Analyzing the Disappointing Teams Part IV: Toronto Raptors

Toronto has received a lot of attention on this blog recently, but they are arguably one of the most disappointing teams in the league this season and are perfect for this series. After some high expectations in the offseason, the Raptors have stumbled to a 16-28 record. Making the playoffs isn’t an impossible task for them but it grows more and more difficult by the day.

Although they are below average on both ends of the court, defense is a bigger concern at the moment. Their defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions) ranks 26th in the NBA. They do an excellent job of not fouling the opponent (although is this a sign that they’re “soft?”), ranking third in the league in this category. However, in the other three of the Four Factors, they’re towards the bottom.

If Toronto could get its offense to improve, perhaps it could do just well enough to at least fight for a final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference despite having a poor defense. Unfortunately, they struggle in this area as well. Oddly enough, they’re either average or above average in three of the Four Factors (shooting percentage, avoiding turnovers, and drawing fouls). However, in the fourth, offensive rebounds, they’re terrible (second worst in the NBA). Crashing the boards is a risky proposition because they would risk hurting their already porous defense, but it also might go a long way towards making this team successful.

Injuries have been a slight concern. Jose Calderon and Jermaine O’Neal have each missed a decent amount of time due to various injuries. However, I don’t think that’s big enough of an excuse for this team. And when you try to analyze what’s going wrong, it’s hard. This team has a lot of talent despite whatever holes exist.

Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon are legitimate talents, although their defense is somewhat lacking (Bosh ranks in the 70th percentile in Defensive Composite Score while Calderon is at 43.65%). Jamario Moon ranks very well in Composite Score, and that’s nothing new. I’ve seen him play and can see that he’s very athletic, but the fact that he consistently looks this good in CS puzzles me. Perhaps it’s because he gets a lot of minutes with the aforementioned Bosh and Calderon, or perhaps the players that replace him are just that bad (more on that later).

One source of disappointment has been O’Neal. He was acquired in the offseason through a trade mainly involving T.J. Ford. He was supposed to give the Raptors a defensive presence in the middle and form a two-headed monster of a frontcourt with Bosh. Neither has happened. O’Neal hasn’t been awful (especially when you consider his injury history), but he should be doing more. His rebounding in particular seems like it should be better. Still, he is a great interior defender. He’s been rumored to be traded to Miami for a little while now, so if that happens, we’ll see how he performs with his new team.

The Raptors have two huge holes: backup point guard and swingmen besides Moon. The first hole is especially problematic since Calderon has been hurt. The team has tried Roko Ukic and Will Solomon at that spot and both have failed spectacularly so far. It’s ironic that the Raptors went from having a point guard controversy last season to desperately needing another point this year.

The other problem is also a relatively new one. Composite Score has been a fan of Anthony Parker in the past, but he’s fallen off considerably this year. He’s actually been used at point guard recently to help with that problem.

So what’s the outlook for Toronto? Obviously a lot depends on whether or not the team decides to trade O’Neal. Regardless, they should have a lot of talent either way. I’m not sure if it’s the coaching, or maybe the players are just overrated in my mind, but this team has a lot more talent than its record suggests. It can’t stay miserable for too long, or else Bosh might bolt for greener pastures in 2010.

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