Putting aside any disappointments we may feel about those last two games, it must be acknowledged that, by nearly any standard, this was the Greatest Team in Franchise History; the most regular season wins, the most home wins, the most road wins, the most playoff wins… I may have had my expectations raised too high by those two wins against Cleveland, but this team, despite its flaws, arguably played above its talent level, exceeded expectations, and acted as the best example ever set by this franchise. NBA players might actually want to play here now.
But now the challenge is how to address the glaring flaws that kept the Raptors from being competitive 67% of the series with Cleveland, and which resulted in two tortuous series against inferior opponents. It’s hard to know exactly what those flaws are – despite how glaring they seemed – since the flaws seemed to shift from game to game during the playoffs. For many games, it was that the stars were slumping, carried along by strong performances by the supporting cast. But by the end, the most obvious flaw was that the stars didn’t have any offensive support from the support cast (at least in that final game…).
- The Raptors won 66 games and lost only 36
- They were the 6th best team in the regular season based on Basketball-Reference’s Simple Rating System
- Offensively, they were the 14th best team by Points Per Game, but 5th by Offensive Rating
- Defensively they were the 3rd best team by Points Per Game, but 11th by Defensive Rating
- Unfortunately, the Raptors were the second slowest team in the league.
Best. Team. Ever.
I don’t have any solutions, but I wonder about the ceiling of this team (we might have just seen it) and I wonder about our window.
Let’s look at the individual players.
Note: Ranking is on the Raptors, unless otherwise specified.
Kyle Lowry, 30, PG – $12 million per year, player option in 2017
- 1,634 points (2nd), 494 assists(1st), 158 steals (1st), 365 boards (3rd) and 34 blocks (3rd) in 2,851 minutes (7th in the league) over 77 games
- Per 100 possessions: 29.6P (2nd), 9A (1st), 2.9S (2nd, 1st among regular players), 6.6R (12th), .6B (12th)
- .427 FG% (11th), .388 3P% (4th), .811 FT% (t-5th), .551 TS% (4th)
- 22.2 PER (2nd), 29.9 Assist % (1st), 11.6 WS (8th in the league, 1st on the team), .196 WS per 48 minutes (2nd), 6.8 Box Plus Minus (7th in the league, 1st on the team), 6.3 VORP (6th in the league, 1st on the team)
- 5th in the league 3 Pointers, 6th in 3 Point attempts, 10th in Free Throws
- 5th in the league in Steals
- 6th in the league in MPG, 16th in APG
- 16th in the league in Steal percentage
- 3rd Team All Star, All Star Game appearance, 10th in MVP voting
- 382 points (2nd), 119 assists (1st), 32 steals (1st), 94 rebounds (3rd), 3 blocks (t-6th) in 766 minutes (1st) over 20 games
- Per 100 possessions: 26.8P (3rd), 8.3A (1st), 2.2S (3rd), 6.6R (10th), .2B (t-8th)
- .397 FG% (8th), .304 3P% (5th), .750 FT% (t-4th), .508 TS% (7th)
- 16.6 PER (2nd), 29.2 assist % (1st), 1.2 WS (3rd), .077 WS per 48 (5th), 1 BPM (2nd), 1.1 VORP (1st)
Lowry had an incredible year – better, in some respects, than his previous All-Star season – but then had a disastrous start to the playoffs again. He seemed either scared, slightly injured, or both. But when he’s on, he’s one of the top point guards in the Eastern Conference at the moment, maybe Irving is the only one who is better on offense (or maybe Wall too, and maybe Thomas) and few starters are better on defense. Unfortunately, he’s 30. So, given that he’s our best player, he’s our window, at least until the Raptors have a better option. He’s under contract next season and then he has a player option. Whether or not he exercises that option (and whether or not the Raptors want him to) will help define that window. But basically, if the Raptors want to go to to a final with Lowry as their best or second best player, the time is now. Now he and DeRozan need some help.
