No Offense to the Offense

Posted on October 25, 2010 | 5 Comments

In the last post, I discussed the state of the Raptors defense. Basically, I think the defense will be improved, especially with the new system they seem to have implemented, but there are still some fundamental problems that will prevent them from being a good defensive team. Mediocre seems to be the ceiling with this team.

So how about the offense? Well, with Bosh and Turkoglu now on different teams, it seems there is 35 ppg that needs to be replaced, right? Well, it doesn’t quite work that way. First of all, there is no guarantee that the Raptors will average the same amount of points as they did last season.

Last year, the Raptors averaged 104.1 ppg for 5th in the league and were tied for 6th for points per shot. They not only scored but were fairly efficient at it. Offense obviously wasn’t the problem last season.

DeRozan drawing contactIn the preseason, the Raptors are scoring at an even higher rate of 108.6 ppg, which puts them 3rd. I don’t have the stats for PPS, but they seem to be scoring at least as efficiently, if not even more efficiently. In fact, they seem to be getting to the line at an even higher rate than last season.

Thanks in large part to Bosh, the Raptors were one of the better teams at getting to the line last year. With his absence, replacing that was a real concern. So far, DeRozan seems to be filling in quite nicely. He’s not on Bosh’s level, but he’s getting to the line more than any other Raptor. Plus, other Raptors seem to be stepping up in that regard. Jack, Barbosa and Amir are getting to the line at a fairly high rate. I don’t think the Raptors will continue to get to the line at such a high rate, but I think they’ll be okay, in that regards.

Will they continue to score at such a high rate, though? That’s highly doubtful just as it’s doubtful Minnesota will continue to score 110 ppg. I just don’t see either team having the firepower to do it over an entire season.

With the team’s pressing defense and aggressiveness on the offensive end, it’s apparent, however, that the Raptors should be, again, one of the better scoring teams.

Another big concern was how the Raptors be able to break the defense down. Bosh wasn’t a great creator, but his scoring ability made the defense focus on him and this attention allowed others to score. While Bosh didn’t get a lot of assists, he did create a lot of scoring opportunities for others simply by being on the floor.

Without him, the Raptors have no real double team threat. Some hoped that would be Bargnani, but he’s simply not the scoring threat, especially inside, that Bosh is, and is more comfortable on the perimeter. Bargnani requires someone else to create for him far more than the reverse.

Having a PG that can break the defense down would work. Calderon, despite his ability to run and offense, is not great in this regard. Jack is much better at getting to the basket, but more often than not, he ends up creating for himself instead of for his teammates. It’s one of Jack’s biggest weaknesses. He’s not the true PG that Calderon is. If Colangelo could meld the two players into one, I think everyone would be happy.

Still, Jack has shown a good ability to get to the basket, as had DeRozan and the newly acquired Barbosa.

So the Raptors should still be able to get to the line at a fairly high rate and still should be able to create points when they need to, but what type of offense will they run?

I think they’ll try to get as much of their offense through pressing and trapping on defense. It will mean a lot of high scoring games and a lot of exciting fast breaks. Still, they’ll need to run a half court offense since that’s where most of their point are going to come from.

So far, I’ve seen a lot of motion offense, especially early, when the coaches hadn’t implemented much of an offensive gameplan. It was one of the reasons for Bargnani’s early struggles. Scoring in a motion offense requires constant movement and the ability to break down the defense when needed. Bargnani doesn’t do either of those things.

As the preseason went on, we saw more of a structured offense. We saw more pick and roles (or pick and pops) as well as running the offense through the high post, in almost a variation on the triangle offense. It’s incredibly doubtful that they will be running the triangle offense since it’s a very difficult system to learn and after last year’s roster unable to grasp the defense, trying something that they might struggle with on the offensive end might be too much.

I haven’t mentioned Kleiza, yet, but he’s going to be a big part of the offense. In the preseason, at least, he seemed to be the first option. When he was on the floor, the offense almost always went through him. They either give him the ball on the perimeter and set a pick for him, or allow him to post up down low. He’s been able to shoot a very high percentage, so far, and has shown the ability to score consistently inside and outside. Unfortunately, Kleiza hasn’t shown much of an ability to get to the line, in preseason, but he showed that ability in four seasons in Denver, so it’s likely he’ll be fine in this regard. Another thing that is a bit of concern is that, despite Kleiza’s scoring, he needs people to create for him. He doesn’t really have the quickness to take people off the dribble, but he does move very well without the ball which helps make up for his inability to create for himself. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Kleiza ending up as the team’s leading scorer.

Another possibility for leading scorer is Barbosa. He seems to have regained the form that helped him win the 6th Man of the Year award, and, if given the minutes, might end up scoring close to 20 ppg.

DeRozan has shown the best and worst in preseason. As mentioned, he’s shown a fantastic ability to get to the line, in large part because he seems to want to dunk the ball every time he drives. You have to love the aggressiveness and confidence. Unfortunately, DeRozan desperately needs to learn when to pass the ball and when to pull up. He hasn’t gotten many offensive foul calls, partly because he’s so athletic he can adjust his body in mid air, but I think as teams watch him more and more, defenders will draw more offensive fouls from him, so it’s important for him to watch that. Plus, he’s really got to start passing the ball more. He’s been a bit of a black hole so far in the preseason.

Many felt that Bargnani would be the main option on offense this year. That’s certainly true if you look at shot attempts.  In the preseason, Bargnani shot at a higher rate than he has so far, and at a higher rate than anyone on the team, ahead of second placed Barbosa. In fact, if he had played the same amount of minutes as he did in the regular season, he would have taken the same amount of shots per game as Bosh did last year.

