Fan Duel Toronto Raptors

Better defence can improve Barrett’s scoring chances

RJ Barrett will need to step up his defence, and inspire his teammates to do so too.

Through seven games as a Raptor, RJ Barrett has averaged 19.2 points per game, and 17.3 PPG in three games without Jakob Poeltl.

Barrett only had four points in the Utah game, but seemed fazed in the post-game interview. He chalked it up to something that happens at times, and was honest about being fatigued after playing tough opponents on the road (for fans with a visceral reaction to his response and criticize him for lacking toughness, Joe Mazulla had a similar response after getting spanked by the Bucks earlier last week).

Barrett has continued to give defences trouble, but he’s been asked to step up defensively, especially with Jak out. This means switching on bigs and attempting to slow Zubac, AD, Markkanen, and Olynyk down low. 

Olynyk bullied him down low, and Barrett misread defending the LeBron-AD and Markkannen-Olynyk PnR, but making these mistakes should help him better prep this week against the Celtics, Heat, and Bulls at home.

Barrett has lacked defensive quickness since he entered the league, and though his closeouts maybe a step too slow, he’s built like an ox to contain bigs, so he’s not limited physically. He can’t become quicker on closeouts in a few days, but making better defensive reads on PnRs after film review is much more fixable. Being a speed bump or delaying scoring by a mere second or two can easily buy time to bring in the help defence. 

So how does his scoring relate to this?

The Raptors’ bread-and-butter is their transition offense, and it’s fueled by defensive stops, live ball turnovers, or defensive rebounds, so better defence leads to better (and easier) scoring chances.

As Rajakovic stated after the Utah game, they miss Jak dearly. Since he’s gone down, the Raptors are second worst in defensive rating (132.6) only above Golden State (136.4). Fast break opportunities start with defence, and his anchoring presence shows up as he belongs on all the Top 4 three-man lineups for fast break points per game this season (9.8 ppg to 10.8 PPG). Over four games post-trade, the Spicy-BBQ-plus-Poeltl lineup has scored the 9.8 fast break points per game.

As discussed between Louis and Samson, Siakam has been playing near-perfect offense, but has checked out defensively, so with Jak missing, how Barrett plays with Porter/Young, Barnes, and other guards will be imperative this week.

In the Clippers game, the Young-Barnes-Barrett-Quickley-Schroder lineup logged 20 minutes, and had a 130.8 defensive rating (better than their three-game average of 132.6), and a 11.3 net rating.

Said lineup won’t be sustainable throughout a game, so defensive contributions from Siakam and the bench players will impact Barrett’s scoring chances.

Betting on FanDuel Same Game Parlay that Barrett will average +15 points per game over three home games may seem conservative, but he has yet to score consistently for this squad – through seven games, he’s scored 19, 14, 14, 37, 23 24, and 4 points. 

Barrett’s consistent scoring over three games will be attributed to how he and the other four guys on the floor maintain their defensive shell to fuel their high-octane offense.