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Quick Stat Hits: Which Raptors starters should stay or go?

Now we tackle the big questions: which Raptors starters should stay and which should go?

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

With the Raptors getting embarrassed in a sweep in the first round, big changes are needed. Some pieces are inevitably going to have to go. But which ones? We'll try to use one or two big stats to describe why a player should stay or go.

Last time, we started with the obvious ones. Now, to the core. What do the Raptors do with Terrence Ross, Jonas Valanciunas, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan?

Terrence Ross

Big conundrum here. Still on his rookie scale deal (though up for extension this summer). Can shoot the lights out from 3 (just behind Lou Williams in total 3's made this year, second to Vasquez in percentage among high usage shooters), including about 40 percent from the corners. Had a big positive impact on the team's offence (4th best ORPM on the team at +1.75, best on-court ORTG of the starters). For all that is made of his inconsistency, his lowest 3PT% over any 10 game stretch this season was 30%. So Ross' shot wasn't abandoning him for long stretches.

Then again...  His defence fell apart big time. One of the worst DRPM's in the league (-3.77), and the worst on-court DRTG of the regulars. Per possession, he outrebounded only Lou Williams on the team. The only players who had less assists per possession were Hansbrough and Valanciunas. He went to the line the least on the team.

That said, does he have any value at all? His raw stats are pretty invisible: 9.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1 assist. Doubt anyone gives up anything of value for him, considering he is due for a (possible) raise next summer, and at this point looks like he could be a risk to accept the qualifying offer.

Then consider he took a big step back this year defensively (after improving from roughly a -3 to a -2 DRPM last year) - you rarely see that with young players. So you might expect a bounce-back to simply poor defence rather than terrible defence. Maybe then he's worth keeping around for his shooting.

Verdict: Keep and hope for improvement, unless someone really wants to give up value for him.

Jonas Valanciunas

Spoiler alert: keep him. But let's go through the exercise.

Offensively, he really doesn't fit in the scheme (set a pick and get out of the guards' way). He posted a team-worst -1.7 ORPM (though that is up from last years' -2.3). But individually, he showed signs of excelling. He still posted a team best offensive rebounding rate. And when he did get the ball, he was insanely efficient, putting up a team-leading 62.3 TS%, and the third best individual ORTG on the team (121, third to Hansbrough and Patterson).

And he's not piling up those efficiency numbers on putbacks and dump offs alone. A full 34 percent of his possessions this year were post-ups. He posted up (that is, finished a possession via post-up) a total of 306 times - good for 17th most in the league, which is shocking considering his low overall usage (7th on the team in usage rate, 5th on the team in minutes per game). And he was insanely good in the post.  Watching him, he's got a ways to go in style, but his effectiveness in the post was unparalleled this year league wide.

Jonas scored 1.02 points per post possession. No other player with over 150 post possessions exceeded 1.00 PPP.  He was also consistent, scoring on 52% of his post-up possessions (again, highest in the league among players with >150 post possessions). You have to reach all the way down to Carl Landry, at 110 post possessions (one third of the possessions JV had) to find a higher efficiency or more consistent post scorer. And although he does have a very good free throw rate (rate of fouls drawn per field goal attempt), his post scoring is not reliant on it (he has a middling free throw rate on post-ups), so he is actually just scoring over people in the post (3rd highest FG% from the post among players with over 150 postup possessions). Meanwhile, his turnover rate in the post is not nearly the issue some make it out to be - among the 46 players with 150 post ups, he has the 17th lowest turnover rate, far below players like Paul Millsap, Dwight Howard, DeMarcus Cousins, LeBron James, Al Horford - all above 15% turnover rate, whereas Jonas sits at 10%.

Yes, to be clear, I'm saying that Jonas scored in the post more efficiently and consistently than any other real post option in the league. Definitely a reason to be optimistic. (And to be frustrated with his lack of overall touches, but I digress). He has a ways to go passing out of the post, and in dealing with a defence more focused on his post-ups, but that can only improve with time and experience.

