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Quick Stat Hits: What is Going On With the Raptors' Defense?

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A quick look at the stats to see, well, what in the world has happened to the Raptors' defense...

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

This one of a series of posts where I'll be taking quick looks at various issues for the Raptors and using stats (and just stats) to try to figure a solution, or an answer to why something is happening.

Note that the stats in this article were gathered prior to the game against the Nuggets.  Already in that game the team was much better defensively, so hopefully that is a sign of things to come.

As most of you are I'm sure aware, the Raptors' defense has fallen off a cliff lately.

Over the last six games, the Raptors have the 2nd worst defensive rating in the NBA at 115.5. Utah is the worst at 115.6. For the season, the Raptors are sitting at 104.0, good for middle of the pack, and they were a top 10 defense before this six game collapse.

But why? What happened? The streak of terrible defense started shortly before DeMar DeRozan went down, with the game against Atlanta, so it is not just the team missing DeMar. But a primary suspect has to be Greivis Vasquez, right? Let's take a look.

Over the last six games, Vasquez has had an on-court defensive rating of 116.6. That's bad, but it's pretty close to the overall team rating. When Vasquez has been off the court, the team has a defensive rating of 114. That's not really a drastic difference, and not the sort of thing that would drive a collapse like this. So let's say it is at the least not driven by the Vasquez substitution, even if it might not be helping.

Looking at the team's on-off splits, there is one player in particular that seems to be killing the defense. Surprise candidate Terrence Ross is our prime suspect here. When he is on the court, the team's defensive efficiency rating sits at 120.3. Off the court it is a much more reasonable (and this is the lowest off-court value for any player) 108.8. So it seems Ross has been struggling defensively - part of that may be having to play in combination with Vasquez; he already struggled dealing with large wings with DeRozan beside him. With Vasquez stuck on the smaller guy at all times, this may be another nail in the Ross-at-the-3 coffin.

One other area we can look at is why the defensive rating has been so bad lately. The team has always been poor in terms of opponent's effective field goal percentage, or eFG% (51 percent for the season). Over the past six games that has ticked up to 54 percent, but that's not exactly a drastic change. That's the sort of impact that could be lost in the wash in a small sample size. The Raps foul at the same rate they always have (about 0.3 opponent free throw attempt rate, FTAr). The team's defensive rebounding rate has remained the same. The biggest differences seem to be in forcing turnovers (for the year, 16.5 OppTOV percent; last six games, 11 percent).

So, where has the drop off in turnovers forced come from? Looking at on-off splits, everywhere. Every player is seeing far fewer forced turnovers in the past six games (down about 30 percent across the board) than they have for the season. The biggest culprit is Lou Williams (dropped from 18 to 10 percent), but with the problem existing for every player I think this is a system issue.

So, given the above, what are everyone's thoughts on how to fix the defensive issues? Is there anything people have noticed about the defense being less aggressive and forcing less turnovers? Or is it something else?