The Toronto Raptors in 2005-06

Posted on September 30, 2006 by

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A few days ago I noted a quote from Richard Peddie (President and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd., which owns both the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Raptors):

“I’m really trying to read different books to get more perspective. I joke that I’ve read all the leadership books. The last one was the The Wages of Wins: Taking Measure of the Many Myths in Modern Sport, which I’m getting my hockey and basketball general managers to read.”

This quote appears to indicate that Bryan Colangelo, general manager of the Toronto Raptors, has either read The Wages of Wins or will soon be enjoying our work. Or he will do as a few students do when a book is assigned, pretend to read the book and hope that the grade is based on something besides doing your homework.

At this point it is hard to know. So let’s focus on what we do know.

Colangelo presides over a team that only won 27 games last year. And unlike Philadelphia and New York, the Raptors did make a number of off-season changes with the hope of bringing more happiness to Toronto’s fans. Before we get to these moves, let’s look HERE at what the Raptors were last season.

The story of the Raptors last season begins with a distinction I made earlier in this forum about scorers and non-scorers – the latter I refer to as role players. In basketball there is only one ball. Consequently, every player cannot be a scorer. Although scorers garner much of our attention, for a team to be successful it must be able to get wins production from both its scorers and role players.

Toronto last year did get wins from its scorers. In fact, the Raptors scorers were in the top ten in the league in wins production (Wins Produced is discussed HERE and HERE).

Leading the way was Chris Bosh, who was the only Toronto player to produce more than ten wins. Bosh is clearly the centerpiece of this team and this past summer was signed to a long term contract.

Beyond Bosh, Toronto also received above average performances – average Wins Produced per 48 minutes is 0.100 — from Mike James and Morris Peterson. Bosh, James, and Peterson led this team in scoring and combined, produced virtually all of the team’s wins.

And hence we see the problem. Once we move past the team’s scorers we see a collection of role players who collectively produced virtually nothing.

So the solution for Colangelo is quite simple: Find better role players.

Unfortunately Mike James has moved on to Minnesota, so Toronto also needs to replace one of its best scorers. So the solution is a bit more complicated. Colangelo needs to replace one of his top scorers and still find better role players.

Toronto did add a number of players in the off-season. Taking over for James at the point guard spot is T.J. Ford. Ford is not a scorer like James. Nor can he produce wins like James. In essence, Ford has thus far been a slightly below average NBA player. And this was true both before and after his injury.

Unfortunately, of the NBA veterans Toronto added, Ford was the most productive last season. Fred Jones, Kris Humphries, and Rasho Nesterovic were all well below average last year. So it seems unlikely that these additions are going to help.

The Raptors did have the number one selection in the draft and chose Andrea Bargnani, who may be a great player. Unfortunately he has only played in Europe and as of yet, I have no way of taking European stats and forecasting future NBA performance.

If Bargnani comes into the league and is productive from the start, the Raptors will have Bosh, Bargnani, a slightly above average Peterson, and….. okay, not much else. In other words, this will still be a team getting most of its wins from three players and not much from anyone else.

Given these moves, it is hard to see how this team improves dramatically next season over what it did last year. If Bargnani is the real deal, though, the team would have two building blocks in place for the future.

So in the short-run the prospects might appear bleak, but in the long-run we are all dead. Oh wait, John Maynard Keynes said that. I meant, in the long-run the Raptors might be better. How is that for a fearless forecast?

– DJ

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