The Toronto Raptors have had a less than ideal start to the 2020-21 season.
Five games into the season, there has been a lot of conversation around the Toronto Raptors 1-4 start.
Here we will break down the team’s performance so far looking at some of the good, the okay, the bad and the downright ugly takeaways so far.
The Good: Vintage Kyle Lowry
Despite his advanced age and being undersized, Kyle Lowry once again has shown that he is the engine that drives this team on both sides of the floor. Particularly on offence, Lowry has been the only reason the Raptors offense hasn’t been as bad as it could be (and it is bad right now as we will see later in the article)
Lowry’s net rating when he is on the floor is a respectable 5.4 in 187 minutes. When Lowry is off the floor, -24.2 in 53 minutes. Essentially the Raptors are outscoring teams by 5.4 points per 100 possessions with Lowry on the court, and getting outscored by 24.2 points per 100 possessions when he’s off the court.
So to sum it up, Lowry is still a very good player and at this rate, he needs to play all 48 minutes for the Raptors to have a chance in games. This is obviously; nowhere close to sustainable and the Raptors need to find ways to be effective in the minutes Lowry sits. I put this in the good section because Lowry of all players was one who could be expected to have some decline at 34 years (Especially standing 6’0 and a player who throws his body around as much as he does). The fact that he’s still capable of being an offensive engine for Toronto is very encouraging in my opinion.
Toronto Raptors’ defensive rating
Raptors fans can continue to count on their team defence as they rank sixth in defensive rating, a metric that measures how many points a team gives up per 100 possessions. This was always the calling card of the Raptors and the fact that it continues to be where you expect is a good sign.
Things become a lot easier when you are elite on one end of the floor, as it means you don’t necessarily have to be elite on the other (although it’s obviously the goal to be as good as you can in both). The better they are defensively, the less worried you have to be about their offensive struggles. Keep in mind a small sample will skew this number all over the place for the first chunk of the season.
In connection with the defense, the Raptors are very good at forcing opponent turnovers. In fact per game, they are forcing about 18 which ranks second in the league. The Raptors propensity to get out and run off of misses and turnovers, means getting 18 of them a game is going to fuel good transition opportunities which tend to lead to better results than playing the half court.
There is almost no scenario where taking offensive possessions away from your opponent at a league-high rate is anything but good.