A Closer Look at Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan and the Toronto Raptors Offence

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday's overtime session wasn't pretty, and Mohamed Mohamed takes a look at the Raptors' offence and some of the current issues.

The Toronto Raptors prior to this past weekend ranked 20th in True Shooting Percentage (TS%), 25th in Effiective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) and 30th in pace. Despite their shortcomings in those departments, the Raps were actually 12th in offensive efficiency, something that would seem counter intuitive based on the stats we just walked through. It's a mark that's actually two spots higher than last year's final mark and a big piece of it is the team's phenomenal work on the offensive glass. The Raptors were first in ORB% at 32.0%, a mark that  would've been the 14th best mark since the 1999-2000 season[1].

However imagine if Toronto could pull up those other offensive metrics? Suddenly fans probably wouldn't be staring at outcomes like yesterday's OT loss to the Blazers.

Of course one of the problems with the Raps and their putrid shooting percentages is the current construction of the squad. Rudy Gay has a usage rate right now of 31.5 per cent. 31.5!!!!!! That's Kobe Bryant territory. And yet his shooting percentages across the board, whether you look at traditional or advanced metrics are really bad, and at times he's playing like a guy who desperately needs a refund on his eye surgery. According to 82 Games, 33 per cent of his attempted shots come between 16-20 seconds on the shot clock. He has a .279 eFG percentage in this situation. That is the worst percentage in that situation of his career.

And his backcourt mate DeMar DeRozan isn't faring much better. DeRozan is shooting a .288 per cent eFG% with an equal 28 per cent of shots coming between 16-20 seconds.

The Raps ever since acquiring Rudy Gay have had a hard time smoothing the edges off of the Rudy/DeMar partnership. One way they've tried going about it is the use of pick-and-rolls in semi-transition, as seen below:

Pnr1_medium

Above, with 19 seconds on the clock, Amir is setting a screen on Solomon Hill, Hibbert is sagging, allowing for the mid range jumper. Normally, Rudy would take that shot, but instead:

Pnr2_medium

Yes, he attempts to go right to the rim and unfortunately simply charges into a waiting crowd. This is one of the most flummoxing things about Gay. Even when he makes the right move with the basketball, it doesn't necessarily result in the best shot. In this last case he likely should have just pulled up for the mid-range J instead of trying to force the issue in the paint.

At times of course a drive to the cup is the right play, especially for someone with Rudy's size and athletic ability (his game-tying drive yesterday was a perfect example of this), but at other times, forcing the issue in this fashion simply results in needless turnovers, something we've seen Rudy struggle with this season so far.

To try and give Rudy and DeMar more room to operate therefore, it looks like the Raptors have been trying to set up multiple roadblocks to the duo's defenders:

Pnr3_medium

Here we have a double screen situation, one that when used correctly, gives the duo opportunities at the rim. When it hasn't, it leads to calamity, the likes of which no one wants to see on the court:

Pnr4_medium

Without the entire sequence captured on video it's hard to see what has occurred but essentially again, a mid-range option presented itself, but the Raps elected to take the ball right into the crowd near the rim.

That's not to say these pick-and-roll scenarios don't have benefits associated with them. Even though the value of the mid-range jumper has declined significantly, there's still value in the shot, especially since very few players can knock them down with much regularity anymore. DeMar DeRozan shoots nearly 40 per cent from that area, not too shabby compared to the norm, which is much less for wing players.

Now some teams, whether it's an attempt to hide the defensive deficiencies of their big man[2] or just simply an ideology that's ingrained in the coaching staff, are allowing more and more of the mid-range jumper to be taken by allowing the big man guarding the pick-and-roll to sag a bit and concede the jumper. Yes, we've heard Matt Devlin this year mock the public's growing fetish for the 3 ball, especially of the corner variety, but having players who feel confident taking mid range jumpers in transition is a necessary evil . This is by no means excusing all of Rudy or DeMar's shot selection, but there is some method to their madness.

Sequence 1:

Pnr5_medium

Pnr6_medium

Sequence 2:

Pnr7_medium

Pnr8_medium

In both sequences, the Raptors do a nice job of freeing up open mid-range shots using this screen-and-roll action. No, there's not much "rolling" involved on any of these plays, but Gay and DeRozan end up with good looks from such plays and simply need to start knocking these shots down with more frequency.

And yes, really, therein lies the problem.

Neither are doing this, and one wonders if any sort of offensive scheme, regardless of the coach, would actually result in changes to the results we've been seeing of late. DeRozan and Gay need to simply start making these looks although there's no question that trying to build a cohesive offence that revolve around two high usage, poor shooting wings is hard. The general public (yours truly included) has given Dwayne Casey crap for how unorganized the offence can look, but maybe that's the only way this offence can function while Gay and DeRozan are in tow.

Would it be much more satisfying to cover a team that had an offence that resembled say, the Phoenix Suns under Jeff Hornacek? Yes. But realism might have to be exercised on this particular case. Having a wing duo who gain notoriety by their volatile shot selection makes for a team to be the punching bag of the public, leaving radio show hosts and fans to scream about the horrors they have to watch.

However until Masai Ujiri sends one or the other packing, this is what we're left with, and Dwane Casey needs to find a way to optimize what he's working with.

Until he does, it's hard not to envision many more losses like yesterday's on the way.


[1] http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/tsl_finder.cgi?request=1&match=single&type=team_totals&lg_id=NBA&year_min=2000&year_max=2014&franch_id=&c1stat=&c1comp=gt&c1val=&c2stat=&c2comp=gt&c2val=&c3stat=&c3comp=gt&c3val=&c4stat=&c4comp=gt&c4val=&order_by=orb_pct

[2] BOOGIE!!!!!!

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