2017-18 Kia Season Preview
One Team, One Stat -- Dribble-happy Toronto Raptors record a historically low assist percentage
NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2017-18 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Toronto Raptors, who were historically bad at assisting one another.
The Toronto Raptors assisted on just 47 percent of their field goals last season.
That wasn’t just the lowest assist percentage last season. It was the lowest assist percentage of any team in the last 27 years.
The Raptors’ two All-Stars, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, along with third guard Cory Joseph, dominated the ball again. The trio was assisted on just 26 percent of their buckets and accounted for 62,861 dribbles, 77 percent of the Raptors’ total and almost as many as the Golden State Warriors had as a team (64,174).
DeRozan and Lowry did the bulk of their work off the dribble, and they were generally good at it. The Raptors led the league in the percentage of their possessions that were pick-and-roll ball-handler possessions, and their 0.95 points per possession on those were tied for the league’s best mark.
DeRozan took 160 more pull-up, 2-point jumpers than any other player in the league. He was one of *four players who took at least 100 pull-up jumpers and 100 catch-and-shoot jumpers and had a higher effective field goal percentage on the pull-ups (43.2 percent) than on the catch-and-shoot attempts (42.0 percent). Both of those numbers are well below the league average effective field goal percentage (51.4 percent), but DeRozan’s ability to get to the line put him right around the league average in regard to scoring efficiency.
* The others: Paul Millsap, Elfrid Payton and Evan Turner.
Lowry, meanwhile, shot 42.2 percent on pull-up 3-pointers, the best mark among 11 players who attempted at least 200. Yes, better than Stephen Curry (36.6 percent).
It guard-heavy, off-the-dribble stuff worked fine in the regular season, when the Raptors ranked sixth in offensive efficiency. They’re one of only three teams (the Clippers and Spurs are the others) that have ranked in the top 10 on that end of the floor in each of the last four seasons.
But in the playoffs, Toronto has consistently taken a huge step backward offensively. As playoff defenses have loaded up on their guards, the Raptors have been unable to adjust. They’ve ranked 15th, 12th and 14th in offensive efficiency in the last three postseasons, scoring 9.1 fewer points per 100 possessions than they have in the regular season over that time.
Over the last 20 years, there hasn’t been much of a correlation between a team’s assist rate and how much its offense improves or regresses in the playoffs. There have been low-assist teams that have improved and high-assist teams that have taken a step backward.
But after three straight years of significant drop-off, the Raptors believe they need to make changes to the way they play.
“We need [Lowry and DeRozan] both to take the pressure off themselves with the pass and trust the pass,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey told NBA.com’s Ian Thomsen this summer. “And it is not a head-knocking thing. Kyle understands.”
The Raptors tried to give their ball movement a boost the season before last. But their extra passes were generally inconsequential stuff at the beginning of a possession, leading to the same stuff from their guards off the dribble.
Through their first three preseason games, they’ve recorded assists on 54.5 percent (55/101) of their buckets, a rate which would have ranked 23rd last season. Some habits can be tough to break.
RAPTORS NOTES – GENERAL
- Won five fewer games than they did in 2015-16 after seeing a win increase for five straight seasons.
- Only East team (and one of three teams overall) that ranked in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency last season.
- Went from fourth on offense and 16th on defense before the All-Star break to 13th on offense and fourth on defense after the break. Only the Spurs had a bigger post-break drop-off in OffRtg and only the Nets had a bigger post-break improvement in DefRtg.
- Led the league (for the second straight season) with 21 wins (they were 21-25) after trailing by 10 or more points. Were at their worst (minus-0.3 points per 100 possessions) in the first quarter, but were the best fourth quarter team in the league (plus-13.0). In the playoffs, they were 0-6 after trailing by 10 or more.
- Were just 2-5 when they had a rest advantage (playing after a day of rest against an opponent that was playing the second game of a back-to-back).
RAPTORS NOTES – OFFENSE
- Only team that was better than average in each of the offensive four factors (effective field goal percentage, offensive rebounding percentage, turnover rate and free throw rate).
- Have ranked in the top 10 in turnover rate (turnovers per 100 possessions) in each of the last five seasons and in the top 10 in free throw rate (FTA/FGA) in each of the last four.
- According to SportVU, they ran 73.6 ball screens per game, second only to Utah (74.2).
- Led the league with 24.2 points per game on drives. DeRozan (9.0) and Lowry (6.8) ranked second and 12th among individuals.
- Scored 0.98 points per possession, the league’s second best mark, on isolations.
RAPTORS NOTES – DEFENSE
- Improved defensively with each quarter, from 107.5 points per 100 possessions (21st in the league) allowed in the first quarter to just 102.4 (fourth) in the fourth.
