Despite winning 6 of 7, Raptors’ D still porous

Prior to their game against New Jersey [Fri Dec 18 2009], Toronto’s W-L Record was 11-17/.393, and their team was generally considered to be one of the worst defensive squad’s in the NBA.

Since this game, however, the Raptors have proceeded to win 6 of their last 7 contests and certain outposts in the blogosphere have begun to espouse the notion that “improved Defense, on the whole, has been responsible for the team’s recent upsurge, with legitimate prospects for the playoffs looming on the horizon, as a result.”

Improved D has Raptors eyeing playoffs
It says almost all you need to know about the Toronto Raptors that “O” appears four times in their name while “D” doesn’t make a single appearance. For the first five weeks of the season, the Raps embodied that theme to a historic extent. I wrote about their impotent defense in mid-November, and it worsened in the following days.

Yet teams can and will change trajectories during the course of the season, and the Raptors’ shifting defensive fortunes have enabled them to make a charge in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Yes, I’m using the Eastern Conference playoff hopeful definition of “charge” here, as in “briefly compiling more wins than losses and thus gaining several games on the competition.” Regardless, the Raps have looked much better lately.

——————————–

Q1. Is this specific perspective on the Raptors’ defense actually accurate?

A1. Perhaps not, if you consider [i] the context of their past 7 games and [ii] what lies ahead on their upcoming schedule.

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The specific outcome data for the team’s last 7 games looks like this:

Raptors’ 2009-2010 Game Log

29 Fri, Dec 18, 2009   New Jersey Nets W   118 95 12 17 W 1    
30 Sun, Dec 20, 2009   New Orleans Hornets W   98 92 13 17 W 2    
31 Wed, Dec 23, 2009 @ Detroit Pistons W   94 64 14 17 W 3    
32 Sun, Dec 27, 2009   Detroit Pistons W   102 95 15 17 W 4    
33 Wed, Dec 30, 2009   Charlotte Bobcats W   107 103 16 17 W 5    
34 Sat, Jan 2, 2010 @ Boston Celtics L   96 103 16 18 L 1    
35 Sun, Jan 3, 2010   San Antonio Spurs W   91 86 17 18 W 1

John Hollinger’s Current Offensive Efficiency Ratings

WINS

LOSSES

OPPONENT

CONTEXT

OPPONENT

CONTEXT

Vs New Jersey, +23 Off Eff/30th; Only away game [#2] in midst of 9-of-10 at home; Sunday early start game    
Vs New Orleans, +6 Off Eff/20th; Away game [#2] in midst of 3-of-4 at home; Final Minute Outcome    
@ Detroit, +30 Off Eff/24th; Away-Home back-2-back; 6th loss of current 9-game losing streak    
Vs Detroit, +7 Off Eff/24th; 7th loss of current 9-game losing streak; Hamilton and Gordon returning from injures; Final Minute Outcome; Sunday early start game    
Vs Charlotte, +4 Off Eff/27th; #1 of 3-game road trip [#2/Miami-W; #3/Cleveland-W]; Final Minute Outcome    
    @ Boston, -7 Off Eff 8th; missing 3 starters; Final Minute Outcome
Vs San Antonio, +5 Off Eff/5th; Away End Back-2-back; Duncan did not start for 1st time this season with SAS -8 during this stretch; Final Minute Outcome; Sunday game    
Legend: Off Eff – Offensive Efficiency Rating; Final Minute Outcome – +/- 6 points with <60 s left in game; Dark Shade – Away Game.

Hoopdata’s Defensive Efficiency Rating

Hoopdata’s Current DEF Numbers [click on the "DEF" column]

Hoopdata’s Team Stats for the Raptors

What the Raptors have been doing during this recent stretch of 7 games is:

A. Playing well in their games against some of the NBA’s weaker offensive;

B. Playing well in their home games;

C. Playing well in their Sunday home games; in particular, the early starts.

D. Playing well against a Spurs team that chose not use Tim Duncan at all in the 1st quarter for the first/only this season.

