Raptors season review, in Stats Perform data: Toronto lacks dominant figures

Raptors season review, in Stats Perform data: Toronto lacks dominant figures

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All eyes were on the Raptors after they won their first NBA championship in 2019.

Could they do it again, even without superstar Kawhi Leonard following his switch to the Clippers?

The Raptors were tipped to slide in 2019-20, but with coach Nick Nurse leading the way, Toronto (53-19) defied the odds as it finished second behind the Bucks in the Eastern Conference.

Still boasting championship winners Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka and benefiting from the emergence of Norman Powell, OG Anunoby and Chris Boucher, the Raptors reached the conference semifinals before losing to the Celtics in seven games inside the Orlando bubble amid the coronavirus pandemic.

With the season done and dusted, there are now doubts over whether VanVleet, Gasol and Ibaka will return as they enter free agency. Nurse experienced similar at the end of 2018-19 after Leonard and Danny Green departed for the Clippers and Lakers, respectively, as free agents.

As the Raptors look ahead to 2020-21, Stats Perform reviews the team’s 2019-20 season using our data.

Nurse no one-season wonder

The 53-year-old coaching vet has not missed a beat since his appointment ahead of the 2018-19 campaign, delivering a maiden NBA title in his first season in Toronto.

Nurse has overseen 134 victories, including playoff wins, for an overall 134-55 record in two seasons as Raptors head coach.

Only Warriors coach Steve Kerr (171 from 2014-16), former Bulls coach Phil Jackson (141 between 1989 and 1991) and ex-Suns coach Paul Westphal (137 from 1992-94) managed more victories from their opening two campaigns in the league.

Nurse’s work has not gone unnoticed. He was named the 2020 NBA Coach of the Year and then signed a “multiyear” contract extension with the Raptors last month.

Siakam and VanVleet emerge

Two of Toronto’s biggest stars have experienced significant improvements.

Siakam and VanVleet were both averaging under 5.0 points per game as recently as 2016-17. Now, Siakam is averaging 22.9 points per game (+18.7 from his 4.2 average as a rookie in 2016-17) while VanVleet’s scoring average is up to 17.6 (+14.7 from his 2.9 average as a rookie that season).

No players in the NBA have had a bigger scoring increase since then, with the Pelicans’ Brandon Ingram (23.8 ppg from 9.4 ppg; +14.5), Jaylen Brown of the Celtics (20.3 ppg from 6.6 ppg; +13.7) and Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie (20.6 ppg from 7.3 ppg; +13.3) coming closest.

Raptors lack bite and roar

For all of their success, the Raptors still do not really have a dominant scorer or rebounder, especially since Leonard’s exit.

In this season’s playoffs, Toronto’s leading scorer was VanVleet at 19.6 points per game, and their leading rebounder was Ibaka at 7.7 rebounds per game.

Since rebounds were first tracked in the 1950-51 season, there has never been a team to win the NBA championship while having no players average 20.0-plus points per game and no players average 8.0-plus rebounds per game in the postseason.

Siakam has grown as a player but there still are problems with his game, especially his 3-point shooting.

He was decent in the regular season as he took more attempts from beyond the arc, but he did not shoot the 3 well in the playoffs. He shot 18.9 percent from deep in the postseason, the second-worst playoff percentage all time (minimum 50 attempts), behind only Lindsey Hunter (15.1 percent) in 2001.

If you look at the 3-point percentages for Raptors players in the 2020 postseason, you can see that the players who shot the ball the most had some of the lowest percentages, while some others shot the ball well but did not get as many shots.

Ibaka shot 51.1 percent, better than Powell (42.3), Terence Davis (42.1), Matt Thomas (41.7), Anunoby (41.5), Boucher (40.0), Stanley Johnson (40.0), VanVleet (39.1), Lowry (31.9), Siakam (18.9) and Gasol (18.5).

The Raptors will need Siakam to improve his 3-point shot, or else the team might want to attempt to redistribute its attempts toward the players who are better shooters from deep.



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