Franchise expands on the offensive issues with replacing Chris Bosh, explains why Andrea probably can't do it alone, and nominates another current Raptor to help pick up the slack...
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This week I wanted to take a look at the various ways that Chris Bosh's absence next season would impact the Toronto Raptors; starting with a basic scoring view, moving to the advanced metrics like efficiency behind that scoring, touching on things like rebounding, shot-blocking etc, and then finally concluding with the changes to the way the team played minus CB4.
However our Einsteining audience raced ahead and did a great job noting that yes, at face value the Toronto Raptors would be down 24 points per game, but in reality, because Bosh was such an efficient offensive player, it would be more than that.
As well, pace factored into things, and because we really don't know how this team will play next year (the assumption is "up-tempo," however as has been pointed out numerous times, if the team can't rebound then this idea could be somewhat null and void), it's tough to say for sure whether Bosh's offensive loss is even greater than that or not.
I'd like to go back to the offensive efficiency idea though for a moment as this is indeed a huge point.
As I noted in the comments section to my last post, would you rather have Ray Allen in his prime, or Allen Iverson? Both could put up big numbers offensively, however the two usually differed to a great deal in terms of how they went about getting said points.
Iverson of course was generally a volume shooter and while one of my favourite players of all time to watch, for him to get his 30 points, it usually took him 20+ shots.
Ray Allen on the other hand was usually the opposite, a silky-smooth offensive player who was especially deadly because he didn't need 30 shots to wreak havoc on a team's defence.
Chris Bosh falls into the latter category and this is one of the major issues with trying to replace him next season.
He posted a true shooting percentage of .592 last year, an impressive mark for a big man that played as many minutes as he did and had as high a usage mark as he had. For comparison's sake, other top NBA big men with similar minutes played and usage rates like Kevin Garnett and Pau Gasol had marks of .569 and .593 respectively. This put CB4 in a pretty solid class.
Let's then look at Andrea Bargnani, the player many expect to replace Bosh's scoring for the club next season.
Andrea's true-shooting percentage was .552, behind even DeMar DeRozan on the team last year. As the Arsenalist noted in his great breakdown of the "Can Andrea Replace Chris" situation this past Tuesday, Bargnani is simply not the extremely efficient offensive player that many believe him to be. Yes, his usage rate was a good chunk lower than Bosh's last year (28.7 for Bosh vs. 22.3 for Bargs), but they played almost essentially the same minutes (36 for Bosh, 35 for Bargs), and while Chris took 16.5 shots a game, Andrea wasn't that far behind taking a little over 14 himself.
And to give you a good idea of how Andrea's usage rate compares NBA-wide, his 22.3 mark is in line with or above players like Pau Gasol (21.4), Andrew Bogut (23.3), David West (24.0) and David Lee (23.8) - all top second (and at times, first) scoring options on their respective clubs. So I think it's hard to argue that "oh, Bargs didn't get enough touches last year" or that he was hard-done by on offense.
Which brings us back to their efficiency marks. Bosh shot just under 52% from the field last year while Bargnani shot 47%, hardly anything to write home about even factoring in his position.
And sadly, his 37.2% mark from beyond the arc was hardly better than Bosh either, who shot 36.4% himself.
Now, this isn't meant to be another "bash-Bargs post," but I think from these and other stats we see that it's going to be very tough to expect Andrea to completely replace Chris offensively. He's just not as efficient an offensive player, especially when you factor in Bosh's propensity to get to the free-throw line and convert while there.
And again, as Arsenalist noted in his post on the subject, this extends beyond just the offence.
Bosh and Bargnani are miles apart on metrics that examine overall impact on the court such as PER, Win Score, and Wins Produced.
Using NBA.com's "efficiency" marks, CB4 was the fourth most "efficient" player in the league last year behind only LeBron James, Kevin Durant and David Lee. Andrea? He was 61st.
Bosh was fourth again with a mark of 25.11, while Andrea didn't even rank in the top 100, finishing at 115 with a fairly pedestrian mark of 15.6. (The league average is 15.)
And I'm not even sure we want to look at win score or wins produced, which always view Bargs in a pretty harsh light.
Again, the point here is that to replace what Bosh did on the court, especially on offense, we can't just assume Bargnani will plug that gap - the stats just don't back it up.
However one player I didn't get a chance to talk about on Tuesday could go a long ways in terms of help Bargs fill the void left by CB4; Amir Johnson.
Amir had the team's highest true-shooting percentage last season, the team's highest effective field goal percentage, and was the team's best offensive rebounder statistically, all the while playing under 18 minutes a game. With increased minutes he should be able to help Bargs make up for some of what Bosh has taken to Miami in terms of O, however Amir will have to improve upon his 66% career free-throw average as well as his fouls per game rate. Projected over the 25 to 28 minutes I expect him to play each night based on last year's totals would mean averaging nearly 5 fouls a contest, which would then invariably impact his on-court effectiveness and playing time.
What's most promising however about Amir is how well he runs the pick-and-roll, especially the "roll" portion where much like Tyson Chandler's healthy days with Chris Paul in New Orleans, Johnson can simply dive to the rim, using his length and athleticism to put almost anything down in that vicinity.
Bosh was a great pick-and-roll player himself but I'd argue Johnson gives the team a different look in this respect, one that I've always argued is a much better complement down low to Andrea Bargnani's face-up game.
That's why strangely, one of the Raptors' least talented pure offensive players, is such a big key to the team's offensive success for me this coming season. Amir Johnson does the little things that make him not only such an efficient offensive player, but a solid complement to many of the team's other key pieces. He'll never be a double-team magnet, but it's his hustle, length and athleticism that will many times prevent teams from doubling other Raptors. In the same way that you don't want to leave a dead-eye shooter like Ray Allen open, you can't afford to not put a body on an Amir Johnson type underneath the basket.
As well, you can't discount how important Amir will be for iniating the offense thanks to his defensive rebounding and shot-blocking, and ability to get out on the break.
In this way, while I've titled this series of posts "Missing Chris Bosh," I think Raptors' fans should be looking at things from a different angle. From our analysis so far we've seen that it's simply not going to be possible to replace CB4 in his entirety, especially via one player.
But maybe that's fine.
The team didn't exactly tear through the NBA by leaning solely on Bosh through a good chunk of the past decade, so having a mix of Andrea Bargnanis and Amir Johnsons, and future talent (that is still I'd argue sorely needed) is probably the way to go, and the way the team should have gone a long time ago in fact.
It also once and for all will tear the curtains off of the whole "Bosh is holding such and such a player back" argument.
Now, there's no more excuses, and next season I truly feel fans will get to see just who is a keeper on this team, and who should join the Patrick O'Bryants and Pape Sows of Raptor lore.