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Posted on March 9, 2010 | 19 Comments
[Bloggers Note: Yes, I said I would do a post trade deadline analysis, but I got busy and now I just don't want to. Sue me.]
There’s been a lot of discussion about whether DeRozan should be replaced in the starting lineup, which might stop the Raptors from digging themselves in a hole early in games, as they have been. With the way the Raptors have been playing all year, however. the question that needs to be asked is whether this team is building around the wrong players.
Now, I’ve never been a big fan of +/- stats, or any stats in particular, when gauging a player’s worth to a team. I think it ignores factors that simply aren’t logged in the box score, such as defense, hustle and veteran savvy. Sometimes, however, it does give an interesting picture of what’s going on. Take for example, the stats on 82games.com. What previously was called the Roland Rating, but now seems to be called the Simple rating, is an average of a player’s +/- production and on/off court results. It’s not the greatest indicator, but it’s half decent barometer for how much a player is helping his team win.
Now, take a look at the Raptor’s next opponent, the Lakers. The top five players are the five best players, Kobe, Gasol, Odom, Artest and Bynum. These are the players that play the bulk of the minutes for the Lakers. Boston’s top five players are their starters: Garnett, Pierce, Rondo, Allen and Perkins. Same goes for Atlanta. It’s not like that for every team, but there’s enough of a pattern for me to want to take a closer look at the Raptors roster.
As most Raptor fans know, the Raptor starters are Bosh, Bargnani, Turkoglu, DeRozan and Jack.
The top five Raptors according to 82games.com’s Simple/Roland Rating? Bosh, Evans, Belinelli, Johnson and Calderon.
Things get even more interesting when you look at the Individual Player Floor Time Stats, the top five being Johnson, Wright, Bosh, Belinelli and Calderon.
Now, I don’t pretend to know what all these statistics mean, or whether or not they actually mean anything what-so-ever, but when you look at all the players, you realize two things. The first is that all, but one, are at least average defensively. The second thing you notice is that Bargnani, Turkoglu, Jack and DeRozan are not listed.
As readers of this blog know, I’ve often been critical of Bargnani. I HATE the fact that he can’t rebound the ball for his size, and while I applauded him for his improved defense a little while ago, he seems to have taken a couple of steps back in that category lately. In fact, he’s taken a couple of steps back in just about EVERY category lately. In the last five games, Bargnani is averaging 14.4 ppg, 4 rpg and 0.6 bpg. Those that said that Bargnani would rebound more and score more inside without Bosh have been silenced. Bargnani actually played worse, and less inside, without Bosh. I don’t know if any player is more responsible for the current slump the Raptors find themselves in than Bargnani. When he plays good defense and scores, the Raptors usually win. Unfortunately, after nearly four full years, it’s becoming fairly clear that Bargnani can never be a player you can count on. He needs to score to be effective, but isn’t a consistent enough scorer to be a first or second option on a contender, and doesn’t do anything else well enough to warrant heavy minutes if he’s NOT scoring 15+ a game.
Turkoglu has at least shown that he can be a starter on a contender. Unfortunately, that was only one season, and he’s currently not playing at that same level. If he can get back to that level, it’s obvious that Turkoglu could easily be a starter again for a contender. With his below average rebounding and weak defense, he would need a team with an above average defense and rebounding front line. This describes Bosh, but not Bargnani.
Jack is a peculiar case. He doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses that the other starters not mentioned do, and he’s actually one of the Raptors more complete players. He hasn’t been all that consistent, though, and with him in the starting lineup, the Raptors have often started games badly. He certainly doesn’t have the acumen for running an offense that Calderon has. And his defense is not where I thought it would be.
Now, I actually feel that DeRozan has done a half-decent job this season. I said at the beginning that if he had a season similar to Courtney Lee’s rookie season, then it would be a success. Well, in nearly every statistical category, including PER, DeRozan’s numbers are pretty similar to Lee’s. The two things that Lee was better at was Defense and 3 point shooting. Of course, Lee was 3 years older than DeRozan is, so that is a big factor. I never had a problem starting DeRozan, because he was playing well enough, and it was a good way of helping him grow. Earlier in the season, I argued against those who said he should be replaced in the starting lineup and I still believe I was right. Hell, their record since December 5th was pretty damn good, so I’d say it was a good choice. And while I think it was not alright to replace him then, I think now might be the time to. Two things have changed. The first is that he seems to have hit the rookie wall. The second, and most important, is that as the playoffs approach, wins become more important. Until now, DeRozan’s development outweighed the few wins his starting might have missed out on.
Now, changing the starting lineup now might not be the best idea, and I don’t know if the change would benefit the team this season (although it very well might). I do think, however, that who the Raptors starters are needs to be looked at further this summer. Either way, there are questions that come up when looking at which players help the team win more? Would Amir Johnson be a better frontcourt partner to Bosh than Bargnani?Should Calderon be moved back into the starting lineup? Is Belinelli, because of his all around game, a more fitting starter at the shooting guard until DeRozan develops more, or should Wright’s defense be taken more advantage of despite his brain freezes on offense?
Personally, if I was coaching the Raptors, and didn’t have to take into consideration contracts or team investments in certain players, against the Lakers, and for the rest of the season, I’d trot out a starting lineup of Bosh, Johnson, Turkoglu, Belinelli and Calderon. I’d give those players the bulk of the minutes, and generally finish the game with those players, as well.
I know that Belinelli has been incredibly inconsistent this season, but as readers of this blog know, I’m a fan of his and feel he’d be more consistent as a starter. His one game as a starter was his best of the season, and he strikes me as the type of player that excels when not looking over his shoulder. He’s also much better defensively than many give him credit for. In fact, I’d say that he’s the second best wing player on the defensive end, behind Wright.
Calderon has not been good defensively this year, but with Belinelli and Johnson in the starting lineup, the team defense would improve enough that I think he would do alright. Besides, his offense is just too good to have him come off the bench when the team has been struggling so much to start games.
While Johnson is not the scorer than Bargnani is, he so much better on the boards and defensively that I actually think he might be a better player than Bargnani, at least right now. Just looking at PER, which is flawed and doesn’t take into consideration defense, they are neck and neck. When you then include defense, I’d rather have Johnson on the floor than Bargnani.
Turkoglu has shown he can play on a contender with better statistics, and while you could put Wright in here, Turkoglu’s worth can not often be seen on the stat sheet. Unlike Bargnani, Turkglu is not a one note player. He makes players around him better, and that’s not something that can be overlooked.
Bosh, Johnson, Turkoglu, Belinelli and Calderon is a starting unit that is dangerous offensively and should be able to play good defense. Calderon, Belinelli and Turkoglu can all create, score from the outside get the ball to the big men inside. Bosh and Johnson can clean up the boards inside and defend the middle. I think the team would be much more consistent offensively and defensively.
Who would your starters be?
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