Assessing the ‘defensive rhetoric’ coming from Raptors camp

Last year, the specific talk coming from Raptors training camp was about the team’s new over-riding Defensive Philosophy, referred to as, “Protecting the House,” in an all-out effort to improve their Defensive FG%. 

Unfortunately, last year’s Raptors then finished the 2009-2010 season as one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA.

Now, during this year’s training camp, this is what is currently being said about the Raptors Point of Emphasis, defensively, for the coming season:

———————————–

Raptors focus on fine art of defence

It is a delicate balance the Raptors seek as they try to improve the weakest aspect of their game.

They have to teach aggression tempered with intelligence. Quickness rather than speed.

They need continuity from a group of relative strangers and a dedication to a cause that brings with it little glory.

Easy? Not so much, but if they don’t shore up their defence and find a system that suits their personnel, any chance of being even a mildly surprising team in the coming NBA season is gone out the window.

It is the topic as training camp drones on, the one thing that coach Jay Triano and his assistants are more worried about than any other.

“One, you’ve got a number of new guys who are going to be in the rotation so that’s immediately a challenge,” said assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo. “Two, you don’t have a lot of continuity. Even though you could say it’s Jay’s third year, it’s at least a second, if not a third, different roster so it’s not like he’s had two years to install his system and the same guys are playing his system.

“The good news is you have some young guys with some quickness and enthusiasm. The bad news is you have young guys and inexperienced guys.”

What the Raptors want to do defensively sounds so simple: They want to apply pressure as much as possible, take away outside shots, force turnovers and score off their defence.

“I’d say we’re more aggressive,” said Triano. “Last year we had a tendency to sit on boxes (in the low post) and elbows (at the top of the free-throw lane) and protect the paint and the house and all that. This year, we’re just out and guarding guys.”

———————————–

1. Pressure the ball.

and,

2. Create more turnovers.

Hmmm …

Simple to do, perhaps … if you have enough of the right type of players on your roster, in the first place.

When you actually compare the individual defensive ability of the 15 players on the present roster for the Raptors to the group which ended the 2009-2010 campaign, what you get looks something like this:

EVALUATING THE INDIVIDUAL DEFENSIVE ABILITY

OF THE RAPTORS

2009-2010

ADV

2010-2011

STARTERS

Jack

=

Jack

DeRozan

=

DeRozan *

Turkoglu

à

Kleiza

Bosh

ß

Johnson

Bargnani

=

Bargnani *

+1

+1

KEY SUBS

Calderon

=

Calderon

Weems

ß

Barbosa

Wright/A

ß

Weems

Johnson

ß

Davis

Nesterovic

ß

Andersen

+4

0

RESERVES

Banks

=

Banks

Belinelli

à

Wright/J

0

+1

EXTRAS/OUTS

Evans

=

Evans

Dorsey

=

Dorsey *

O’Bryant

=

Alabi

0

0

COACHING

Triano

=

Triano

0

0

SUMMARY

+5

+2

Those who think the Team Defensive woes of the 2009-2010 Toronto Raptors will be cured by this year’s squad making a renewed commitment to ”applying increased ball pressure”, over the course of an 82-game regular season are, quite simply, unfamiliar with the way in which the NBA actually works:

General Truths About the NBA Game, From a Defensive Perspective:

1. “Less experienced” players are not superior Individual or Team defenders, in comparison with veteran players.

2. “Faster” players do not necessarily prove to be superior Individual or Team defenders, in comparison with slower players.

3. Authentic “high end” Team Defensive ability stems, primarily, from just 2 sources:

i. Having enough rotational players whose specific WEAKNESS does not originate in their own Individual and/or Team defensive game;

 and,

ii. A head coach’s PERSONAL COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENCE, on the defensive side of the floor, based upon the successful implementation/execution of sound and highly integrated strategic and/or tactical concepts. [NOTE: Please recognize the plural form of the final word in this last sentence.]

When a team is atrocious on the defensive side of the ball, however, it does not become significantly better by:

REPLACING

WITH

PLAYER

Pos

Individ. D

Team D

Fouls/G

PLAYER

Pos

Individ. D

Team D

Fouls/G

Bosh/C

PF

Good

Good

Good

Johnson/A

PF

Good

Ave

Poor

Weems/S

OG

Good

Ave

Good

Barbosa/L

OG

Poor

Ave

Good

Wright/A

SF

Ave

Ave

Ave

Weems/S

SF

Poor

Ave

Ave

Johnson/A

PF

Good

Ave

Poor

Davis/E *

PF

Ave

Ave

Poor

Nesterovic/R

C

Good

Good

Good

Andersen/D

C

Poor

Ave

Poor

LEGEND:

* – 1st year player in the NBA;

 

- Upgraded performance;

 

- Status quo performance;

 

- Downgraded performance.

while retaining non defensive stalwarts like:

PLAYER

Pos

Individ. D

Team D

Fouls/G

Bargnani/A

C

Good

Poor

Poor

DeRozan/D

OG/SF

Poor

Poor

Good

Jack/J

PG/OG

Good

Good

Good

Calderon/J

PG

Ave

Good

Good

in their existing roles, in the regular rotation, AND retaining the same head coach who was responsible for the implementation of the Defensive Philosophy which was used the previous season, even if the nature of THAT specific philosophy is supposedly going to change for the new campaign.

Scoring enough points to win games … against high end competition … has not been a major problem for the Raptors during the last several seasons. Preventing high end opponents from doing likewise, however, has consistently been one of the Dinos main problems.

With the set of players, coaches, and GM – i.e. who is responsible for putting together the roster – currently in place for this team, do not expect this reality to change this season.    

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