Of course, Bargnani is taking that many shots because he’s shooting the ball just about every time he gets his hands on it. Between him and DeRozan, the other Raptor players are in danger of not seeing the ball on offense, unless they grab the offensive board.

As I mentioned in the previous post, Bargnani has been seeing a lot more time at de facto PF in the preseason. The reason is that he’s been playing a lot of minutes with Reggie Evans. On offense, unlike last year when the Raptors big men was sort of a pick your poison, with teams having to decide whether to stick your less mobile player on Bargnani, who would take him outside, or Bosh, who would drive around him, it’s a much easier decision. The bigger, less mobile player takes Evans, leaving the smaller, more agile defender defending Bargnani. One of the reasons that many Bargnani fans wanted him to play PF was because of the mismatch he would create. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen the fruits of that so-called mismatch.

It’s not as if Bargnani hasn’t tried to create off the dribble, but with quicker defenders on him, who are able to crowd him more, yet still keep him in front of them, Bargnani hasn’t been able to do much. I can’t tell you how many times I watched Bargnani either pump fake or try to dribble by his man, only to be stopped immediately. The vast majority of Bargnani’s makes in the preseason were created by others. In fact, in the last game, all six of Bargnani’s field goals were assisted.

What’s been most odd is to see Reggie Evans have the ball in his hands as much as he has on offense. Thankfully, it’s not to shoot. Probably the worst thing about Evans last year was that he seemed to shoot the ball every time he grabbed on offensive board. In the preseason, he’s taken less than 3 shots per game, despite playing the fifth most minutes on the team. Amazingly, he seems to be making good decisions with the ball in his hands, and has, on occasion, even directed the offense.

Overall, it appears the Raptors will be in excellent shape offensively, although they may struggle with consistency. Their offense relies so much on energy, that there are some nights that it will look downright awful. You could see them score 120 points one night, and 80 points the next. Since there’s little hope of making the playoffs, it really shouldn’t matter in the long run, though.

In other NBA news, Jerryd Bayless was traded for a future first rounder yesterday. This is noteworthy because Bayless was drafted 11th two years ago and seemed to have so much promise. He was extremely quick, could defend and score. Unfortunately, he was a SG in a PG’s body. In my criticism of taking Avery Bradley so high, I talked about how difficult it is for players to make the transition from SG to PG. Most of the time they fail. And if they do make it, it’s rarely with the team they started with. Bayless may still end up having a half decent career, but he’s one more reason why it’s never good to draft an undersized shooting guard and assume you can convert him.

Also, I read that Cleveland tried to trade Mo Williams and Jamario Moon for Baron Davis in hopes of being able to keep LeBron. First off, let me say that the Clippers are idiots for not taking that deal. If nothing else, it gets them out of possibly the worst contract in the NBA. Also, I think it’s further evidence that Danny Ferry completely botched his job in Cleveland. Davis would certainly not have helped LeBron win a title, and would have probably hindered it. Can you imagine Shaq AND Baron in the same starting lineup? Talk about your porous defense.

Apparently Detroit’s Darren Daye has won the starting PF spot over Charlie Villaneuva. Yes, Daye has been playing well in the preseason, but shouldn’t Villanueva, whose a 6th year player and signed a very big contract with the Pistons last summer, really be not worrying about whether or not he’s going to start at this stage of his career? Last year, I highlighted Detroit signing Villianueva to such a big contract as one of the reasons why I foresaw Detroit’s downfall as one of the leagues haves. One of the best things Colangelo did was trading him out of Toronto as soon as he could. I didn’t like the Raptors drafting him and he’s exactly the type of player that gets overpaid but never seems to be able to make a big contribution on a good team.

Tomorrow, I’m going to do a quick Raptors preview and make some predictions for the upcoming season.

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Join the discussion: 5 Comments


  • JoePanini

    Great take on offense, gotta say you got all the points right, no argument there. Though I must say, we really need a PG that is pass-first, cause although Bargs can’t create his own shot, when he was hot no one passed him the ball. There was a stretch where he scored maybe 6 points in a row, and instead of passing to Bargs, Jack either gave it to Kleiza/DeRozan or went for an ISO…

    And I really like what the Blazers did with that trade. Some might say Bayless is promising, that just makes it okay for NO. Blazers could get top 7 pick next year, or top 8 for the next few. Next year’s draft seems pretty promising, and trading away a guy that was just looking for minutes on a team full of PG/SGs seems like Portland did a great job there. NO might regret this trade, because they could have gotten Kyrie (if he falls) next draft or another PG (there are quite a few nice PG prospects, HELLO BC!) cause Bayless is like Jack, he’s a 2. That can pass but likes to drive and pull-up more than he likes looking up and passing and creating…

    Oh, and I LOLed at the Baron trade. If the Clippers accepted, Cleveland would have regretted it for at least half a decade. Imagine a line-up of Baron Davis, Anthony Parker, Joey Graham, Antawn Jamison and Anderson Varejao. I’m happy Cavs were lucky that Clippers’ GM is an idiot. Oh and on the Cavs, is there anyway that they start Hickson, Jamison and Varejao together, seems like a three-headed beast to me. Hickson and Jamison could both play SF imo…

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  • Raptors Digest

    Good read Tim, really liked the writing

    You know me, I want DeRozan to be featured on offense for better or worse but agree that Kleiza will probably lead the Raps in scoring with about 18 ppg, DeRozan 17 ppg, Bargs 17 ppg, Jack 15 ppg, Barbosa 13.5 ppg….what do you think…?

    As far as for Bayless I love him and he has shown some flashes at PG…I was actually pretty steamed when I heard he got dealt and we didnt make an effort for him..

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