in the East then this aspect of the back court’s production is very interesting as the Raptors actually boast a better combined three point percentage (33%) than either of those squads (28%).
  • Perhaps the most interesting discovery was how much Nicolas Batum has improved the back court pairing in Charlotte. The combined efforts of Batum and Walker rank them in the top 3 for assists and rebounds, fourth in scoring with solid 3 point shooting. If anything I’d argue this back court duo will be the one giving both the Raptors and Wizards a run for their money, especially once they spend more time developing chemistry. Batum was the most under rated summer addition and I’m dying to see how Charlotte progresses once Michael Kidd Gilchrist returns to add more defensive punch to an ever improving offensive squad. It feels like this season may be lost to the Hornets after this week, but no team turned around offensively faster or more predominantly than Charlotte prior to their current injury woes.
  • Ultimately, the most noteworthy stats come from our Raptors back court who show why so many coaches and pundits refer to them as the second best back court duo (behind the Warriors’ Splash Brothers) in the Association. Their numbers showcase exactly how consistent they are in terms of their fundamental skills of the game across all major categories:
    •  Rank first in points per game
    • Rank second in assists (and with Wall registering almost 10 of his duo’s assists the Raptors offer a more even ball distribution)
    • Rank second in rebounds
    • Rank first in steals
    • Rank first in free throw attempts and makes

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KG5n03yJKTg

Another stat which might surprise people is there are currently only 4 teams in the NBA who boast two players averaging 20 points per game:

 

Last season Canadians took a bit of grief over singer Justin Beiber attempting to support Kyle Lowry (though he failed in his attempt by not voting correctly) and now this season Chris Paul is using the singer to help with his campaign. I guess Lowry and DeRozan won’t be able to count on his support this year.

https://twitter.com/SportsGladiator/status/685979038154764288

And while one would assume the Toronto Raptors ‘Brand Ambassador’ Drake would somehow get involved in the mix to help generate votes, again we can’t rely on this occurring. I’ll remain hopeful he’s waiting to do a last minute push, but let’s do our part in the interim. They’ll be one more public tally this coming Thursday, no doubt to elicit last minute voting leading up to the final voting day of Monday January 18th.  That’s exactly 7 days to get your votes in.

Don’t kid yourselves if we don’t take matters into our own hands there is just as good a chance Toronto will have no players in the All-Star Game. I don’t know about you, but I think it would be highly embarrassing not to have any representatives at an event our city is hosting. More importantly, this may be the one and only time Toronto hosts the All Star Game, so not taking advantage of that fact feels like a missed opportunity. In all probability Kyrie Irving will get voted in every year until he retires, but how many times will both Lowry and DeRozan have the chance to play together in an All-Star Game, let alone on their home court? The answer is once and once only!

As a young franchise our legacy has yet to be built, however times like this offer valuable chances to seize the moment and create history. Unlike players who get rewarded simply because of the team they play for, their past successes or popularity the players in question here have actually delivered and done it through adversity. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan went away this past summer reshaping their bodies and committing to taking their team deeper this post season.

To date, they’ve delivered on their end by posting the best back court stats in the East and keeping Toronto among the top teams in the Conference despite missing core contributors and weathering a heinous early schedule. Now let’s do our part and vote them in as starters on their home court and take advantage of this rare opportunity to make the 2016 All-Star Game even more memorable for the city, the franchise, the players and the country.

Let’s make it happen Raptors fans!

Details on how to vote.

 

 

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