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Numbers Game: The Early Ups and Downs of the Raptors

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After only three games, nothing is conclusive yet. But let’s take a look at some early trends.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

In most of these pieces, there are constant warnings of small samples when they exist, and to take any numbers attached to them with a grain of salt. So brace yourselves, everything that follows is a small sample. In this case though, we’ll stick to individual production numbers rather than look at advanced catch-all numbers or lineup data, as they need bigger samples to be at all meaningful.

Let’s take a quick look at some early returns on the new Raptors season. And since it is early, we’ll focus on the positives in this one.

Playing Great

DeMar DeRozan has been off to a great start. One week in, he sits third in scoring league-wide, with 35.0 points per game. Obviously that’s unsustainable, mostly due to his incredibly high 38 percent usage rate so far (he’ll likely settle in closer to 30%), but he’s not just jacking shots up there. He’s actually carrying a FG% of 54 percent and still getting to the line, good for a 60 percent TS%, easily the highest of his career.

Jonas Valanciunas has been great too. Tenth in the league in RPG, third on the offensive end, and he’s a top 50 scorer per game as well (his 18 PPG ranks 44th in the league). He’s carrying far more minutes than he’s ever done before (32 minutes per game so far, career high was 28), and it is not leading to any drop off in play. His usage has jumped to 24 percent, the mid-twenties range so many have clamoured for, and his TS% has taken only a slight dip to 56 percent from his typical ~60 percent. More of this, please.

Playing Well

The rookies are off to a pretty solid start themselves. Filling in for injured players ahead of them in the depth chart, both have impressed in their first few games. Siakam has played good defence and taken what the defence gives him — his 50 percent TS% is decent for a guy with no shot and who has yet to take a free throw, and his nine percent usage is hilariously low, which fits nicely with a starting unit full of offensive options.

Poeltl has managed to generate offensive rebounds at an even faster pace than Valanciunas has, and although his efficiency isn’t there yet (38 percent TS%), his low usage allows him to overcome that with his good screening and rebounding. He’s averaged 3.0 screen assists (screens leading directly to baskets) so far in only 14 minutes per game, a tremendous rate.

Playing Not So Well

Terrence Ross has been struggling with his shot early in the year, leading to a very poor TS% of 46 percent (for a guy who makes a living with his shooting). But he’s taken very few shots, so that’s not too big a concern. The upside for Ross? He’s been very active, and has generated an incredible 3.7 deflections per game in only 16 MPG — just behind Lowry (4.3), who leads the team and has played more than twice as many minutes.

Along the same lines, DeMarre Carroll is really struggling with his shot near the rim, shooting well from 3 (40%) but hitting only two of the eight shots he’s taken inside the arc. (Thankfully he’s taken twice as many threes as twos.) Hopefully he finds his bounce as he returns to game shape, but in the meantime he seems to be the top notch defensive player the Raptors expected. He has contested 11 shots a game, the most on the team behind JV. And his opponents have shot terribly when defended by him — their typical FG% is about 43 percent, and he is holding them to just 25 percent (including just 19 percent from beyond the arc).

Those are just a few quick looks at the first few games for the Raptors. Any trends standing out early to anyone else?

All stats from NBA.com.