Defensively, he also doesn't really fit the system. But he still managed to be a very effective defender. He had the 5th best DRPM on the team, making a huge jump from -0.4 last year to +1.1 this year. He improved drastically throughout the year as well - from the start of the year until Feb 1st, he had the second-worst on-court DRTG of the regulars at 107.4. After Feb 1st? Tied for second best of the regulars with Lowry, behind only James Johnson, at 103.0. Meanwhile, he continued his improvement as a rim protector, defending the rim 8.1 times per game (good for 16th in the league), while forcing opponents to shoot 46.5% at the rim (of the top 20 players in defended shots at the rim, only Rudy Gobert, Serge Ibaka and Nerlens Noel had better opponent percentages). Nevermind his team-best defensive rebounding rate (by a long shot - his 26% far outpaces the next best defensive rebounder, Hansbrough at 17%).

In summary, he had the team's best OWS, DWS, WS/48, PER, ORB%, DRB%, TS%, and second best BLK%.

Verdict: Keep him! Only question is whether you extend him or sign him in free agency (which comes down to salary cap planning). Any trade moving JV without a superstar or superstar-in-the-making coming back is a bad trade.

Kyle Lowry

Now we come to our all-stars. Lowry is another problem like Amir Johnson. At his best, he's a top point guard in the league. Even in the aggregate for this year, he was a top five PG by RPM (and top six last year). But that breaks down into probably a top two point guard for the first half of the year and a mediocre one the rest of the way (including, unfortunately, the playoffs). So there are questions aplenty - did Lowry check out? Did his injuries (well-earned, from carrying the team on his back for two months) really drag him down for so much of the year? Does he bounce back? Is there a rift with Dwane Casey?

Harsh Dave had a great piece earlier about finding the good Kyle Lowry, that covered much of his second half struggles. I won't expand beyond that, except to say that if Lowry is moved, you'd better have a very good player coming back, or you are going to lose a lot of games (which may or may not be the plan if Lowry is on the block). Add in Lowry's very nice contract that extends into the cap boom, and it's hard to see a trade where the Raptors win in current talent. That said, his age differentiates him from the rest of the core (and most of the supporting cast as well), so maybe he's a guy you consider moving if you think you are taking a step back anyway.

Verdict: Unclear - depends on the return and the direction of the team. If you are looking to win now, in all likelihood he has to be kept.

DeMar DeRozan

Ooh, boy. The most divisive player on the team. Let's just get straight into it.

Offensively, DeRozan was a bit of a mess this year. Some will argue his injury played a role, but his numbers pre- and post-injury are not radically different. Overall, his efficiency was shockingly low, even with a solid month to end the season. His individual ORTG was the worst of the regulars besides Terrence Ross. His TS% was the worst of the regulars unless you consider Chuck Hayes and his 29 games played a regular. Even his PER (a stat that loves itself some high-usage chuckers) was only a little above average at 17.4, well behind our other scoring guards in Lou and Lowry (19.9 and 19.3, even in Lowry's down year), and 5th on the team behind JV and JJ as well (20.6 and 17.9).

His offensive impact stats have never been great. For a guy who has an entire system designed around him, and almost every play run for him, he is surprisingly neutral in terms of impact stats. Last year, a +0.45 ORPM. This year, +0.20. Pretty average.

Meanwhile, his absence was theorized as a reason for the defensive slippage midway through the year. I think the continuation of the defensive struggles with his return and the stats suggest otherwise. His DRPM numbers continue to be more negative (-0.35) than his offensive ones are positive, leaving his overall impact a slight negative yet again (-0.15).

The other consideration is his league-wide value as a trade asset. Unlike Ross, DeRozan's per-game averages are very appealing: 20.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, with 7.2 FTA's and throw in a steal per game for good measure. He can probably fetch a nice return, even with only two years left on his deal including his option year.

With the summer of 2016 right around the corner, and DeRozan able to opt out of his final year to hit free agency as the cap spikes, this spring and summer is probably the last chance to trade him for value if you don't want to have to choose between overpaying him to keep him or letting him walk for nothing.

Verdict: Trade him if there is value (and I think there is a lot still). The risk going into unrestricted free agency is not worth it, not for a guy with a high perceived value (and such mediocre statistical value) that will likely translate into a significant raise.

Any thoughts or feedback on these verdicts? Any similar or differing hopes for how the off-season will unfold?

Stats from, and