* Tonight on TNT: Bucks vs. Raptors, 8 ET
The Toronto Raptors haven’t been as good a team as they were last season. They’ve taken steps backward on both ends of the floor, having scored 0.5 fewer points per 100 possessions and allowed 2.4 more.
But the Raptors remain a top-10 team in both offensive and defensive efficiency. And they may have a higher ceiling than they ever have, with a Kia MVP candidate (depending on how voters take missed games into account) and a seemingly deep supporting cast that includes a couple of players that have taken big steps forward this season.
One reason why we probably haven’t seen the best of the Raptors yet is that their two best players — Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry — have played just 27 games together. Leonard, with a couple of minor injuries and a “load management” program that has kept him from playing both games of back-to-backs, has missed 14 games. Lowry, with leg and back issues, has missed 11. The 825 total minutes that the pair have played ranks 10th on the Raptors and 153rd among two-man combinations league-wide.
Still, the Raptors have the league’s third best record (37-15) and can regain possession of first place in the Eastern Conference with a win against the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday (8 p.m. ET, TNT).
Here’s one number to know about the 2018-19 Raptors as they play one of their biggest games of the regular season…
The Raptors have been 19.1 points per 100 possessions better with Danny Green on the floor than they’ve been with Green off the floor.
That is the second-biggest on-off NetRtg differential among 238 players that have played at least 750 minutes through Wednesday.
The differential is more about how good the Raptors have been with Green on the floor (outscoring their opponents by 12.7 points per 100 possessions) than how bad they’ve been with him off the floor (getting outscored by 6.4 per 100). The on-court number is the third-highest among those 238 players.
Green was much more than a throw-in in the trade that brought Leonard to Toronto. He’s been a critical part of the Raptors’ success, second on the team in minutes played and 12th in the league in 3-pointers.
The Raptors got a better Green than the one that played for the Spurs last season. He has an effective field goal percentage of 58.8 percent, a career-high mark and up from 49 percent last season. That’s the second-biggest jump (smaller than only that of the Spurs’ Davis Bertans) among 182 players with at least 250 field goal attempts both seasons.
Green’s bigger on-off differential has been on offense, where the Raptors have been 14.9 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor (scoring 116.6) than with him off the floor (scoring just 101.7). That’s the biggest on-off differential on offense among the 238 players that have played at least 750 minutes this season.
The differential on defense is smaller (4.2 points per 100 possessions), but not insignificant when you consider that Green is mostly on the floor against the opponents’ starters and the players replacing him are mostly on the floor against reserves.
And really, Green’s off-court differential is an indication that the Raptors’ bench hasn’t been nearly as good as it was the last few years. Last season, the Raptors had the league’s best *aggregate bench NetRtg (plus-8.3), and it was the sixth straight season that they ranked in the top six. This season, they rank 22nd (minus-4.0) and no team has seen a bigger drop-off.
* Aggregate bench NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions with reserves on the floor. This number is based on an estimate for possessions, rather than true possessions from play-by-play data.
Continuity has been an issue with the bench. Last season, the Raptors had a bench unit — Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright, C.J. Miles, Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl — that played 340 minutes together and outscored its opponents by 19.2 points per 100 possessions, the sixth best mark among 48 lineups that played at least 200 minutes.
This season, the Raptors’ most-used lineup that doesn’t include at least four starters — VanVleet, Wright, Miles, OG Anunoby and Jonas Valanciunas — has played just 48 minutes together. Each of those guys has missed at least six games, with Valanciunas having missed the last 22 with a thumb injury.
Miles, the bench’s designated shooter, has shot just 30 percent from 3-point range, and the Raptors have been outscored by 10.4 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor. Norman Powell, a guy who can/has/will take Miles’ minutes, missed more than five weeks with a shoulder injury.
VanVleet is a plus-126 for the season, but that’s mostly about his minutes with the starters. In fact the five players that VanVleet has played the most minutes with are the five regular starters, and the Raptors have outscored their opponents by at least 4.5 points per 100 possessions with any of those five combinations (VanVleet plus a starter) on the floor. They’ve been outscored by at least 2.2 points per 100 possessions with any combination of VanVleet and another reserve on the floor.
So it’s been a very different starters/bench dynamic for the Raptors this season. For most of the last few years, they were at their best with reserves on the floor. This year, their starters have carried them, despite the lack of continuity with that group. Their most-used starting lineup has played in just 24 of their 52 games.
The Raptors have outscored their opponents by 319 points in 1,135 minutes with at least four of the five regular starters on the floor and have been outscored by 38 points in 1,386 minutes with three or fewer on the floor.
As long as they’ve had four of the five on the floor, they’ve been terrific. Well, unless the guy not on the floor is Green. In 73 minutes with the other four starters on the floor without Green, the Raptors have been outscored by 28 points.
