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Missing Chris Bosh Part III - A Bosh-less Offence

In the final part of the HQ's look at life after Chris Bosh, Franchise examines other pieces of Bosh's game that the team will likely miss, as well as how the offense may fundamentally change in his absence.

Seven years is a long time.

Seven years in the NBA, or any professional sport for that matter, is even longer.

Come October, for the first time in seven seasons, the Toronto Raptors will be going to war without CB4.

To put that in perspective, that's nearly half the time the franchise has been in existence.  It truly is going to be a strange moment when the Raptors take to the court for the first time and Number 4 is nowhere to be found.

However in terms of the way the Toronto Raptors will play next season, will fans notice his absence?

Oh sure, as we discussed in the two previous parts of this series, the lack Bosh's scoring and rebounding will probably stick out like a sore thumb to some degree, but what about the way this team plays?  Will we suddenly see a whole new plan of attack on offense from Jay Triano and co?

To get an idea of what indeed may change in this capacity next season, I turned to the folks at Synergy Sports for some help.  Using their database, I broke down just how Bosh spent his time on the court last season on the offensive end.  I also compared Bosh's schematic to that of both Andrea Bargnani and Amir Johnson, two players who will likely tag-team to replace much of what Bosh did for the Dinos.

Here were the results:

  Cut to basket Isolation Off Rebound P&R Man Post-Up Spot-Up Transition
Bosh 5.50% 18.20% 8.90% 11.90% 34.90% 9.90% 4.00%
Bargs 4.90% 8.70% 4.30% 11.00% 16.10% 37.90% 7.70%
Johnson 16.10% 2.70% 17.00% 19.00% 13.10% 7.70% 11.80%

There are indeed some interesting numbers here.

As you can see, and as many have speculated, Bosh and Bargnani were simply too similar offensively in key areas to complement what the other was doing.  Neither excelled at cuts to the basket, spending a good chunk of time dominating the ball, neither was a lights out offensive rebounder, both had nearly identical numbers in terms of scoring off the pick-and-roll and neither was great in transition.  It's interesting in fact that Andrea had a greater percentage of his offense come in transition than Chris, but I think we can attribute this to Bargs' affinity for trailing a fast-break and taking an open 3 at the top of the arc.

Yes, Bosh was much more of a post-up presence than Andrea, while the reciprocal was true in regards to spot-up shooting, but because neither has great passing metrics, I'm not sure the dominance of one in these areas, really allowed for excellence in the other.

Let's look at Amir Johnson though.  

16% of Amir's offence was predicated on motion towards the cup, and with only 7.7% of his offence coming from spot-up shots, and under 3% on isolation plays, he simply doesn't need to dominate the ball to be effective. 

I'd argue that this is huge next year because as we've pointed out so far this summer, Andrea for all his scoring prowess, doesn't do it in the most efficient way possible.  Because Toronto will be subbing a moderately efficient player for a very efficient one on O, it's absolutely essential that said player is flanked then by someone like Amir Johnson, especially when you factor in the fact that Johnson grabbed an offensive board on 17% of the offensive plays he was involved in.  This should help negate some of Andrea's inefficiencies.

As well, Johnson excelled off the screen-and-roll, something that should bodes well for next season considering that Jose Calderon is still with the club.

So does this mean that Toronto simply slots Andrea and Amir into the front-court next season without missing a beat?

Hardly.  Despite the pros of playing Bargnani and Johnson together, the worry is that since neither are great post-up or isolation options, the offence is going to be even more jump-shot oriented than it was last year.  And since none of Toronto's wings are great shot creators, nor do they excel at getting trips to the line, this is doubly concerning.

Andrea Bargnani is going to have to force double-teams and be more aggressive or we may see the most stagnant Raptors' offence since the days of Kevin O'Neill.

That's why Linas Kleiza becomes suddenly so important.