DeMar DeRozan, 26, SG/SF – player option this summer (he’ll decline it)
- 1,830 points (8th in the league), 315 assists (2nd), 81 steals (2nd), 349 rebounds (5th), 21 blocks (8th) in 2,804 minutes (2nd) over 78 games
- Per 100 possessions: 33.7P (1st), 5.8A (4th), 1.5S (t-11th), 6.4R (13th), 0.4B (t-14th)
- .446 FG% (8th), .338 3P% (8th), .85 FT% (3rd), .550 TS% (7th)
- 21.5 PER (3rd), 20.8 assist % (3rd), 9.9 WS (2nd), .169 WS per 48 (3rd), 1.4 Box Plus Minus (3rd), 2.4 VORP (2nd)
- 10th in the league in Field Goals, 2nd in Free Throws, 3rd in Free Throw attempts
- 8th in the league in MPG
- 9th in in the league PPG
- 418 points (1st), 54 assists (2nd), 22 steals (2nd), 83 rebounds (4th), 3 blocks (t-6th) in 746 minutes (2nd) over 20 games
- Per 100 possessions: 30.1P (1st), 3.9A (t-3rd), 1.6S (t-7th), 6R (11th), .2B (t-8th)
- .394 FG% (9th), 1.54 3P% (9th), .813 FT% (3rd), .462% (t-10th)
- 14.3 PER (4th), 14.7 assist % (3rd), 0.1 Win Shares (t-9th), .010 WS per 48 (13th), -3.4 BPM (11th), -.03 VORP (last)
DeRozan took another step forward during the regular season, becoming one of the best players in the NBA at drawing free throws. He seemed to forget he could do that at times in the playoffs and, like Lowry, often appeared dazed and/or injured (and had some brutal shooting games, just brutal). The advanced metrics were not kind to him in the playoffs based on his shooting and defense.
That being said, do the Raptors have another option? No, they don’t. And we can hope that DeRozan will learn from this year’s experience and improve in next year’s playoffs, provided we can sign him. But it’s worth wondering how far this team can go with either
- DeRozan as the 2nd best player on this team or
- DeRozan not becoming a more consistent defender and shooter.
Cory Joseph, 24, PG – $7 million plus per year, player option in 2018
- 677 points (5th), 250 assists (3rd), 63 steals (3rd), 210 rebounds (7th), 20 blocks (9th) in 2,046 minutes (3rd) over 80 games (4 starts)
- Per 100 possessions: 17.1P (10th), 6.3A (3rd), 1.6S (t-8th), 5.3R (15th), .5B (13th)
- .439 FG% (9th), .273 3P% (12th), .764 FT% (8th), .512 TS% (13th)
- 12.4 PER (11th), 19.3 assist % (4th), 3.5 Win Shares (7th), 0.82 WS per 48 (12th), -1 Box Plus Minus (13th), .5 VORP (7th)
- 170 points (4th), 47 assists (3rd), 18 steals (t-3rd), 41 rebounds (7th), 2 blocks (t-8th) in 452 minutes (6th) over 20 games (zero starts)
- Per 100 possessions: 20.2P (t-4th), 5.6A (2nd), 1.6S (t-7th), 4.9R (last), .5B (t-8th)
- .466 FG% (5th), .333 3P% (2nd), .75 FT% (4th), .524 TS% (5th)
- 13.8 PER (5th), 18.9 assist % (2nd), .8 Win Shares (t-4th), .081 WS per 48 (4th), -0.1 BPM (6th), .2 VORP (6th)
Some people miss Lou Williams but I don’t. There were times in the first round in particular where I thought Joseph was virtually the only player on the team – certainly the only guard – who was not panicking himself into terrible shots. Though Joseph has his flaws – he couldn’t shoot during the regular season, an off year for him – I feel like backup point guard is one place where the team is set for the near future.
Patrick Patterson, 27, PF – $6.05 million through next season
- 543 points (7th), 342 rebounds (6th), 32 blocks (5th), 94 assists (4th), 53 steals (5th) in 2,020 minutes (4th) in 79 games (zero starts)
- Per 100 possessions: 13.9P (14th), 8.7 (7th)R, .8B (8th), 2.4A (7th), 1.4S (13th)
- .414 FG% (13th), .362 3P% (7th), .853 FT% (2nd, first among regular players), .534 TS% (10th)
- 10.6 PER (14th), 9.7 rebound % (7th), 3.6 Win Shares (t-5th), .086 WS per 48 (11th), 1 Box Plus Minus (5th), 1.5 VORP (3rd)
- 153 points (6th), 77 rebounds (6th), 9 blocks (3rd), 24 assists (4th), 7 steals (9th) in 583 minutes (4th) over 20 games (9 starts)
- Per 100 possessions: 14.1P (10th), 7.1R (7th), .8B (t-4th), 2.2A (7th), .6S (12th)
- .404 FG% (7th), .300 3P% (6th), .846 FT% (2nd), .519 TS% (6th)
- 10.1 PER (9th), 7.9 rebound % (t-8th), .7 Win Shares (6th), .06 WS per 48 (7th), .4 BPM (3rd), .4 VORP (3rd).
