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Dwane Casey Crunches Some Numbers

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Coach Casey chats with NBA.com's statistics expert, John Schuhmann, about areas in which the Raptors stand to improve offensively and defensively, and explains how he plans on doing so.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It seems crazy to think that the analytics revolution in basketball was once a contentious issue among NBA circles. The resistance to wide acceptance still remains to some degree, especially when you hear older talking heads like Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith. However, looking at the names and backgrounds of front office and coaching staff members around the league, it's apparent that teams have come to the conclusion that some mixture of internal know-how and deep statistical analysis are required to product the best results on the court.

Dwane Casey was definitely late to the party. I remember two years ago, when asked his opinion about on advanced stats, Casey was firmly in the corner of "stats can't show you what the eyes can see." Part of why I found that so odd was that then-GM Bryan Colangelo was one of the pioneers of the SportVu player tracking movement. With the new information teams logged about each player's every movement on the court, I wondered if and when Casey would join the dark side and catch up to Colangelo's views.

In a recent chat with NBA.com's numbers guru John Schuhmann, Casey talked about the Raptors' rankings across various offensive and defensive metrics and how he hopes those figures improve in the near future. The piece was insightful not just for Casey's comments, but to look at Schuhmann's deep dive into areas where the Raptors should hope to improve.

Offence:

Here are some interesting rankings Schuhmann dug up regarding the Raptors:

  • Free throw rate (FTA/FGA): 6th in the league
  • Turnover rate (TO/100 Possessions): 10th
  • Offensive rebounding%: 11th
  • Effective Field Goal% (3s are 1.5 times more valuable than 2 Point FGs): 15th
  • FG attempted in the restricted area: 30th

How does Coach Casey plan on improving the Raptors' ability to find shots around the rim?

"There’s no excuse for us not getting to the rim more," Casey said. "We have to get there some through our post-ups with Jonas Valanciunas, get some more out of post-ups with DeMar DeRozan, getting to the rim more in those post-ups and not settling for fadeaway jump shots. It’s going to have to be more of an intent on driving the ball more, attacking the paint more, instead of draw-and-kick."

Many analysts have pegged this as the year Jonas Valanciunas increases his role on offence. Valanciunas and Amir Johnson are actually two of the better combinations in efficiency close to the rim in the entire league. JV is 11th in FG% among players with above 100 shot attempts between 5-9 ft. Amir owns a silky, if awkward, touch around the rim, ranking 9th in the league in FG% among players with above 300 shot attempts under 5ft from the rim.

The Raptors need to find a way to get their bigs involved on the offensive end. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan make their living outside the paint. Although they're adept at drawing fouls, as the statistics above show, a good number of those fouls occur on intelligent positioning on jump-shots or pump-fakes.

Defence:

The key stats for Toronto:

  • Opponent EFG%: 10th
  • Defensive Rebounding%: 12th
  • Opponent Turnover Rate: 9th
  • Opponent FT Rate: 26th

Why do the Raptors have a tendency to foul so much? Casey explains:

"We got caught in a situation when I first got here," he said, "[where] toughness and hard play [were stressed]. And now, we got to get back and be smart with it, and play without our hands.

"The unnecessary fouls away from the ball, trying to body up when a guy is coming across. … We got to get smarter with that and anticipate better. That’s where a lot of our fouls come from. But I’d rather err on that side than play soft. That’s the balance we got to get. But we got to get smarter. And I think that will come with experience and time."

It's interesting to hear Casey say the high foul-rate is somewhat by design. I'd like to believe that experience will help mitigate some of the fouling issues, but I'll withhold judgement until I see the product on the floor. Lowry, Amir, DeRozan and Patrick Patterson were all above league in fouls/36 mins. Adding Greg Stiemsma and James Johnson to that group will further exacerbate matters.

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There are some other interesting tidbits in the piece as well, regarding the Raptors potentially taking better advantage of fast break opportunities, and Valanciunas's need for continued defensive improvement. Do check the article out if you're interested.

On to the comments; Let us know what you think!