I was sitting on the Subway yesterday reading ESPN the magazine. The main focus of this issue was the NFL and their predictions. In the feature article the author gives a statistical break-down on everything from fumble recovery rates to Pythagorean projections in an attempt to predict this season’s surprise team. Based on a number of factors the "Mag" predicts, or perhaps more accurately expects, that the Houston Texans will be this season’s surprise team.
Well in my experience predictions, in particular in sports, rarely come to fruition. More often than not what one predicts and what actually happens are very different things. This is perhaps more true in sports than any other area of life. No-one predicted the Mavs to lose to the Warriors in the playoffs two years ago and no-one predicted the Giants would upset the Pats in the Superbowl. In sports you have to come to expect the unexpected.
As NBA experts (and Steven A. Smith) discuss what to expect this upcoming NBA season there will undoubtedly be some chatter about the Raptors Jason Kapono. Based on Kap-One’s performance in last season’s playoffs it’s to be expected. We all watched the series against Orlando so I won’t blather on about how great Kapono was during those five games other than to say he was one of the sole bright spots and to lay out the stats. In the regular season Kapono averaged 7.2p ppg in just under 19 minutes of action while shooting 48.8% from the floor and a blistering 48.3% from beyond the arc. In the playoffs Kapono took his offensive game to another level averaging more than twice as many points (15.6 ppg) while logging 30 plus minutes and shooting an unbelievable 58.5% from the floor and 54.2% from downtown.
These numbers tell me a couple of things. First, it seems clear to me that the Raptors depth last season, coined the team’s biggest asset, was in fact detrimental to Jason Kapono. Second, Kapono might be the biggest beneficiary to the Jermaine O’Neal trade.
For much of last season Kapono came off the bench and there were many times last season when I wondered why BC was so quick to lock this guy up to a fairly lucrative contract. As much as you can get down on AP for being inconsistent at times you never knew what to expect out of Jason night in and night out. This was even more evident when TJ Ford went down with injury and Calderon was moved to the starting line-up. In January of last season Kapono’s numbers hit a season low when he was logging most of his minutes without a true PG to feed him the rock. Not one to create his own shot Kapono struggled and shot below 40%. There was little chatter about Kapono at that point and he in many was a forgotten man.
Now with the shake-up of the roster it is blatantly obvious to me what needs to be done with Jason Kapono. He has to start. Hell to me it’s a no brainer.
Just a while back we did an interview with Matt Devlin and much of my conversation with him surrounded the acquisition of JO and the potential benefit. Much of the chatter was on the issues opposing defenses will have with two All-Star big men on the floor. Coaches will be left having to decide who, and when to double and even more importantly who to leave open. Not to dumb things down too much but won’t it be exponentially harder for teams to double CB4 and JO with Kapono on the floor as opposed to Moon? One of the biggest benefits of having this two headed monster in the paint is to make things easier on your shooters, and Kapono is the best shooter this team has. From a percentage standpoint it will almost be unfair to opposing defenses. Bosh shoots around .500 from the floor while O’Neal shoots around 47%. Kapono as detailed above shoots a similarly high percentage. Combined they will be a nightmare for opposing teams and the team should do a much better job getting out to a fast start, something that plagued them for much of last year.
Also supporting the case for Kapono to start is the evidence that he is much more effective when he is playing alongside a competent PG. If Kapono is used off the bench how effective will he be with Roko and Solomon running the team? Neither guy is a pure PG like Calderon. Kapono’s shooting ability is simply too good to waste and have riding the pine.
Of course the knock on Kapono is his defense, or lack thereof. Is he the most agile player on the court at any given time? Absolutely not, but the stats tell us that he may not be the liability one would expect. According to 82games.com the team last season was net 0.6 ppg over 48 minutes when Kapono was on the floor. Given the Raps defense was more that porous at times last season I was absolutely dumbfounded to see that Kapono was even a net positive. Even if you do see him as a defensive liability wouldn’t you sleep more soundly knowing that he had Bosh and O’Neal covering his back rather than only one of these guys?
Writing and more importantly researching this article has convinced me that perhaps outside of Bargnani who will be relied on heavily to spark the second team offence (and who is way ahead in our latest x-factor poll), Kapono may in fact be the true wildcard to this upcoming season. If he produces anything like he did against the Magic there may be a lot less calls for that athletic swingman.
I for one have lofty expectations for Kap-One this season. Hopefully what I expect isn’t too far off what actually happens this season.