Though Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said Monday he believes the team has added “more shooters,” offence again projects to be an issue for his squad.
Just not nearly as much as it was a year ago.
In 2011-12, the Raptors finished well below the league average in most shooting categories and bested only the Charlotte Bobcats in offensive ratings (points scored per 100 possessions).
It was a reversal of recent history, where Toronto fielded mostly solid offensive squads that struggled at the other end of the floor. In Casey’s first year at the helm, the Raptors showed massive improvement defensively.
The trick in 2012-13 is to continue to move forward in that regard, while making a significant leap in efficiency with the ball.
To that end, the Raptors brought in Kyle Lowry to put more pressure on opponents.
Lowry relentlessly attacks, which will make the Raptors tougher to guard overall and should allow the team to play at a faster pace, something Casey is urging them to do.
Last year, only five teams played at a slower pace.
While Lowry’s field goal percentage doesn’t stand out, his advanced numbers do and he is a strong outside shooter, gets to the line and hits his freebies (86.4%).
Having Jose Calderon likely lining up often against backups should also give the offence a sizable boost. He has torched backups throughout his NBA career.
General manager Bryan Colangelo also brought in more weapons for Casey to work with.
Rookie Terrence Ross is a strong three-point shooter, free-agent guard John Lucas III is coming off of a career year (39.3% from deep) and has already impressed the staff, fellow free agent Landry Fields posted the same mark from long-range as a rookie before plummeting as a sophomore and odds are Linas Kleiza shows a lot better this campaign.
Kleiza is coming off of a strong Olympic performance for Lithuania and is not recovering from major surgery as he was last time around, which was a big reason why his shooting dropped to a career-low level.
It is also reasonable to believe that Andrea Bargnani will join Kleiza in shooting more like his old self.
Though Bargnani’s overall game took a step forward, his outside shooting dipped under 30% for the first time, notable since he had hit about 38% of his attempts from three over his first five seasons.
Though the Raptors will look to get a lot more points off of the break, the shooters will have to be connecting because that’s where the bulk of the points project to come from.
This won’t be a squad that sends the ball inside and goes to work from there.
Bargnani is solid down low, but in the past, he has not always been willing to work hard enough to establish position inside or he has not been given the ball there often enough.
Amir Johnson and Ed Davis aren’t low-post operators by any means and while Jonas Valanciunas should be effective there eventually, he won’t be as a rookie.
It might actually be guards Lowry and DeMar DeRozan who get a lot of the post-up action. Lowry has the physical strength to punish opponents, while DeRozan has been working at taking advantage of the size, strength and athletic edge he wields over many guards.
With so many new faces on hand to integrate, including a new starter at the point (barring a shocking turn of events), the offence won’t turn around overnight.
But within a few months it should be humming along far better than the version the Raptors deployed last season.
OFFENCE WAS OFFENSIVE
The 2011-12 Raptors were a hard-working group that got after it defensively, but the team’s offence was problematic. Here are some of the lowlights:
CategoryRaptor rank league-wide
*Effective field goal percentage adjusts for the fact a 3-point FG is worth more than a 2-pointer.