It was no secret that coach Casey was on the hot seat in Toronto this past summer. In 4 straight playoff appearances, (although they advanced the ECF in 2016), Toronto could not get consistent play from their backcourt stars, Lowry and DeRozan. An overall stagnant offense. Their entire offensive game plan relied on a Lowry/DeRozan pick n roll that got one of them open for a mid range shot. With their inconsistent star play and their lack of “points per shot,” the Raptors appeared destined for a total reset. Now, the Raptors have the best record in the East.
In the month of December, the Raptors ranked 3rd in offense, 1st in defense, and top 5 in assists. The Raptors have been in the top 10 in defense and offense the past couple seasons, but bottom 5 in assists both years.
The Raptors have bought into a team system. Lowry and DeMar are taking less shots per game. Both are averaging more assists per game and three point shots taken and made per game. The Raptors are also currently top 5 in “hockey assists” as well (the pass that leads to the assist). Toronto was previously 28th in this category.
While ball movement and added three point shooting has been a huge emphasis in the offense, none of their success would be possible without the incredible production of their bench. Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl, and Delon Wright are all averaging career highs in points, assists, and steals. With no surprise, the Raptors bench holds a 12.1 net rating, the best in the league. Not only do they make the extra pass, but they play with a frenetic energy on defense that results in forcing turnovers. Hence helping the Raptors being #1 in the NBA in fastbreak points.
Don’t forget about the Raptors. They are no longer a star driven pick n roll team. This team now identifies itself with their incredible ball movement and team defense.