I've heard it uttered by fans looking for a rally point. I've heard it from analysts who gave the Raptors a quick once over. I've heard it a lot of places:
The Raptors net rating. Currently 13th in the NBA, even as their record places them 21st. It's not just now either, as the Raptors maintained a respectable net rating through the worst stretches of the season. Anyone I know who has watched a lot of the Raptors this season, wouldn't say they've been good. But, their net rating suggests they have been. It's why their expected wins this season sit at 31, instead of 28. A gap of 3 games is large, and its the second largest expected gap in wins in the NBA.
The last NBA net rating king to win the championship was the 2016-17 Warriors. Probably the greatest team ever put together - or at least a variation of it. The Raptors were 3rd the year that they won it all. The Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell led Utah Jazz were as impressive as anyone when it came to regular season net rating. They were also as unimpressive as anyone when the playoffs came around. The Milwaukee Bucks abandoned the net rating chase -- after truly dominating it -- and won the title the same season. Good teams have good net ratings, yes, but they're usually not maxing out all their options during the regular season. Or rather, they play too diverse during the regular season to become steamrollers. Formulaic steamrollers don't win championships.
What I mean to say, is you can kind of game net rating if you want to. There are certain low hanging fruits that teams can't be bothered to pick during the regular season, and if your team is willing to scour for them? You'll win more minutes and probably more games. The Raptors don't have to worry about winning a championship (probably), but they have been attempting to steamroll in some shape or form.
The simplest way to put it:
For the 5th year in a row, the Raptors are significantly better with Pascal Siakam on the floor. Over the last two seasons, he is the minutes per game leader of the NBA. By playing Siakam more than other stars, they are winning more minutes than they normally would. For this season, you can also apply that logic for Scottie Barnes -- the Raptors are also way better with him on the floor (hell yeah) -- so on, and so forth. On the other hand, Nikola Jokic has the largest swing in the NBA (the Nuggets are an unbelievable 27 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor) and somehow the Nuggets avoid the urge to play him 38 minutes a game.
Why surrender those minutes and the potential wins? Well, for the health and performance of the players. Maybe a guy is more likely to get hurt, maybe his performances start to dip significantly when he goes north of 36 minutes per game. Maybe the extra minutes create a cumulative load that creates a longer slump. We're all well aware of these things, and the NBA is as well. But, net rating doesn't really care about that. Cold hard numbers and all.
You could even look at a teamwide trend like low leverage minutes, and the fact that the Raptors are hyper efficient (2nd in the NBA) in scoring when they're far behind, or far ahead. If the game falls into a malaise, the Raptors will dominate it to get back into games, or run up the score. High leverage minutes? The 5th worst offense in the league. It was that unique mix of excellence and mediocrity that had the Raptors at 23-30, the 25th worst record in the NBA, with a positive net rating. Getting back into games, just to lose them. Winning big, if you win at all. The best example? A hilarious 9 game stretch where the Raptors were 3-6, winning their 3 games by a combined 45 points, and losing the other 6 by a combined 34 points. NET RATING!
In summation, the Raptors net rating is fake. Fugazi. Fraudulent. Phony. But it doesn't have to be anymore.
A few things have rounded into form.
2 thoughts on “The Raptors can finally earn their net rating”
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