- One of four teams that allowed less than a point per possession in the clutch (with the score within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime).
- Only allowed 0.1 more points per 100 possessions on the road (104.9) than they did at home (104.8). On average, home teams scored 3.3 more points per 100 possessions than road teams.
- Ranked fourth defensively after the All-Star break, allowing just 102.3 points per 100 possessions after the All-Star break, 3.7 fewer than they allowed before the break (106.0). Only Brooklyn (-4.2) saw a bigger post-break improvement in defensive efficiency.
- Ranked last in 3-point defense in the playoffs, allowing Milwaukee and Cleveland to shoot 44.1 percent from beyond the arc.
RAPTORS NOTES – LINEUPS
- Had an aggregate bench NetRtg of plus-5.9, the third best mark in the league and the best in the Eastern Conference (for the third straight season).
- Most-used lineup – Lowry, DeRozan, DeMarre Carroll, Pascal Siakam and Jonas Valanciunas – was worse than any other Toronto lineup that played at least 70 minutes, getting outscored by 8.8 points per 100 possessions in its 365 minutes. It had the league’s worst five-man raw plus-minus (minus-89) and was one of three lineups that played at least 200 minutes and allowed opponents to shoot better than 50 percent.
- Outscored their opponents by 18.4 points per 100 possessions in 900 minutes with both Lowry and Patrick Patterson on the floor. That was the best on-court NetRtg among non-Warriors combinations that played at least 750 minutes together. Patterson, who left in free agency this summer, had the team’s best on-court NetRtg in three of his four seasons with Toronto.
- In the regular season, they outscored their opponents by 14.1 points per 100 possessions in 231 minutes with Serge Ibaka at center and were outscored by 1.7 points per 100 possessions in 481 minutes with Ibaka at power forward (with Valanciunas, Lucas Nogueira or Jakob Poeltl on the floor). In the playoffs, they were a little worse in 211 minutes with Ibaka at center (minus-9.4) than they were with him at power forward (minus-8.9).
- Lowry and Ibaka played just 284 total minutes together (81 in the regular season and 203 in the playoffs) after Ibaka was acquired in February.
RAPTORS NOTES – INDIVIDUALS
- DeMar DeRozan‘s 986 points from between the restricted area and 3-point range were 188 more than any other player. He led the league in both non-restricted-area paint points (370) and mid-range points (616). As noted above, his 750 pull-up, 2-point jumpers were 160 more than any other player. Only 12 other players took half as many as DeRozan.
- DeRozan was one of three players who shot better than 50 percent on at least 25 shots with the game within three points in the last three minutes.
- Serge Ibaka ranks ninth in field goal percentage in the restricted area (68.8 percent) among 116 players with at least 1,000 attempts there over the last five years. He ranks seventh in mid-range field goal percentage (47.0 percent) among 74 players with at least 1,000 mid-range attempts over the last five years. The only other player in the top 10 in both is Kevin Durant (first and eighth).
- Last season, Ibaka ranked second in the league with 512 catch-and-shoot attempts.
- The Raptors scored 1.22 points per possession when Kyle Lowry was the ball-handler on a ball screen, the highest mark among 89 players who used at least 300, according to SportVU.
- Lowry was one of three players that shot better than 40 percent on at least 25 3-point attempts in the last four seconds of the shot clock.
- C.J. Miles shot 52.2 percent on corner threes, the second best mark (behind only that of Kyle Korver) among players who attempted at least 100. He was one of four players who made at least 25 3-pointers from the left corner and at least 25 from the right corner. While he was on the floor last season, he accounted for 47.5 percent of the Pacers’ made threes, the second highest rate among players who played at least 500 minutes.
- Jakob Poeltl committed 6.5 fouls per 36 minutes, most among players who played at least 500 minute last season.
- Norman Powell took 47 percent of his 3-pointers from the corners, the sixth highest rate among 177 players who attempted at least 150 total threes. He shot just 32.4 percent from 3-point range overall, down from 40.4 percent as a rookie. That was the fifth biggest drop-off among 147 players who attempted at least 75 threes in 2015-16 and 150 in ’16-17.
- Jonas Valanciunas shot 54.3 percent on non-restricted-area paint shots, the second best mark among players who attempted at least 100. It was the third time in the last four seasons that he’s ranked in the top three in that regard.
- Valanciunas, Ibaka and Miles recorded assists on just 5.9 percent, 6.2 percent and 6.2 percent of their possessions, respectively. Those were the second, third and fourth lowest assist ratios among players who averaged at least 20 minutes in 40 or more games last season.
NBA TV’s Raptors preview premieres at 6:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Oct. 7. See the full preview schedule here.
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