How Good Will the Toronto Raptors be in 07-08?

Because the Raptors are just one of those teams that never seem to be talked about, I’ve decided to do a quick analysis of their team this year. I’ll probably do this for a few teams before the season starts. I generally don’t like posting predictions, partly because it’s impossible to get everything right but also because there are a ton of them out there already. But here I go…

One thing people should realize about the Raptors is that they were a lot better than their record last year. Despite finishing with a .500 record, their expected win percentage (based on points scored and points allowed) was actually .612 (link). This makes it appear as though the team just ran into some bad luck last year and really wasn’t that bad. That expected win percentage was 4th in the East last year, behind the Celtics, Pistons, and Magic. Their offensive efficiency was 8th in the league last year and their defensive efficiency was 14th. Looking at the four factors (developed by Dean Oliver), you can see that the team’s biggest weaknesses were offensive rebounding, getting to the free throw line, and field goal percentage allowed. The team allowed an effective field goal % of .458 from the outside last season (link), which was very poor. I do not have enough expertise on the Raptors to say whether that was a result of personnel or defensive strategy, but either way that perimeter defense could use some work.

How did they attempt to fix those flaws? Let’s look at their offseason moves. The team added Jermaine O’Neal, Nathan Jawai, Hassan Adams, Will Solomon, and Roko Ukic. It lost T.J. Ford, Rasho Nesterovic, Carlos Delfino, and Jorge Garbajosa. The big move obviously is acquiring O’Neal. He won’t help them on the offensive boards – his offensive rebound rate ranked 97th in the league, considerably worse than Nesterovic. He also doesn’t draw a ton of free throws, although he is much better than Rasho in that area. He’s an excellent defender, but Nesterovic isn’t too shabby either and has always been underrated in that area. Overall, O’Neal should be an improvement over what they had last year, but not as much as people may think.

T.J. Ford is an above average player, but if his loss just means more minutes for the super-talented Jose Calderon, then it’s not a huge loss. Nobody on the Raptors roster will be as good of a backup as Ford could have been, though. Garbajosa ranked as a really good defender according to my system two seasons ago, but he did not figure to have a huge role on the team this year anyways. Delfino is a decent bench player but nothing more.

To me, the Raptors don’t look considerably better or worse on paper than they did last year. Their new acquisitions may be slightly overrated, but so are their losses. Of course, you can’t just look at it based on who the team added or lost. A lot of things change with new players. Maybe Chris Bosh feels less pressured on offense and continues to grow into a superstar, maybe Calderon plays even better knowing he doesn’t have to worry about losing his job to Ford, or maybe all the new faces mess with the team’s chemistry (I hate using that word). It’s hard to say, but given that the team was better last year than most people think, I think an improvement in their record is inevitable (assuming no major injuries).

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Stray comments:

Raptors dramatically better at home than road, and against weak team compared to strong. Need to change one or both some to advance.

Will Solomon ranked 6th best in Euroleage by one stat ranking. Will be important for own stats but more so for team performance under his lead.

I wasn’t aware that Jermaine O’Neal’s offensive rebounding rate fell off so much from his short minute early years. Might be a cautionary tale to keep in mind for smaller. thinner Amir Johnson. Can he repeat performance against a higher mix of starters for more minutes?

Chemistry wil be key. In rotations and between players and coach.

Team probably slows down further.

About the same record in regular season but maybe tougher in playoffs would be my guess.

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