The incredible story of the Raptors offense

When most people talked about the Raptors, they talked about the horrible defense, they even break it down to why it’s so bad, but they overlooked that the Raptors also has a pretty darn good offense. You would think someone would try to do an analysis on why that’s the case. After all, the Raptors ranked 22nd in offensive efficiency last season and right now they are 4th in the league. That’s an 18 spot jump, which is pretty rare thing to see in less than a year.

So what has happened?

To an outsider or someone who doesn’t watch the Raptors play, they would look at the roster and think that the Raptors is a jump shooting team. We do have a lot of good shooters, with Calderon, Bargnani, Turkoglu, Bellinelli, Bosh (an excellent mid range shooter) and etc. But that assumption wouldn’t be accurate; while the Raptors is the fifth best team in terms of 3 points percentage, they don’t attempt a lot of 3s. They are 15th in the league in terms of 3 point attempts per game at 17.7. The Orlando Magic leads the league with 28.8 3 point attempts per game.

The answer is something no one is talking about. The Raptors attack the paint and get to the free throw line. Right now, they are the 2nd best team in the league of getting to the charity stripe. Yes, this is the same Raptor team that had the 2nd worst free throw attempts per game a couple of years ago.

It all starts with Chris Bosh who makes his living at the free throw line. He averages 9 FT attempts per game, but unlike previous years, other Raptors help out. DeMar DeRozan isn’t shy of getting hit, and Jarrett Jack’s strength helps him get to the paint and draw fouls. The most surprising of all is Marco Belinelli, who most people think is a jump shooter, but he is so much more aggressive than I expected. The Laker game is a great example, the Raptors attempted 26 free throws, and Bosh didn’t have an attempt.

Another remarkable thing about this is, that the Raptors remain one of the top teams in terms of taking care of the ball. They are ranked 7th in turnover ratio according to So they manage to draw fouls without turning the ball over, that’s a very tough thing to do. That’s because we have very good ball-handlers, from Jack, Belinelli, Turkoglu, Calderon, Bosh (an above average ballhandler for a PF) and Bargnani (an above average ball handler for a C).

Add to that, Bosh is having a monster year on offense. His added strength allows him to grab more offensive boards and play closer to the rim. According to NBA Hotspots, Bosh attempted 500 FGA around the immediate basket area last season, and this season he has already attempted 376 times while shooting at a higher percentage (57% 08-09, 59% 09-10), and there are almost half a season left.

One last note: This is from Kevin Pelton at Basketball Prospectus:

In paying tribute to Steve Nash earlier this season, I referenced’s breakdown of adjusted plus-minus into the Four Factors at both ends of the floor. Of the top 13 players in adjusted impact on their team’s effective field-goal percentage, 11 were All-Stars last year. The 12th is Deron Williams, and I think it’s safe to say he belongs in the All-Star category despite the fact that a logjam of point guards in the West has kept him from actually making the team. The last player? Turkoglu, who ranked seventh by increasing his team’s eFG% by 1.34 percent while on the floor over the last three seasons when accounting for the quality of his teammates.

What I’m starting to suspect is there is something about how Turkoglu helps an offense that is not picked up by his individual stats. Whether it is because of his versatility, or his ability to run the pick-and-roll, he makes his teammates more efficient without generating a ton of assists or scoring all that efficiently (or that often) himself.

So maybe Hedo is doing something right even if the stats can’t prove it…

In the end, the story of the Raptors offense should get almost as much attention as its horrific (but improving) defense. I hope people do realize that maybe Jay Triano is doing something right.



2 Responses to “The incredible story of the Raptors offense”

  1. JT Says:

    Great post. Maybe Hedo’s effect on offense can be likened to Battier’s effect on defense. It might not show up on typical metrics, but it’s there if you dig deeper.

    • pchu1234 Says:

      It could very well be. Hedo has a very crappy month in January, but his team score over 100 points in all but one game this month. Is it because his teammates stepped up, or maybe Hedo has something to do with it? I don’t know.

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