Fan Duel Toronto Raptors

Gameday: Raptors @ Jazz, Oct. 2

The Raptors head into Utah to face the Jazz as pre-season game #2 of 5 is here.

One of the main criticisms against Dwane Casey had been a thin playbook, which Nick Nurse was supposed to address by injecting flair, facility, and finesse. Turns out one of the first things the new coach has done is slash the playbook by 90% down to about 10 plays.

This will ease integration pains as highlighted by Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard , since there is less of a structure one has to fit into, but at the same time puts the onus on the players to be reactive to whatever is happening on the court. When I first read this, I immediately thought of the triangle offense where the impetus is on the players to read and adapt rather than follow a plan. This is a Bayesian approach to decision making because as information is gathered (i.e., a player reads a play), the system corrects its assumptions and alters the decision-making, hopefully for the better. True story time: I once had a massive NBA data set made available to me because a bunch of data scientists wanted me to do some visualization work to hook into their system. That system was supposed to produce the “expected points per possession” based on the current positioning of players, time on the clock, and a bunch of other variables. No matter how much the algorithms were trained, there was always an externality that introduced too much of an error to make the whole thing valuable. I should follow up with those guys and see how they’re doing.

Back to the situation at hand and Nick Nurse giving freedom to the players instead of imposing plays. You do need three things to make this happen, 1) the right talent to execute, 2) high basketball IQ, and 3) patience for the players to learn the system, i.e., get enough data/experience so decision-making is good. It is not difficult to argue that all three ingredients are present and much improved over last season, with the only cost coming with #3. More specifically, the Raptors may pay the price in the early season record as players adapt, which is no surprise.

Kudos to Nick Nurse for simplify things, which based on the quotes, has already put two of the new guys at ease. The most shocking part of this whole thing for me was that we had a playbook with a 100 plays, but then again if Coop can compile 75 in one post, maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise.

Tonight it’s the Utah Jazz, who just beat Perth by 58 points (video is above). That’s right. 58 points. At no point did they stop playing. The Jazz have a pretty juicy starting lineup which includes Donovan Mitchell, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, and Ricky Rubio. All this with Jae Crowder and Dante Exum coming off the bench (at least against Perth). Needless to say, this will be a far greater test for the Raptors than the Trail Blazers. We’re likely to see some very lengthy lineups on both sides, with each team feeling they can out-athletic each other – a couple to keep your eyes on early are JV/Gobert, Siakam/Ibaka/Favors, Lowry/Mitchell and OG/Crowder if that develops.

JV/Gobert head-to-head is pretty in favor of JV with average minutes a wash:

On the flip side, the Lowry/Mitchell one is in their favor:

An open game is expected and the transition defense will be tested for both teams. Something to keep an eye on might be Danny Green’s defensive positioning on the trackback and how well he sets up for open threes in transition. He was 1-5 from distance against the Blazers, which he’ll look to improve upon. The Raptors haven’t recently had a consistent, reliable, three-point shooter who is also defensively above-average. Recent candidates for that role have included DeMarre Carroll and Terrence Ross, both of whom were disappointments overall. Green brings what Ross and Carroll were supposed to bring, only much better and also demands the ball less. He’s also less likely to be annoying af on Instagram, which in these days is valuable enough to be included in the scouting report.

After tonight’s game, 40% of the pre-season will be over which is just awesome. After Utah we got Melbourne and Brooklyn at the ACC on Friday and Wednesday, respectively. We close out in New Orleans on October 11. The opener is October 17 against Cleveland.

While you’re here, give your take on this:

There’s more content coming later in the day so stay tuned.