After digging deep into the defensive end of the court last week, the HQ this week looks at the other side; the offence. One that will be missing a certain number 4 this upcoming season...
On Sunday I posted the question "who is the face of the Raptors next season?", and some 550 plus votes later, it looks like most think Andrea will be the main man, followed closely by the Young Gunz contingent.
Andrea actually gathered a solid 44% of the vote and therefore it would seem that our sample of Raptors' fans expect him to step up in the absence of the one and only Chris Bosh.
Oh yeah, that guy that averaged 24 points, 11 rebounds, a block, and nearly 2 and a half assists a game last season for the team.
The guy who for his career has shot almost 50% from the field and 80% from the free throw line, and who has had five consecutive All-Star appearances, not to mention an All-NBA Second Team berth and various other individual NBA and international accolades.
So let's get this out of the way first; the Toronto Raptors are going to miss Chris Bosh.
I'm not talking about just on the court either, he was a huge presence in the community and an ardent fan and supporter of the city, regardless of how he "exited stage left."
But for this article, I want to focus on the court stuff, the basketball part of the equation, because that's what most fans will really notice next season. Without number 4, there looks to be some big holes in Toronto's game plan and so my question for today is really, "can the holes left by Bosh be filled by any of the current Raptors?"
This quesiton is going to be answered in three parts; today's piece, where we look at replacing Bosh's offensive output specifically, and then two following pieces this week examing some of the other skills and traits Bosh brought to the table, and some of the metrics behind his absence.
Today though as mentioned, we'll start with the strength that I think jumps out to most fans when you think of Chris; his scoring.
"We've tried over the years to put big guys on him. It doesn't work. We've tried to put small guys on him. It doesn't seem to work either. I don't know if we have somebody to play Bosh, to tell you the truth."
That quote was from Pacer's coach Jim O'Brien regarding CB4, and I thought that was a good way to jump into replacing what's obviously his best trait; his offensive excellence.
Chris Bosh simply was a great scorer at his position, perhaps the best in the league from the 4 spot behind only Dirk Nowitzki. He could face you up, take you off the bounce with his quickness, and in his final few seasons as a Raptor, developped some deadly low-post moves including a step-back fade-away from about 10 feet on either side of the basket. Add in a 3-point shot that he started to hit regularly (36% last year, not bad for a power forward) and the fact that he's a lefty, so always a bit of a tough cover to start with, and you've got one pretty well-rounded offensive threat.
So who steps up and replaces 24 points a game?
The obvious first thought is Andrea, who, at 17 points a game himself last year, seems able to surpass the 20 point per game barrier this year as the go-to option on O.
However it's a big leap I'd argue to say he'll get to 24 points a game. Remember, this is a player who already averaged 35 minutes a game last year. Bosh only averaged 36 minutes so the key for Andrea will be to become a more effecient scorer in his time on the court. Even if Bargs gets up to 38 minutes a game, the number on average that Bosh played the year before last, 24 is still a reach in my books.
As well, we're talking about a player who really strugged with consistency, and minus Bosh, wasn't even the dominant offensive threat at times last year.
Take Toronto's final six games minus Bosh as a an example.
In them, Andrea led the team in scoring outright only once, and in two others tied for the team lead. He did average 20 points over those six contests (19.67 points a game) but that's still about four points a game that's not being filled next year assuming that mark is extrapolated over to this coming season.
And therein lies another issue with Bosh's absence - even if Andrea replaces the bulk of Chris' scoring, who then replaces Andrea's 17 points per game average?
Turk's gone as well, leaving another 11 per game that also needs to be filled.
Essentially, to have a similar offensive output as last season, something I think that will be critical considering how poor this team probably still will be defensively, the team needs to make up approximately 30 points a game each time they step on the court assuming Andrea replaces 20 of Bosh's 24 ppg average.
So where does that come from?
Looking at the new faces in Toronto, I'd say Linas Kleiza is the best bet to pick up some of this scoring slack.
He averaged 16 points per game over a 36 min average in Denver and if you've been watching him at the FIBA World's, he can fill it up. He won't be getting 36 minutes I night next season I don't expect, but I'd pencil him in for 12 a night.
Leandro Barbosa has also had a great FIBA tourney and is another player who should come in and grab some of the scoring, I'd say probably 10 points a game off the bench in a reserve role.
That leaves about 8 points per game to make up, and unfortunately, that's about where it ends for me.
I think DeRozan perhaps eats into a bit of that "8" margin, but he and Sonny Weems are the true wild cards here in this respect. If you needed evidence regarding how much the team needs these two to take their games to the next level this coming season, then look no further than here.
DeRozan averaged about 9 points per game in 21 minutes of action and Weems wasn't far behind, averaging 8 points per game in about 20 minutes. If these two can increase their scoring output with only minimal increases in minutes, then maybe that's where the final 8 or so points comes from. Because I just don't expect players like Julian Wright or Ed Davis to come in and really move the pendelum in this respect.
And what maybe needs to be pointed out the most in this whole discussion, is that for this team to adequately replace Bosh's 24 points per game, someone needs to make up his free-throw attempts.
Last season he averaged 8.4 attempts from the line and the next closest player on Toronto in this respect was Hedo Turkoglu, who averaged a measley 3.1.
He's gone too leaving Jarrett Jack and Andrea Bargnani with 2.9 each.
We'll talk more later this week about the impact this metric might have on the team strategy-wise but this is something that needs to be emphasized; for Toronto to have success on the offensive end of the court, someone needs to be able to consistently get to the line next year.
Maybe that's Weems and/DeRozan, but I'm looking at the "Big Rook" now entering his fifth season as the real top option in this respect. Three trips a game just ain't gonna cut it and if he wants to get to that Dirk Nowitzkish level, he's gotta get to the charity stripe at least 6 or 7 times a match. (Dirk averaged 7.2 trips to the line a game last season.)
Can he do it?
I'm just not confident unfortunately and overall I think we'll see a Toronto team that got to the line 2118 times last season, get there a lot less than that this coming year.
And that's a problem considering that even last season Toronto averaged fewer trips to the stripe than their opponent on average.
To me, the majority of Bosh's 24 points per game might be able to filled, but his ability to get to the free-throw line (and convert) will be sorely missed and we're going to see a very 2005-06ish Raptors squad next season; one that made their free-throws when they got a chance to shoot them, but had very few opportunities at the line each game.