Could former Knick Shawne Williams provide the Raps with a cost-effective floor-spacing option?
The HQ notes the importance of an upgrade from long-range for the Dinos next season...whenever that is...
Last year the Toronto Raptors finished with a 3-point percentage of .316.
That was the league's worst mark, and a key part of the club's 22 wins last year. Without the consistent ability to spread the floor on offence, opposing teams would often pack the lane and the Raptors, normally one of the league's most explosive offensive clubs, ended up averaging a middling 99.1 points per game, 17th best in the league.
However it wasn't that the Dinos kept chucking them up despite the fact that they didn't go in. Toronto knew it couldn't shoot to a certain extent, and averaged only 13.3 long-range bombs a game, second worst in the league.
To put things in perspective, the top teams in this department like Orlando and Houston and Dallas all took 20 or more 3's a game, and considering their much higher conversion rates on said shots, this represented a distinct advantage over teams like Toronto.
So why the lack of 3 point success?
For starters, the team had lost some of its long-range fire-power via trades and free agency prior to the start of last season, as even folks like Chris Bosh were fairly competent from beyond the arc.
Second, many of the players Toronto was counting on to produce in this fashion, just didn't.
Guys like Linas Kleiza and Leandro Barbosa battled injuries and weren't the long-range threat most expected them to be, and others like Jose Calderon simply struggled to knock their shots down. Jose actually hit on nearly 37 per cent of his shots, well above the team average, but as we've noted before, that mark represented a drop for the fourth straight year. At one point, Jose hit nearly 44 per cent of his 3-point attempts. Jose also attempted the fewest amount of 3's a game since 2007-08 seasons.
Other players like Andrea Bargnani followed suit, posting near career lows in 3-point categories. Bargs' numbers actually mirrored those of his sophomore season, and for someone who was supposed to be a floor-stretcher, he fent far too much time attempting long-range two's.
And DeMar DeRozan, one of the team's top two offensive options, shot under 10 per cent from 3.
Perhaps then it's no surprise that numerous Raptors turned up recently on Golden State of Mind's post on the topic.
GSM has been doing some statistical work this off-season having developed a new scoring metric (PSAMS), and in their investigation of 3-point prowess, there wasn't a lot of Toronto love. The Raps didn't have a single player in their "top 25 starters" category, but unfortunately DeRozan, Barbosa and Sonny Weems all showed up in the "bottom" categories.
Regardless of how you feel about the PSAMS metric, the point here is that this is indeed an area that Toronto needs some serious upgrades in. If and when the season ever gets going, getting a true floor stretching threat should be a top priority for management, which may or may not include Ed Stefanski.
However this won't be an easy task.
We've gone through the porous options at the 1 already regarding free agents, and with DeMar firmly entrenched at the 2, any upgrade in 3-point shooting from the starting group would likely have to come via the 3 spot, and at the expense of James Johnson. Of course it's possible that Johnson and DeRozan have been working on their long-range game during this extend off-season, but both have a long ways to go before proving to be even adequate "floor stretchers."
Looking again then at top SF free agent options, guys like Tayshaun Prince (career 37% shooter from 3), Caron Butler (43% from 3 last season) and Shane Battier (career 39% shooter from 3) all fit this mould, although perhaps not ideal due to other factors like age and salary demands.
Maybe then the key is to find a dead-eye marksmen off the bench, someone who could play a sixth man role at a reasonable cost, someone like say Shawne Williams, who hit 40% from 3 last year for the Knicks. His acquisition could be one of those subtle, "Moneyball" type upgrades that could pay big dividends, especially if guys like Barbosa continue their slide in terms of 3-point accuracy.
Other options like James Jones and Reggie Williams make sense along these lines, and without a ton of cash to spend on a one-dimensional player, this may be the way Toronto has to go. We've seen players of this ilk play big roles for clubs during championship drives (Eddie House, Sasha Vujacic etc) although teams predicated on this facet alone, haven't exactly guaranteed themselves titles.
Forget titles though.
For a team like Toronto just trying to crawl back into playoff relevance, a good first step towards increased on-court success would be to look for immediate upgrades in this area.
And by this I'm not talking about the return of Mr. Kleiza...