Patterson has been a solid option for the Raptors as a backup 4 but I think that’s all he will ever be. (I mean, he has no offense, look at those numbers.) If the Raps have one need this summer, it’s a better starting 4. I would be satisfied with 2Pat as a backup to an above average 4, I think. The advanced stats certainly like his defense.
Bismack Biyombo, 23, C – player option this summer (he’ll decline it)
- 454 points (8th), 655 rebounds (1st), 133 blocks (9th in the league, 1st on the team), 29 assists (11th), 19 steals (11th) in 1,808 minutes (5th) over 82 games (22 starts)
- Per 100 possessions: 13P (15th), 18.7R (1st), 3.8B (1st), .8A (15th), .5S (last)
- .542 FG% (3rd), 0 3P% (on 1 attempt), .628 FT% (12th), .586 TS% (3rd)
- 14.9 PER (6th), 20.8 rebound % (5th in the league, 1st on the team), 5.9 Win Shares (4th), .156 WS per 48 (5th), -0.1 Box Plus Minus (8th), 0.9 VORP (5th)
- 5h in the league in Defensive Rebound %
- 2nd in the league in Block %
- 123 points (8th), 187 rebounds (led playoffs through first 3 rounds), 27 blocks (1st), 8 assists (8th), 8 steals (8th) in 506 minutes (5th) over 20 games (10 starts)
- Per 100 possessions: 13P (11th), 19.8R (2nd), 2.9B (3rd), .8A (13th), .8S (11th)
- .580 FG% (2nd, 1st regular player), no 3 point attempts, .597 FT% (12th), .611 TS% (2nd, 1st regular player)
- 16 PER (3rd), 22.2 rebound % (2nd), 1.5 WS (t-1st), .146 WS per 48 (2nd), 0 BPM (5th), .3 VORP (t-4th)
Listen: I get why everyone loves Biyombo. He had the best year of his career and elevated his game when it really counted. But Biyombo is going to be offered some ridiculous amount of money and the guy is a backup centre in this league until he can learn how to score in more than two ways. Remember what happened when we signed Hedo because of his playoff run? I do.
Unless he gives the team a (massive) “home town” discount, he should be allowed to walk.
Terrence Ross, 25, SF/SG – $10.5 million per year through 2018-19
- 720 points (4th), 185 rebounds (8th), 56 assists (7th), 54 steals (4th), 25 blocks (7th) in 1,747 minutes (6th) over 73 games (7 starts)
- Per 100 possessions: 21.3P (5th), 5.5R (14th), 1.7A (11th), 1.6S (t-8th), .7B (t-9th)
- .431 FG% (10th), .386 3P% (5th), .79 FT% (7th), .551 TS% (6th)
- 12.9 PER (10th), 3.6 Win Shares (t-5th), .100 WS per 48 (9th), -.02 Box Plus Minus (9th), .8 VORP (6th)
- 3rd in the league turnover percentage (that’s bad)
- 126 points 97th), 32 rebounds (8th), 11 assists (t-6th), 13 steals (t-5th), 5 blocks (5th) in 335 minutes (7th) over 20 games (zero starts)
- Per 100 possessions: 20.2P (t-4th), 5.1R (13th), 1.8A (t-8th), 2.1S (t-4th), .8B (t-4th)
- .387 FG% (11th), .328 3P% (4th), .65 FT% (10th), .538 TS% (9th)
- 10.1 PER (t-9th), 0.2 Win Shares (t-7th), 0.23 WS 48 (11th), -2 BPM (8th), 0 VORP (t-7th)
At least by PER, Ross had his best year so far (which isn’t saying much…). But if any of the long-time Raptors were like a deer in the headlights this playoff, it was Ross. Ross hit some big shots but shot far below his regular percentages (and does so every playoff) and did not make enough of an impact when they needed him. He’s a scorer more than anything, and he didn’t score efficiently enough for him to be playable. 4
Though he is under contract as long as anyone on this team, I am pretty sure this team needs a different backup SG/SF to improve upon this year.