In sharp contrast … what you will see when you look ahead in the Raptors’ schedule of 8 upcoming games is a slightly different set of circumstances that looks like this:

OPPONENT

CONTEXT

RESULT

@ Orlando Off Eff/6th; #2 in Away-Home back-2-back

? [L,0-1]

@ Philadelphia Off Eff/18th; Won 3 of last 4, on the road; 2 off days after home game vs Washington

? [L,0-2]

Vs Boston Off Eff/5th; #3 of 3-game road trip [#1/Mia; #2/Atl]; #1 of upcoming Home-Away back-2-back; sandwiched between Away then Home games against Atlanta [recent playoff rivals]; Garnett, Pierce and/or Rondo may have returned from injuries

? [L,0-3]

@ Indiana Off Eff/26th; Granger and/or Murphy may/may not have returned from injuries;  

? [W,1-3]

@ New York Off Eff/15th; #1 of Home-Away back-2-back; precedes consecutive games against Detroit; #1 of 6-of-next-7 at home

? [L,1-4]

Vs Dallas Off Eff/11th; #1 of 5-game road trip; #1 of Away-Away back-2-back [#2/Boston]

? [L,1-5]

@ Cleveland Off Eff/7th; 1st home game after 5-game Western Conference  road trip; precedes games vs Lakers and Thunder

? [L,1-6]

@ Milwaukee Off Eff/25th; 1st home game after 6-game Western Conference road trip; #1 of consecutive games against Toronto

? [W,2-6]

Legend: Off Eff – Offensive Efficiency Rating; Final Minute Outcome – +/- 6 points with <60 s left in game; Dark Shade – Away Game.

If the Raptors can emerged from the basement of Hoopdata’s “Defensive Efficiency Ratings” and ”DEF” table by the end of this next stretch of 8 games then it would be accurate to suggest that Toronto has, in fact, turned the corner on their season, defensively, and should now be expected to perform in an improved way, overall, which should see the team challenge for a No. 4, or No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs this spring.

If, however, what you see at the end of this specific stretch of 8 games, is that the Raptors are still at the very bottom of Hoopdata’s defensive tables … 43 games into their 82-game schedule … then, it would be most accurate to observe instead that there has, in fact, been almost zero improvement in the quality of Toronto’s defense since the beginning of the season.

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9 Responses to “Despite winning 6 of 7, Raptors’ D still porous”

  1. brothersteve Says:

    My Rant:

    Why is it when the woeful NYN win a few games to get over .400?, they are suddenly a playoff team?

    Why is it when the lottery bound Bobcats win a couple, they are suddenly better than the Raps? (home & home split with the Raps so far – disgusting)

    Why is it when any bottom feeder from the East puts a few games together they are better than the Raps who have gone 10-5 since game 20 and are precisely on pace with the 06-07 Raps?

    If going 10-5 isn’t better than going 7-13, my math isn’t what it used to be.

    None of the bottom 9 teams in the East have anything on the Raptors – Except a worse record right now!

    Could we get just a little more positive in our outlook for the Raptors? 2-6 over the next 8 – you could only be a more negative if you were forecasting Bosh was out for the season. 4-4 seems more reasonable.

    Expecting the worst for the Raptors is a normal NBA position – but usually its from people who never even watch the team. Raptors are not that bad.

    Great stuff as always – But I guess I am considerably more positive about the Raptors ability to keep getting better this season.

  2. Tinman Says:

    My Rant

    You never really state your view. You use words like “if” or “perhaps” or “most accurate to observe” yet you never really state what YOU think. So I will repeat my mantra – Fail To See Point Of This Article.

    Lets not kid ourselves, our defence is a work in progress. I visit a lot of the sights and I don’t recall anyone calling us a defensive force.
    This last stretch has been nice, but we’ve met some low scoring competition. And we didn’t shut anyone down at all.

  3. Tom Says:

    I have a question regarding the Raptors defense. In the games leading up to their record of 11-17, how (bad) was their defense against teams with low offensive efficiencies? If a comparison is made between their defense back then against such teams and now, is there an improvement(Improvement being a relative term anyway)?

    Also, you added an extra sunday early start in the detroit wednesday game where raps won by 30

  4. khandor Says:

    brothersteve,

    1. The Knicks aren’t rated above the Raptors in my judgment, at the present time, e.g. FYI [see New York projected in the No. 10 spot with Toronto, quite possibly, finishing at No. 8].