After his play at the FIBA World's, I expect Kleiza to be penciled in as the team's starting 3.  He was a bit of a 3-point gunner during his days in Denver but for his national team this summer he's shown a full array of offensive abilities. What might make the most sense then is to alternate Kleiza and Bargnani in post-up situations, using their outside shooting abilities to spread the court.  Amir would then serve as the garbage-man, cleaning up misses, cutting to the hoop, taking advantage of mismatches, etc.  

Without Bosh, the team simply isn't going to have a guy they can throw it down low to for a high percentage shot on nearly every possession.  Remember, while Bosh was often accused of taking too many jumpers, he excelled at getting to the free-throw line and that combined with his face-up scoring ability made him very difficult to defend. Unless DeMar DeRozan or Sonny Weems show a new piece to their game in this respect, I think this is the biggest fundamental change for the team minus Bosh.

I still expect to see lots of pick-and-roll, it's the NBA's bread-and-butter offensive play and as the stats suggest, both Bargs and Johnson are quite comfortable getting their offense from that set.  However I worry about stagnation after that first "roll" is complete.  If Andrea is the recipient he's much more prone to "popping" then "rolling" to the hoop and I'm guessing opposing defences will key in on this.  If his shot isn't falling, and Amir can't rebound the miss, it's a pretty "one-and-done" scheme.  Jay Triano is going to have to ensure there's a ton of secondary options and movement out of said Plan A of attack otherwise I can just envision Andrea with the ball in the high-post jab-step, jab-step, jab-step while DeRozan, Kleiza and Jack stand around the perimeter waiting for him to make his move.

It could be ugly.

With no great options for getting to the line, Triano is going to have to emphasize that his troops move, move, move in half-court sets.

That being said, there were plenty of times over the past few years that Bosh held onto the ball too long as well creating a bit of a similar effect offensively.  My hope is that minus Bosh, Triano is able to free things up a bit, and run more of a Princeton based series of cuts and screens on O thanks to his new personnel.  No longer will scoring be predicated on movement around one player, but movement team-wide.

Even Julian Wright, a player we haven't talked much about in terms of his role with this new-look offence, could take advantage of such a system as we can see from his Synergy data last year:

  Cut to basket Isolation Off Rebound P&R Man Post-Up Spot-Up Transition
Johnson 16.10% 2.70% 17.00% 19.00% 13.10% 7.70% 11.80%
Wright 13.20% 10.10% 14.50% 0.30% 4.10% 19.90% 22.00%

Wright too is a very active type similar to Amir and perhaps a nice complement since he's more of a spot-up and isolation player.

Again, Wright though is not close to Bosh in terms of offensive efficiency, so Triano and his crew are going to have to really make great tactical decisions on the court this season in order to get the most from this crew offensively.

And really, that's the crux of this whole "Missing Bosh" discussion.

There's no question that Toronto doesn't have one piece who can replace Bosh on offence, nor do they have a combination who can do it with the same level of efficiency.

There's also no question that minus Bosh, the team will likely struggle to score in many situations and we could see quite a few more desperation heaves at the shot clock this season.

But it's what's done is done and without Bosh, the challenge is on Jay and his staff to not only make the most of it, but open up new opportunities for players who perhaps were handcuffed a bit by Bosh's ball dominance.  On a better team, maybe that doesn't happen and CB4 shares the wealth but with so little supporting help during his tenure with the Dinos, Bosh HAD to be the man.

Now that's not the case.

There's no one player who will replace Bosh, nor should there be.

This now represents a great opportunity to spread the wealth around and perhaps as a result, we see a team that begins to flourish later in the season, similar to the 76ers from a few seasons ago in the wake of Allen Iverson's departure.  Players began to get more comfortable with an up-and-down "everyone contributes" style, and they made a late run for a playoff spot.

It's not quite the same situation here of course, but my point is that there's no point crying over spilled milk.  

Yes, life after Bosh might be quite different for Raptors' fans, but there's no choice but to move forward and the onus is now on Toronto's coaches and management to make the best of the situation.

And who knows, maybe it won't be so bad?