Luis Scola, 36, PF – Free Agent
- 664 points (6th), 360 rebounds (4th), 27 blocks (6th), 66 assists (6th), 46 steals (6th) in 1,636 minutes (7th) in 76 games
- Per 100 possessions: 21P (6th), 11.4R (5th), .9B (7th), 2.1A (8th), 1.5S (t-11th)
- .45 FG% (t-6th), .404 3P % (t-1st), .726 FT% (11th), .523 TS% (12th)
- 13.6 PER (8th), 12.6 rebound % (5th), 3.3 Win Shares (8th), .098 WS per 48 (10th), -1.2 Box Plus Minus (14th), 0.3 VORP (t-10th)
- 28 points (11th), 18 rebounds (10th), 7 assists (9th), 3 steals (t-10th) in 140 minutes (10th) over 11 games (9 starts)
- Per 100 possessions: 10.7P (13th), 6.9R (t-9th), 2.7A (6th), 1.2S (10th)
- .258 FG% (last), .19 3P% (8th), .727 FT% (8th), .391 TS% (13th)
- 2.7 PER (last), 7.7 rebound % (9th), -0.1 Win Shares (last), -0.027 WS per 48 (last), -4.4 BPM (13th), -0.1 VORP (13th)
Scola didn’t have a bad year really – though he shouldn’t have been the starter – but he had an awful playoff and was barely playable. (One might argue he was unplayable but somehow still played.)
Time to retire, I think. If he stays in the NBA, I really hope it’s not with the Raptors.
Jonas Valanciunas, 24, C – $14-$17 million through 2019-20
- 768 points (3rd), 547 rebounds (2nd), 80 blocks (2nd), 42 assists (9th), 25 steals (10th) in 1,557 minutes (8th) over 60 games (59 starts)
- Per 100 possessions: 25.P (3rd), 18.2R (2nd), 2.7B (3rd), 1.4A (13th), .8S (15th)
- .565 FG% (2nd, 1st regular player), no 3-pointers, .761 FT% (9th), .610 TS% (2nd, 1st regular player)
- 22.6 PER (1st), 20.1 rebound % (2nd), 6.9 Win Shares (3rd), .211 WS per 48 (1st), 1.1 Box Plus Minus (4th), 1.2 VORP (4th)
- 165 points (5th), 129 rebounds (2nd), 14 blocks (2nd), 11 assists (t-6th), 10 steals (7th) in 321 minutes (8th) over 12 games (10 starts)
- Per 100 possessions: 27.6P (2nd), 21.6R (1st), 2.3B (2nd), 1.8A (t-8th), 1.7S (6th)
- .567 FG% (3rd, 2nd regular player), no 3-pointers, .744 FT% (7th), .601 TS% (3rd, 2nd regular player)
- 26.8 PER (1st), 24.1 rebound % (1st), 1.5 Win Shares (t-1st), .226 WS per 48 (1st), 4 BPM (1st), 0.5 VORP (2nd)
Despite injuries, Valanciunas had the best season of his career and then, prior to his ankle injury, let everyone know he arrived in the playoffs. The Raptors finally have their centre they hoped for, I think. Now, if the Raptors can only use him more.
James Johnson, 29, SF/PF – Free Agent
- 287 points (9th), 126 rebounds (9th), 67 assists (5th), 29 steals (8th) and 33 blocks (4th) in 926 minutes (9th) over 57 games (32 starts)
- Per 100 possessions: 16P, 7R, 3.7A, 1.6S, 1.8B
- .475 FG%, .303 3P %, .574 FT%, .532 TS%
- 11.4 PER, 1.3 WS, 0.68 WS per 48, -0.6 BPM, 0.3 VORP
- 68 points (10th), 15 rebounds (11th), 6 assists (11th), 3 steals (10th), no blocks in 98 minutes (11th) over 10 games (zero starts)
- Per 100 possessions: 16.4P (8th), 8.2R (5th), 3.3A (5th), 1.6S (t-7th)
- .480 FG% (4th), .444 3P% (1st), .667 FT% (9th), .570 TS% (4th)
- 9.5 PER (12th), .1 WS (t-9th), .041 WS per 48 (9th), -2.2 BPM (9th), 0 VORP (t-7th)
I have always been a fan of Johnson. He has always struck me as a jump shot and perhaps a slightly higher basketball IQ away from being an ideal Swiss army knife-style 3. But Johnson found his role significantly cut this year in the regular season and didn’t find minutes in the playoffs, really, until the 3rd round, when he was one of the few options to defend LeBron. He actually had the best shooting playoffs of his career, which is something. (Don’t assume Johnson can dependably hit 3s just because he was 4 for 9 in these playoffs). But there are a lot of players in the league who offer most of what he offers and some of those can shoot consistently.