    2. Recent road wins for Charlotte over Miami and Cleveland, plus tonight’s home victory vs an improving Bulls’ team, indicate that my impression of the Bobcats … which was first devleoped in the off season … might indeed be highly accurate this season.

    Although you [and Jack Armstrong, etc.] are certainly entitled to believe that the Raptors have more talent on their roster than the Bobcats this is simply not the case, if you look at their respective squads with an unbiased eye.

    3. When specific “bottom-feeders” from the EC can go on the road and pick-up important W’s, while the Raptors repeatedly fail to come through in these types of situations, it indicates that Toronto is really a long way off from being considered superior to those same teams, despite the rose-coloured perceptions of its fanbase.

    4. Going 10-5 is definitely better than going 7-13.

    If, however, 7-13 was a false impression of the initial state of the team to begin the season … i.e. on the too negative side of things … and, 10-5 is an equally false impression of the current state of the team for the last 15 games … i.e. on the too positive side of things … then the fact of the matter with this year’s version of the Raptors might just be that Toronto’s W-L Record is now approximately what it’s going to be for the balance of the season [i.e. somewhere around the .500 mark].

    As I’ve said in more than one location, all the roster moves which have been made by this team during the last 2.5 years do not mean that the Raptors have in fact improved at all since the end of the 2006-2007 season.

    5. I do not agree with the observation that none of the bottom 9 teams have an advantage relative to the Raptors, when you consider the quality Depth on their respective rosters:

    No. 5, CHARLOTTE
    Chandler, Diaw, Wallace, Jackson, Felton, Diop, Mohammed, Brown, Henderson, Murray and Augustin

    No. 6, MIAMI
    O’Neal, Beasley, Richardson, Wade, Arroyo, Magloire, Anthony, Haslem, Wright, Cook and Chalmers

    No. 7, CHICAGO
    Noah, Thomas, Deng, Hinrich, Rose, Miller, Gibson, Johnson, Salmons and Pargo

    No. 8, TORONTO
    Bosh, Bargnani, Turkoglu, DeRozan, Jack, Nesterovic, Johnson, Wright, Weems, Belinelli, Calderon and Banks

    No. 9, PHILADELPHIA
    Dalembert, Young, Iguodala, Iverson, Williams, Speights, Smith, Brand, Carney, Green, and Holiday

    No. 10, NEW YORK
    Lee, Gallinari, Jeffries, Chandler, Duhon, Milicic, Curry, Harrington, Bender, Hill, Hughes, Douglas and Robinson

    No. 11, MILWAUKEE
    Bogut, Ilyasova, Mbah A Moute, Redd, Jennings, Elson, Gadzuric, Thomas, Warrick, Delfino, Bell and Ridnour

    No. 12, WASHINGTON
    Haywood, Blatche, Jamison, Butler, Arenas, Oberto, McGee, McGuire, Miller, Young, Crittenton and Foye

    No. 13, DETROIT
    Wallace, Maxiell, Prince, Hamilton, Stuckey, Brown, Wilcox, Villanueva, Jerebko, Daye, Gordon and Bynum

    No. 14, INDIANA
    Hibbert, Murphy, Granger, D-Jones, Watson, S-Jones, Foster, McRoberts, Hansbrough, Dunleavy, Rush and Price

    No. 15, NEW JERSEY
    Lopez, Jianlian, Douglas-Roberts, T-Williams, Harris, Battie, Boone, S-Williams, Hayes and Dooling

    6. Overly negative? On the contrary, I could go so far as to suggest that the Raptors’ W-L record during this next stretch of games actually has a much better chance of being 0-8 than it does of being 8-0 … and, that somewhere between 4-4 [on the high end] and 2-6 [on the low end] is a likely outcome.

    7. If I really did expect the worst from the Raptors … having watched the team grow every season since the birth of the franchise … then I’d say something like this:

    Toronto is going to finish in 14th place this season; lose Chris Bosh … their best player, by a wide margin … to unrestricted free agency this coming summer; and, then, be right back where they were when Bryan Colangelo first assumed full control of the team, in February 2006.

