The Toronto Raptors can't pass.
Take a look at any measure of passing you want - assist rate, assists per field goals made, number of times one player dribbles more than 20 times per possession - and you'll find the Raptors wallowing at or near the bottom. As our Zach Salzmann pointed out today, the Raptors' aversion to sharing the ball makes them a chore to watch and, we've been lead to believe, hurts their offense.
But does it?
In today's Hook, SB Nation's Tom Ziller broke down the tried-and-true formula that more assists = good offense. His cast study was the Lakers, who currently rank third in assists per field goals made but are near the bottom in overall offensive efficiency. According to Ziller, the conventional wisdom that more passing leads to better offense doesn't necessarily hold true.
Does that mean Raptors fans should be fine with an offense dominated by two wings that seem allergic to passing? In a word, no.
As Ziller points out, the key to effective offense is getting high-percentage shots, regardless of how they're created. An open layup is an open layup, whether it's born from a Chris Paul no-look pass or a Russell Westbrook blow-by to the rim.
Unfortunately for the Raptors, DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay are poor passers and - to put it lightly - treat high-percentage shots like the plague. Per NBA.com/stats, both are among the league leaders in midrange shots attempted per game; to rub in a little more salt, they only make about a third of those attempts. Given that Gay and DeRozan use nearly 60% of the team's possessions when they share the floor, that's a recipe for ugly and inefficient basketball. ("Your 2013-14 Raptors! Leaders in ugly and inefficient basketball!" Come on Raptors marketing department, get on it!)
Despite the unappealing exterior, the Raptors still sport a league-average offense through the first 11 games of the season, lending some support to Ziller's argument that offense and assist rate don't always go hand-in-hand. Still, I suspect that ranking will drop if the team's offensive profile continues to skew to the most inefficient option.
The lesson here? Tomorrow night against the Sixers, focus less on ball movement and more on the types of shots the Raptors are getting. That might tell us more about where this team's offense is going.