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Sunday Thought - Is Leandro Barbosa Simply Marco Belinelli 2.0?

As part of their continuing Sunday series, the HQ takes a look at Leandro Barbosa, and wonders if Toronto didn't replace one Marco Belinelli with another...

Originally my plan was to run the final installment in our "Missing Chris Bosh" series yesterday, however Synergy's database can be a bit finicky, and I couldn't get it to work the way I wanted it to.

However I could get it to give me proper data for something else I've been wanting to do for a while; compare Leandro Barbosa to Marco Belinelli.

While watching some of the FIBA World Championships, it struck me that the way Leandro Barbosa scored the basketball was quite similar to a former Raptor, Marco Belinelli. Drives to the basket, pull-up 3's, the herky-jerky up-fakes, it got me wondering if maybe the Raptors were replacing one Marco with another.

Having issues with loading Bosh's stats, I tried both Belinelli and Barbosa and got some interesting results:

Cut to basket Hand Off Isolation Off Screen Off Rebound P&R Ball Handler Spot-Up Transition
Barb 2.70% 2.80% 10% 14.30% 1.20% 26% 22.20% 18%
Bel 3.60% 3.20% 5.40% 11.40% 0.50% 20.80% 26.20% 16.70%

As you can see, we're talking about two players who played in very similar manners last season. Both did the bulk of their damage by spotting up for shots, or off transition plays, and were actively involved in the pick-and-roll as the ball handler. Neither cut to the hoop with much frequency and both were pretty uninvolved as offensive rebounders, as well as post-up options. (Barbosa didn't even chart in this area.)

However it wasn't quite a mirror-image situation.

The biggest difference last year was in their isolation sets, where Leandro did 10% of his offensive damage on the year. Marco only did this half as much, 27 plays to 56 in fact. For a Raptors' team looking for more shot-creation next season, I'd argue this is a good tradeoff.

But is this a bit of an apples to oranges compare? Did these two players even get similar minutes and opportunities last year? Remember, Belinelli was hardly getting solid time on the court by season's end.

It looks like Leandro wasn't getting much burn either though.

In fact while Barbosa had a higher usage rate than Belinelli, 24.9 to 20.1, Belinelli actually played more total minutes last year, and averaged almost as many per match (17 to Leandro's 17.9.) The two also attempted a very similar amount of field goals (365 for Barbosa, 379 for Belinelli) and posted similar percentages in this realm.

So what does all this mean for Raptors fans?

I think for starters, it means that fans should expect to be excited and frustrated by Barbosa in many of the same ways they were about Belinelli. This means expecting Leandro to hit some big shots and provide a nice spark off the bench, but also to make suspect decisions with the ball at times, especially in terms of shot selection. At face value based on the stats, the team is essentially replacing Marco Belinelli with a slightly more "one-on-one" version who has more NBA experience.

However I do think that in some ways, Barbosa has more upside than Belinelli ever did, mostly because I think he'll get more consistent minutes. It seemed last year that despite the stats saying Marco was more effective than DeMar on the court, the Raptors' braintrust had a more vested interest in DeRozan, so he got the court-time regardless.

I don't think Barbosa will fall into the same situation for a number of reasons, including the success he's had at the FIBA World's where he's averaged 16 points a game on 46% shooting.

As well, most of the stats indicate that Barbosa is the better defender of the two, albeit marginally. This I think will help him stay on the court for Triano.

But really, this all comes down to coaching and use doesn't it? I think really the only certain conclusion that can be made from our little analysis is that it's probably a good thing Marco was shipped out, because with Leandro now on board, his game was completely redundant.

It's now up to Jay to maximize Leandro's impact from here on out, which not only means giving him the right amount of time on the court, but also putting him in a position to be successful, something that didn't happen with our friend Belinelli last year on a consistent basis.