According to the numbers, he’s the glue guy.
Pace: 100.3 (17)
OffRtg: 112.4 (7)
DefRtg: 107.5 (10)
NetRtg: +4.9 (5)
Team: Game log | Traditional | Advanced splits | Lineups
Player Traditional | On-off court | Shot locations | Clutch
RAPTORS NOTES – GENERAL
- The Raptors are 19-8 in games in which both Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard have played and 18-7 in games in which they’ve had one or the other (11-3 with Lowry only, 7-4 with Leonard only).
- They’re 9-0 (and the league’s only undefeated team) when playing an opponent that played the night before. They have five such games remaining on their schedule, with the next one on Sunday, when they host the Clippers (who will have played in Detroit the night before).
- They’ve trailed by double-digits in just 17 games, fewest in the league. They’re 4-13 in those games and 33-2 in games they haven’t trailed by 10 or more points.
RAPTORS NOTES – OFFENSE
- One of eight teams that has scored fewer points per 100 possessions than they did last season, with the league average having seen a jump from 107.7 to 109.1 points scored per 100 possessions.
- Have scored 1.17 points per possession in transition, the best mark in the league, according to Synergy tracking. They have a league-best effective field goal percentage of 64.8 percent in the first six seconds of the shot clock, according to Second Spectrum tracking. Also have the league’s biggest drop in effective field goal percentage from the first six seconds of the shot clock to the remainder of the shot clock (50.9 percent). Siakam ranks seventh among individuals with 96 field goals (and has an effective field goal percentage of 73.0 percent) in the first six seconds of the shot clock.
RAPTORS NOTES – DEFENSE
- Opponents have attempted 24.6 free throws per 100 shots from the field, that is the eighth lowest rate in the league and down from 27.7 (25th) last season. Only two teams have seen a bigger drop in opponent free throw rate.
- Rank third with 15.3 deflections per game.
RAPTORS NOTES – LINEUPS
- The Raptors have three of the top 10 lineups (lineups that have outscored their opponents by at least 16 points per 100 possessions) among 85 league-wide lineups that have played at least 100 minutes.
- Best on-court OffRtg among two-man combinations (minimum 250 minutes together): Lowry and Green. The Raptors have scored 118.7 points per 100 possessions in 1,033 minutes with the pair on the floor together.
- Best on-court DefRtg among two-man combinations (minimum 250 minutes together): Green and Valanciunas. The Raptors have allowed 93.9 points per 100 possessions in 270 minutes with the pair on the floor together.
- 24 total minutes from rookies (all from Jordan Loyd) are the fewest in the league.
RAPTORS NOTES – INDIVIDUAL
- Danny Green ranks second in the league with 51 corner 3-pointers, 20 fewer than the Rockets’ P.J. Tucker.
- Serge Ibaka has taken 20 percent of his shots from 3-point range, down from 38 percent last season. That’s the biggest drop among 182 players with at least 250 field goal attempts both years.
- Ibaka has shot 74.1 percent in the restricted area, the fourth best mark among 175 players with at least 100 restricted-area field goal attempts. Pascal Siakam has the seventh best mark (71.9 percent) among 55 players with at least 200 attempts.
- Opponents have shot 52 percent at the rim when Ibaka has been there to protect it. That’s the third best rim protection mark among 19 players that have protected the rim at least five times per game in 25 games or more.
- Kawhi Leonard ranks fourth in the league in scoring at 27.9 points per game. He also ranks fourth with 100 total points scored in the clutch (with the score within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime).
- Leonard has averaged 13.3 free throw attempts per 100 touches, the most among players with at least 1,000 total touches, according to Second Spectrum tracking.
- Kyle Lowry ranks second in the league in both assists per game (9.4) and assist ratio, having recorded assists on 38 percent of his possessions. According to Second Spectrum tracking, he also ranks second with 11.9 assists per 100 touches.
- Lowry has shot 8-for-36 (22 percent) with the score within five points in the last five minutes, the worst mark among 61 players who have attempted at least 25 clutch shots. Ibaka (57 percent) has the fourth best mark.
- Siakam has scored 7.9 more points per game than he did last season. That’s the third biggest increase among players that played at least 40 games last season and have played at least 25 games this season.
- Siakam has been assisted on 56 percent of his field goals, down from 72 percent last season. That’s the biggest drop among 163 players with at least 200 field goals last season and at least 100 field goals this season.
- Siakam has taken 65 percent of his 3-pointers from the corners, the second highest rate among 192 players with at least 100 total 3-point attempts. OG Anunoby has the fourth highest rate (53 percent).
- Fred VanVleet has an assist-turnover ratio of 3.62, the sixth highest mark among 220 players who have averaged at least 20 minutes in 25 games or more.
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John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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