If the Raptors can get a better back-up 3/4 for a reasonable raise, than he shouldn’t be brought back. On the other hand, if he comes cheap, he may still be a reliable deep bench players going forward, as he was at times during the Cleveland series.
DeMarre Carroll, 29, SF/SF – $14-15.5 mil through 2019
- 286 points (10th), 122 rebounds (10th), 27 assists (12th), 44 steals (7th) and 6 blocks (13th) in 786 minutes (10th) over 26 games (22 starts)
- Per 100 possessions: 18.8P (8th), 8R (9th), 1.8A (t-9th), 2.9S (t-2nd), 0.4B (t-14th)
- .389 FG% (14th), .390 3P% (3rd), .6 FT% (13th), .49 TS% (14th)
- 11.9 PER (12th), 1.2 Win Shares (11th), 0.74 WS per 48 (13th), .2 Box Plus Minus (7th), .4 VORP (8th)
- 177 points (3rd), 81 rebounds (5th), 17 assists (5th), 18 steals (t-3rd), 7 blocks (4th) in 596 minutes (3rd) over 20 games (19 starts)
- Per 100 possessions: 15.9P (9th), 7.3R (6th), 1.5A (11th), 1.6S (9th), .6 blocks (6th)
- .390 FG (10th), .329 3P% (3rd), .75 FT% (t-4th), .506 TS% (6th)
- 9.9 PER (11th), .8 WS (t-4th).062 WS per 48 (6th), 0.3 BPM (4th), .03 VORP (t-4th)
We can’t judge the Carroll contract on this season, or even this playoff. Here’s hoping he’s healthier next year. The good news is the cap is going up.
Norman Powell, 23, SG – rookie contract through 2018
- 273 points (11th), 47 assists (8th), 29 steals (9th), 111 rebounds (11th), 10 blocks (12th) in 725 minutes (11th) over 49 games (24 starts)
- Per 100 possessions: 19.5P (7th), 3.4A (6th), 2.1S (6th), 7.9R (10th), .7B (t-10th)
- .424 FG% (12th), .404 3P% (t-1st), .811 FT% (t-5th), .541 TS% (8th)
- 13.3 PER (9th), 10.4 assist % (6th), 1.6 Win Shares (9th), .105 WS per 48 (8th), -0.4 Box Plus Minus (10th), 0.3 VORP (t-9th)
- 68 points (9th), 6 assists (t-10th), 13 steals (t-5th), 23 rebounds (9th), 2 blocks (t-8th) in 206 minutes (9th)
- Per 100 possessions: 17.7P (7th), 1.6A (10th), 3.4S (2nd), 7R (8th), .5B (7th)
- .386 FG% (12th), .269 3P% (7th), .875 FT% (1st)
- 11.4 PER (7th), 5.1 assists percentage (10th), .2 WS (t-7th), .054 WS per 48 (8th), -1.3 BPM (7th), 0 VORP (t-7th)
It was Powell, not Wright, who has looked like the find in the draft this season (though we traded for him). At the end of the regular season, he even looked like a capable backup swingman (though he’s small to play the 3). He shot poorly from 3 in the playoffs – though well at the line, when he did get calls – but he had no fear. At times, it felt like Powell and Joseph were the only guards on the team who weren’t afraid of the moment, something that is surprising for a rookie.
Glad he’s on the team.
That’s all the players who have played in at least 250 minutes for the Raptors this season.
To me, the team looks like this:
- PG: set, at least for one year
- SG: set
- SF: need a backup
- PF: need a starter
- C: will need a backup, more than likely
Hopefully the team’s success will draw interest from free agents this summer or next. The team really needs a strong power forward who can score consistently and has the range to allow JV to operate in the post at the same time. Perhaps nearly as important would be a 2/3 who can spell DeRozan or Carroll, ideally providing both better defense than DeMar and better offense than DeMarre. (Ross doesn’t appear to be that guy, unfortunately.) That’s my wishlist for the summer. Here’s hoping.