    Instead, it’s a good thing that,

    “I simply calls ‘em as I sees ‘em.” :-)

  5. khandor Says:

    Tinman,

    1. My view of this year’s Raptors team should be clear by this point.

    Although it might not be what you want it to be, it has essentially remained the same since the slew of roster moves were made in the summer.

    Unlike others who initially thought that this year’s team was going to finish [A] with 47 [or more] wins, or [B] fail to amass more than 38 W’s on the season, I have said that the Raptors would [C] be in a fierce battle for the entire season in an effort to claim one of the low-end playoff seeds and finish well above the .500 mark … as it is no better than a host of other middle-of-the-pack squads in the Eastern Conference.

    What exactly do you fail to comprehend about that position?

    2. There’s a big difference between being a less-than stellar defensive team and being absolutely awful.

    When your franchise is supposedly making an all out push to show its best player that he should resign with the team in the summer, and by-pass the other lucrative offers he will receive from other suitors in his unrestricted free agency period, then it’s a good idea to avoid:

    * Finishing in the No. 30 position in Team Defensive Rating
    * Finishing somewhere around the .500 mark
    * Being eliminated in the 1st Round of the playoffs, again.

  6. khandor Says:

    Tom,

    1. Welcome aboard!

    2. Here you go:

    In the Raptors first 28 games this season [11-17], they were 9-2/.818 against opponents that are currently rated between No. 20-30 in Offensive Efficiency:

    Game No. – Opponent; W-L; Off Eff; Def Eff

    Game 4 – vs Detroit/24th; W; 120.9; 108.8
    Game 5 – vs New Orleans/20th; W; 120.2; 101.1
    Game 8 – vs Chicago/29th; W; 101.0; 90.8
    Game 9 – @ LA Clippers/22th; W; 119.5; 102.3
    Game 15 – vs Indiana/26th; W; 123.0; 112.0
    Game 16 – @ Charlotte/27th; L; 79.4; 113.7
    Game 19 – vs Washington/23rd; L; 104.1; 108.2
    Game 21 – @ Washington/23rd; W; 106.9; 104.9
    Game 22 – @ Chicago/29th; W; 122.2; 86.7
    Game 23 – vs Minnesota/28th; W; 96.9; 90.7
    Game 24 – vs Milwaukee/25th; W; 103.3; 127.2

    Off Eff Ave = 108.85
    Def Eff Ave = 104.21
    Ave Diff = +4.64

    In the Raptors last 5 games vs opponents that are currently rated between No. 20-30 in Offensive Efficiency [5-0/1.00]:

    Game No. – Opponent; W-L; Off Eff; Def Eff

    vs New Jersey/30th; W; 124.2; 100.0
    vs New Orleans/20th; W; 101.0; 94.8.
    @ Detroit/24th; W; 111.9; 76.2
    vs Detroit/24th; W; 112.1; 104.4
    vs Charlotte/27th; W; 112.6; 108.4

    Off Eff Ave = 112.6
    Def Eff Ave = 96.8
    Ave Diff = +15.8

    3. Thanks for catching the error, re: the “extra” early Sunday start time.

  7. Tom Says:

    Thanks for the welcome :]. So then according to those numbers, facing teams w/ similar (poor) offensive efficiency, raptors’ defense did improve rather significantly (104.21 vs 96.8)? Good to know, now if only we can reproduce that against good teams…

  8. khandor Says:

    Tom,

    Although the numbers you asked for say that the Raptors’ “defensive efficiency ratings” have improved against the teams they’ve played recently with poor offensive efficiency ratings, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the Raptors “overall defensive efficiency” has, in fact, improved at all relative to the other teams in the league.

    i.e. All it means is that the Raptors have improved in this regard when measured against their own defensive ineptitude earlier this season.

    ————————–

    As you’ve rightly suggested, what is far more important overall is how well the team plays against the NBA’s upper echelon on a game-to-game basis.

  9. Morning Coffee – Jan 6 | Slam Dunking Says:

    [...] khandor’s sports blog » Despite winning 6 of 7, Raptors’ D still porous Prior to their game against New Jersey [Fri Dec 18 2009], Toronto’s W-L Record was 11-17/.393, and their team was generally considered to be one of the worst defensive squad’s in the NBA. [...]

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