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Numbers Game: No Faults in Our Raptors Stars

The Raptors keep rolling, in large part due to the stellar play of their guard tandem.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Toronto Raptors Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

After DeMar DeRozan earned his second nod this season for Eastern Conference Player of the Week, I thought it would be appropriate to spend a little time looking at just how impressive the two all-stars have been so far for the Raptors.

DeMar DeRozan

After an incredible start to the season, DeRozan slowed down a bit with his scoring. But of late he’s been picking it back up.

Over the past four games, DeRozan has averaged 31.5 points on 60.5 percent shooting, with 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists to boot. He’s been doing it with incredible efficiency - his usage is not as high as his early season run of 40 percent (he’s at 35 percent over the past four games, in line with his season long number). His TS%, however, has spiked to 69 percent these past four games, pulling his season long TS% up to 57 percent.

On the season, DeRozan is now averaging a career high in PER (by far, 26.3 to last season’s 21.5), TS%, AST% (just above last season’s, at 21 percent), REB% (eight percent), and WS/48 (.203).

Those player of the week awards are well deserved, and his contributions all year are far beyond anything he’s done before.

Kyle Lowry

Lowry’s not the one winning awards, but he’s probably been just as impressive, just not as obviously — without all those 30 point games to his name. Still, this production on the season is pretty solid.

He is currently on pace to set career highs in PER (22.6), TS% (61.9 percent, a truly unbelievable number for a guard) and WS/48 (.217).

That TS% is worth a closer look. Lowry is not playing all that differently than he always has — he’s just hitting all his shots. His current 3PT% of 45 percent would set his career high by six percentage points if he maintains it. He’s doing it on the highest volume of his career (7.3 attempts per game), and still getting to the line five times a game. Lowry has played 10 seasons in the league before this one, and he’s already made more threes this season than he did in five of his previous seasons. In 27 games.

Your Quasi-Weekly Reminder...

...that the Raptors are starting the wrong power forward.

On the season, the lineup numbers now look like this:

Starters with Siakam: 261 minutes, 111.6 ORTG, 113.6 DRTG, -2 RTG

Starters with Patterson: 101 minutes, 130.2 ORTG, 94.7 DRTG, +35.5 RTG

That +35.5 RTG is the highest in the league among lineups with 50 minutes played. It’s even higher than the +30.3 RTG the Lowry plus bench lineup has. As a note, that’s the second best (50 minutes or more) lineup in the league by that measure. That’s right, the Raptors currently have the two best significant-minutes lineups in the entire league, with better RTGs than even the Warriors’ Death Lineup (Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Durant and Green).

The offense is great, and it’s always been obvious that Patterson unlocks offensive options for DeRozan, Lowry and Valanciunas that Siakam simply can’t. But the defense is just as big a difference — and with the defense ailing of late, more minutes for this lineup may be a solution to those problems.

The difference between the lineups is becoming more and more obvious, even as the Raptors have been using the Patterson lineup to start the second half, perhaps pointing toward a change coming sometime in the near future. Over the past 10 games:

Starters with Siakam: 87 minutes, 114.7 ORTG, 125.5 DRTG, -10.8 RTG

Starters with Patterson: 46 minutes, 143.5 ORTG, 93.4 DRTG, +50.1 RTG

Pretty clear picture, of late.

Most importantly, you can see the change in the ratio of minutes between the lineups. For the first 17 games of the season, there were 174 minutes of the Siakam lineup, and 55 minutes of the Patterson one, a ratio of more than 3:1. But over the past 10 games, that ratio is less than 2:1. This mirrors the slow and steady minutes reduction we saw with Scola last season.

As ever with this team, the success of any lineup mostly depends on its ability to leverage the abilities of whichever star or stars are playing at the time. And lately, judging by everything above, the team has been using Lowry and DeRozan to their fullest potential.

All stats per and