Welcome to the second installment of Build-A-Raptor, an exercise where we evaluate components of Raptors present and past in order to distill the best of their game or physique and mash it all into one Super Raptor! At the tail end of last week, we introduced the parameters for this dalliance into the potentially not-so-distant future of bioengineering and imagination by examining the parts that will make up the perfect Raptor. If you missed last week’s article, click through for a breakdown.
This week, we’ll be taking a look at two foundational components of a basketball player: ball handling and shooting. While the other five components are incredibly important to being a basketball player, our Frankenstein can’t be considered the proto-Raptor if he can’t shoot and dribble a basketball. With that, let’s dive-in!
As mentioned in part one of this series, there are two critical ways of evaluating ball handling. On one hand, we could aim to build the flashiest ball handler the Raptors ever featured. On the other, we could look to a player who has the ultimate control of the basketball, but lacks flash. Or, since this a hypothetical exercise, we could do both!
Finding the Raptor with the flashiest handle was an extraordinarily easy task thanks to the surprising Rob Babcock acquisition of Rafer “Skip 2 My Lou” Alston.
Before Alston’s full-time stint with the Raptors, he had played one season in Miami while enduring a host of other fits and starts in the NBA. Where he made his name for himself was on the blacktops of Jamaica, Queens as an AND-1 legend. The video above is quintessential Alston: dribble a lot and look really, really cool while doing it. What does the other end of the spectrum look like?
Drastically different audio choices aside, the contrast is pretty stark. Jose would be good for one spin move a week but you could set your watch to a head-up, scan the entire court pick and roll or fast break that ended with a highly efficient shot to finish the play. You could also be sure that his “looked really, really cool” meter was pretty, pretty low.
So is there a happy middle? Well, as we alluded to last week, look no further than the shortest NBA player of all time, Muggsy Bogues.
Bogues finished off his illustrious career with the Raptors and although it was short stint that didn’t feature numbers that jumped off the page, Muggsy brought his trademark ball security with a Per/36 assist to turnover ratio of 6:1 and his natural flare and panache that was, admittedly, partly due to his diminutive size. He’s since become an ambassador for the team who mercifully took on the Go Daddy curse/crown in order to save active players from slumps and injuries. Long live Muggsy and his tight handle!
Honourable Mentions: Rafer Alston, Jose Calderon, Damon Stoudamire and Kyle Lowry.
There are two components that are going to be extremely difficult to come to a final decision on: shooting and defense. The Raptors have had a bevy of knockdown shooters, so it’s going to come down to more than just a high FG% that determines which shooter will see their talent harnessed in our preternatural super-human.
What we’re looking at here is shooting mechanics and shooting awareness. A caveat to those two factors is, of course, the unavoidable high shooting percentage. If you don’t shoot for a high percentage, then what are we even doing here.
Right off the hop, there are two guys who absolutely do not qualify because their shot mechanics, in particular their form, are really not a pretty sight to behold. The first is Danny Green who holds the Raptors single season record for three point shooting percentage and is somehow further getting piled on (sorry Danny, we love you) and Matt Bonner. Bonner looked like he was loading a large cannon only to amazingly fire it one-handed when he shot the ball.
Somehow, Bonner ended up with the sixth highest three point shooting percentage in Raptors history. That somehow, of course is professionalism and work ethic.
So who has the prettiest shot in Raptors history? It was a very close-call between Dell Curry — father of the greatest shooter of all time Stephen Curry — and Jason Kapono. Let’s go to the video!
Curry playing against the Raptors with Muggsy Bogues? It only seems fitting and to be honest, there isn’t a ton of footage from Dell’s time as a Raptor that isn’t in 240p resolution. Dell was a master at shooting off of a screen thanks to his great on-court awareness and he brought that same creativity into the twilight of his career as a Raptor, averaging 39 percent from 3. Those numbers aren’t terrific, but it’s important to note that he was 35, 36, and 37 years of age with a 20+ USG% and also had his second worst shooting percentage outside of his rookie campaign in his final season as a pro. Those are a lot of qualifiers, but is his form pretty enough to edge out Kapono?
Let this 3-point shooting contest video stand-in for Kapono’s in-game highlight videos because in every one of them, the impetus is on his set-shot, of which he was one of the best. Kapono had two full seasons with the Raptors and finished with an absurd 44.7 percent average from deep, trailing only Danny Green’s sole season of 45.5 percent. More impressive still is in his first season with the Raptors, Kapono led the entire league in three point percentage with a whopping 48.3 percent.
So why is this even a discussion? Well, it all comes down to whether you value the set-shot over shooting off of motion. Kapono beats out Curry in the former whereas Curry wins the latter. What do we do? It certainly feels like cheating to go with an ultra-hybrid of two shooters so, begrudgingly, it’s only right to give the very slight edge to Kapono due to the higher percentage.
Honourable Mentions: Dell Curry, Danny Green, Matt Bonner, Jose Calderon (nearly a 50/40/90), Matt Thomas and Anthony Parker.
Our player is starting to take shape! We’ve got the incredibly steady-hand and occasional flare of Muggsy Bogues’ ball handling coupled with Jason Kapono’s lights out shooting from deep as the first two components of our ideal Raptor.
Now check back in with us next week to see how well this player is going to defend, run, and jump.