Thursday, July 9, 2009
If Bryan Colangelo is working this hard...
Then there's no reason T.Jose Caldeford shouldn't work hard in the off-season too! Without further ado, let's get you caught up on the numbers from Toronto's biggest off-season acquisition.
Hedo Turkoglu joins the Raptors - Why you should be excited
After "The Turk" (what he will be called here on Caldeford from now on) signed in Toronto, all of the print, television, and radio media centered their focus on one thing: The Raptors signed a free agent! The Raptors signed a free agent! They barely scratched the surface of what this signing actually does for the team. I didn't hear one bit of analysis about how this CHANGES the Raptors. Where's Jack? Where's Leo? (That's how desperate I was).
Anyways, let's talk about what The Turk brings to the table:
1. Passing - According to 82games, The Turk was one of the best passing forwards in the game. In fact, only LeBron James and Stephen Jackson had a better passing rating among forwards. This is huge (especially for the Raptors). Toronto has lacked a playmaker on the wing ever since Vince Carter left town. And last year, the only player teams really had to worry about in terms of getting other players involved was Calderon. This signing makes Toronto's offence more dynamic and less predictable.
2. Get to the line! - The Raptors were the most accurate free throw shooting team in the NBA last season (at 82.4%). However, on most nights, they were unable to exploit this advantage because they were unable to get to the line enough to make opposing teams suffer from their accuracy. Toronto got to the line just 22.7 times per game (25th in the NBA). The Turk will help in this regard because he can dribble and drive (a simple skill, however, one that eluded many of Toronto's wing players... cough, Marion, cough, Moon, cough). Here is a breakdown of Toronto's guards and wingmen last season, and their "foul percentage" (fouls drawn divided by shot attempts):
Oh, Jason Kapono, I'll miss you. Anyways, Joey Graham played more like a power forward when he was in the game. So, essentially, you could say none of Toronto's guards had a foul percentage above 10% last season. Where does The Turk rank? He had a foul percentage of 13% last season, which would rank right at the top for the Raptors swingmen (and would also rank ahead of Bargnani and Jermaine O'Neal). Another underrated aspect of this signing that I won't go into too much detail about (because it's not "numbers" oriented) is how important it will be to have a ball-handler on the wing (which ties into this analysis about drawing fouls, and the previous analysis about passing). I think the presence of The Turk will have a huge impact on Jose Calderon and his ability to stay healthy and rested throughout the season. The Turk will be able to run the pick and roll and run the offence when Calderon needs a breather or when Triano simply wants to switch up sets. This will prove invaluable for the Raptors, and I'm predicting a big bounce back season for Calderon because of it.
3. Rising to the level of play - The Turk raised his profile across the NBA for hitting big shots in the playoffs. This gave the impression that he could play well against the best teams in the league. Does that impression hold up when you look at the numbers? Last season, only 10 players in the NBA averaged more than 17 points, 4 assists, and 4 rebounds per game against the top 10 teams in the league (the upper tier). Here are those players (along with their plus/minus against the upper tier last season):
Kobe Bryant 153
LeBron James 100
Hedo Turkoglu 78
Brandon Roy 40
Chris Paul -28
Dwyane Wade -67
Andre Iguodola -77
Andre Miller -85
Stephen Jackson -121
Caron Butler -141
Those are some of the best all-around players in the NBA (and I can't believe Andre Miller is on that list - and he's available as a free agent right now... this is a guy who's made every team he's ever been on better... whoever signs him will exceed expectations next season, book it... but I digress). ANYWAYS, some of Toronto's key players (cough, Bosh, cough) are known to buckle under the pressure or against some of the better teams in the NBA. The Turk, it seems, will help in this regard. Let me put that in perspective for you before we move on: Bosh, Bargnani, Calderon, Kapono, and Parker all scored less against good teams than average or poor teams (again, broken down by tiers). The Turk scored more against good teams than average or poor teams. He's a gamer. Book it. Let's move on.
4. It's all about balance - Toronto's biggest weakness last season (even more than health, or rebounding) was their wing play (which I talked about ad nauseum). They had solid point guard play with Calderon and Ukic, and their post play was solid with Bosh, Bargnani, Humphries, and others. However, their Net PER on the wings was -7.0 (good for 28th in the NBA, only the Clippers and Knicks were worse). Turkoglu should boost their Net PER immediately at the SF position, and that could mean big things for the Raptors if last year's numbers are any indication. Toronto finished with a positive Net PER at three positions last year (PG, PF, C). Assuming Turkoglu pushes them into the positive at SF, that would give them a positive Net PER at four positions, something only five teams accomplished in the NBA last season. Here are those teams, along with their record:
Cleveland 66-16 (lost in East Final - to ORL)
L.A. Lakers 65-17 (won NBA Title)
Boston 62-20 (lost in East Semi - to ORL)
Orlando 59-23 (lost in NBA Final - to LAL)
Utah 48-34 (lost in 1st rd - to LAL)
TOTAL 300-110 (.732 win%)
That's pretty damn impressive. You could make a case those teams were the five best in the NBA last season (the Jazz were the darlings of the statistical world... just couldn't stay healthy). Now, in no way am I saying The Turk instantly pushes Toronto into this stratosphere. I think those top four teams all have something the Raptors don't: a legit NBA superstar that makes those around him that much better. However, I think Toronto's lineup is definitely starting to look somewhat Utah-like. Both teams revolve their offences around efficient shooters (from the field, line, and three-point land), and a never-ending stream of pick and rolls from all over the floor.
So there you have it. I think this signing is a slam dunk for the Raptors, and not because the city's basketball fans have shed their collective inferiority complex. The Turk has simply made the Raptors a much, much better team.
Now, I should at least mention the biggest risk with this signing, and how it indicates a change in thinking among Raptors management: With their frontcourt structured the way it is (Bosh and Bargnani), Colangelo and company seemed to make a concerted effort to fill their SF position with players who could defend and/or rebound (Moon, Marion, Graham) in order to make up for those deficiencies in their front court. What I believe Colangelo is now saying with this signing is the following: We understand what we have and don't have in Bosh and Bargnani, but a good rebounding SF won't make up for poor rebounders at PF and C. Therefore, we're going to shift to an even more European style than before. We're going to add another smooth offensive player, giving us four of them on the floor, and just make our two-guard an all-defence kind of player. It's a risky strategy, but one that I think they had to take.
Tomorrow, I'll take a look at Bryan Colangelo's miraculous trade (along with a fond farewell to Kris Humphries).