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Andrea Bargnani and the Raptors have to improve on the defensive end if they want to compete in the Atlantic.
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StatsCube: Casey's defensive rep will be tested in Toronto

Posted Dec 2 2011 1:01PM

To get ready for the 2011-12 season, StatsCube breaks down the critical numbers for all 30 teams.

The 2010-11 season was just the second in 12 years in which the Toronto Raptors didn't have an All-Star. And it may take some time for them to recover from the loss of Chris Bosh.


But the Raptors are looking for a fresh start under new coach Dwane Casey. He comes to Toronto with a defensive reputation, which is precisely where his new team needs the most help.

2010-11 BASICS
Pace: 95.4 (12)
OffRtg: 103.3 (20)
DefRtg: 110.0 (30)
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions

The Jay Triano era in Toronto was characterized by terrible defense, Bosh or no Bosh. The Raptors ranked dead last in defensive efficiency in each of Triano's two full seasons as coach. The only other team in the last 20 years to play the league's worst defense in two straight seasons was the Los Angeles Clippers in 1998-99 and 1999-2000.

Triano can't take all of the blame for the Raptors' horrid defense. It was the guys on the floor that ranked in the bottom six in 3-point defense, 2-point defense, defensive rebounding percentage, opponents' free throw rate, opponents' points in the paint and opponents' fast-break points.

The Raptors' awful defense began with Andrea Bargnani, who had the worst on-court defensive efficiency among 299 NBA players who logged at least 750 minutes last season. The previous season, he had the second worst, behind only the Warriors' Reggie Williams, who played just 781 minutes in just 24 games.

Highest on-court defensive efficiency, minimum 750 minutes
Player Team GP MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg
Andrea Bargnani TOR 66 2353 104.5 112.5 -8.0
Martell Webster MIN 46 1094 101.1 112.5 -11.4
Aaron Brooks HOU/PHX 59 1284 105.9 112.4 -6.5
Sonny Weems TOR 59 1413 101.9 112.4 -10.5
Ramon Sessions CLE 81 2133 100.6 112.0 -11.4
Antawn Jamison CLE 56 1842 101.3 111.9 -10.6
Reggie Evans TOR 30 798 100.8 111.8 -11.0
Will Bynum DET 61 1125 103.6 111.2 -7.6
Stephen Graham NJN 59 959 98.1 111.0 -13.0
Josh Childress PHX 54 894 105.4 110.9 -5.5

As his team's center, Bargnani is tasked with protecting the paint. But 38.3 percent of the Raptors' opponents' shots, easily the highest rate in the league, came from within five feet of the basket.

Still searching for a small forward

When sorting through the Raptors' lineup data, there are a lot of bad defensive numbers. But there's also some hope for improvement.

The Raptors' most-used four-man combination was Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson and Bargnani, who logged 737 minutes together, which was more than 300 minutes greater than any of the team's other four-man combinations.

Overall, that combination was pretty poor, scoring 105.5 points per 100 possessions and allowing 110.1. But their level of success varies quite a bit when you look at their numbers with the different players who occupied that fifth spot in the lineup.

Raptors efficiency with Calderon, DeRozan, A. Johnson and Bargnani
Fifth Player GP MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Sonny Weems 28 272 102.9 107.9 -5.0 -21
James Johnson 10 145 109.0 104.3 +4.7 +10
Linas Kleiza 15 110 98.8 106.6 -7.8 -13
Julian Wright 12 93 114.0 109.9 +4.0 +11
Leandro Barbosa 21 73 117.2 132.9 -15.6 +4
Jerryd Bayless 7 24 95.1 111.9 -16.8 -3
Other - 21 80.7 127.2 -46.5 -15
Total 51 737 105.5 110.1 -4.6 -27

These are some small sample sizes, but the Raptors weren't all that bad defensively with James Johnson playing small forward with the other four starters. And they were pretty good offensively with Julian Wright at the three.

Coming up empty from outside

Overall, the Raptors, who were a top-10 offense in five of their previous six seasons, were pretty bad on that end of the floor. The departures of Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu for warmer climates are the obvious causes for the huge drop-off. Not-so obvious is the area where those departures hurt the Raptors' offense most.

From 2003-04 through 2009-10, only one team (Phoenix) shot 3-pointers better than the Raptors, who made 37.4 percent of their threes over those seven seasons. Last season though, Toronto ranked 29th in made 3-pointers and dead last in 3-point percentage, connecting on just 31.6 percent of their shots from beyond the arc.

Of the seven Raptors who attempted at least 50 3-pointers, only Calderon (57-for-156) shot better than the league average (35.8 percent). And of the 200 players across the league who attempted at least 50 3-pointers, DeRozan ranked dead last (by far) by connecting on just 9.6 percent (5-for-52) of his.

Raptors 3-point shooting, last eight seasons
Season 3PM 3PA 3PT% Rank
2003-04 461 1294 35.6% 8
2004-05 648 1681 38.5% 2
2005-06 608 1620 37.5% 7
2006-07 531 1464 36.3% 9
2007-08 572 1459 39.2% 2
2008-09 479 1289 37.2% 12
2009-10 518 1397 37.1% 6
2010-11 345 1091 31.6% 30
Raptors spelled with a 'D?'

The last (and first) time that Dwane Casey took a head coaching job, he did a pretty good job of improving the team's defense. The Minnesota Timberwolves went from the 15th-best defense in the league under Flip Saunders and Kevin McHale in 2004-05 to the ninth-best under Casey in 2005-06.

Of course, on the other side of the floor, no team regressed more offensively in '05-06 than the Timberwolves did. But that likely had more to do with the departures of Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell than with Casey's coaching.

Timberwolves' efficiency
Season Coach W L OffRtg Rank DefRtg Rank NetRtg
2004-05 Saunders/McHale 44 38 104.9 6 103.7 15 1.2
2005-06 Casey 33 49 99.6 27 101.7 9 -2.1
2006-07* Casey 20 20 101.5 21 102.8 14 -1.3
2006-07** Wittman 12 30 100.6 28 107.6 26 -7.0
* First 40 games ** Last 42 games

The Wolves weren't great in the first half of the 2006-07 season, but they were decent defensively. And after Casey was fired in January of 2007, they fell off on both ends of the floor. Six months later, Kevin Garnett was traded and the Wolves really collapsed.

Casey has been an assistant coach for 14 NBA seasons (11 in Seattle and the last three in Dallas). In those 14 years, his teams have ranked in the top 10 defensively five times: his first four years with the Sonics (1994-95 through 1997-98) and last season with the Mavs.

It would be a miracle if he could turn the Raptors into a top-10 defense, but look for them to still improve dramatically on that end of the floor.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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