Toronto Raptors’ Best 5-Man Unit

Three fifths (3/5) of the Raptors’ Best 5-Man Unit should be no surprise at all … given the presence of Jose Calderon [No. 1 Assist:Turnover Ratio in the NBA last season], Jermaine O’Neal [6-time All-Star] & Chris Bosh [Member of the Gold Medal winning Redeem Team] on their roster.

Barring injury, however, the eventual outcome for Toronto’s season, this year, will NOT be determined by the performance of these three players.

It’s the two players who the Raptors decide to put with them … that WILL.

While other NBA observers/analysts have been quick to designate the following combination of players as the Raptors’ principal line-up this season, in all likelihood:

1/Jose Calderon
2/Anthony Parker
3/Jamario Moon [or Jason Kapono]
4/5 Jermaine O’Neal
5/4 Chris Bosh

this corner DISAGREES with this perception and DOES NOT believe that some combination of THAT group will/should form the Raptors’ Best [most effective] 5-Man Unit this season.

The Case For Calderon, Moon, Graham, O’Neal and Bosh

Those who visit this space on a regular basis know already that simple ‘game stats’ (either Traditional or of the New Age variety) are of little meaning [overall] to the various interpretations of this corner.

That said … in an effort to help others better understand the sometimes unconventional thinking put forth here … it can be a valuable exercise to provide some of the basic statistics which the rest of the basketball related blogosphere seems to swear by these days and accept as gospel truth.

For Jamario Moon
* 21-51, 0.411 … 3PT-Shooting from the Left Corner & Left Wing, 2007-2008 [as per NBA.com/hotspots]
http://www.82games.com/0708/07TOR8C.HTM
* http://www.82games.com/0708/07TOR8B.HTM

For Joey Graham
* 15-35, 0.429 … 3PT-Shooting from the Right Corner & Top Of The Key [TOTK], Career [as per NBA.com/hotspots]
* http://www.82games.com/0708/07TOR9C.HTM
* http://www.82games.com/0708/07TOR9B.HTM

If the Raptors commit to running a simple version of (i) the San Antonio Spurs’ High Middle Pick & Roll/Pop Series, with a few specific (ii) Horns’ based sets … there is NO VALID REASON whatsoever for Jamario Moon & Joey Graham … in combination with Calderon [an efficient & productive 3PT-Shooter], O’Neal and Bosh … to not form the Best 5-Man Unit possible for this team, this season … using a POWER based ‘3 Out/2 In’ Offense which emphasizes Middle Pick & Rolls/Pops with Corner/Wing/TOTK 3PT-Shooting and significant improvement in the all-important areas of Team REBOUNDING and Team DEFENSE. 

On Offense

* Calderon was a … 0.429 3PT-Shooter last season
* Moon was a … 0.411 3PT-Shooter, from the Left Corner & Left Wing, last season
* Graham has been a … 0.400 3PT-Shooter, from the Right Corner & the TOTK, for his 3-yr career

* O’Neal & Bosh have both been … solid Middle Pick & Roll/Pop Bigs in the NBA for multiple years

On Defense

* Calderon [6-3, 210], as a PG, is capable of using his size to overcome his average-only quickness  
* Moon [6-8, 205], as a Wing Defender, is capable of dominating the glass from this position, with his length, quickness and overall athleticism
* Graham [6-7, 225], as a Wing Defender, is capable [physically, mentally & emotionally] of playing Bruce Bowen type lockdown defense against the best athletes in the NBA

* O’Neal [6-11, 260] & Bosh [6-10, 230], as Big Defenders are both under-sized … but with a solid combination of quickness & strength, help instincts and Shot Blocking ability

Rebounding

* Calderon, as a PG, is capable of neutralizing his individual check
* Moon, as a Wing, is capable of DOMINATING his individual check
* Graham, as a Wing, is capable of either NEUTRALIZING or DOMINATING his individual check

* O’Neal & Bosh, as Bigs, are capable of either NEUTRALIZING or DOMINATING their individual checks

In addition to being the Raptors’ best 5-Man Unit … what this specific line-up also does is allow …

[I] One-dimensional Offensive-minded players like Jason Kapono [2/3] and Andrea Bargnani [4/5] the opportunity to come off the bench and score the ball, in spurts;

[II] In concert with a solid but unspectacular jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none two-way player like Anthony Parker [as the team’s principal back-up 1/2]; and,

[III] Still developing and inconsistent players like Kris Humphries [4/5], Wil Solomon [1], Roko Ukic [1/2], Hassan Adams [2/3] and Nathan Jawai [5/4] the chance to fill in as ‘extra-only’ players, where need be.

Historically, certain organizations [i.e. owners, GM’s and coaches] in the NBA have known for many years just how important Team REBOUNDING, Team DEFENSE and Team OFFENSE (including Efficient 3PT-Shooting) actually are when it comes to giving themselves the best chance possible to win a game against a high calibre opponent in a meaningful regular season or playoff situation … while the vast majority HAVE NOT.

As the final countdown begins towards the start of the 2008-2009 season … it will be most interesting to see into which of these two categories this year’s version of the Toronto Raptors fits best … [A] The Legit Contenders, who place a premium on Team Rebounding, Team Defense, and Team Offense; or [B] The Also-rans, who do not. 

Which 5 players comprise their Best 5-Man Unit will go a long way towards answering this question.

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10 Responses to “Toronto Raptors’ Best 5-Man Unit”

  1. toronto raptors linkage – sept 12 Says:

    […] – Khandor’s Sports Blog […]

  2. Sam Says:

    Good post. One thing I wonder about is whether you’ve over-emphasized 3-pt. shooting. I know I could look these things up myself but what are Graham’s numbers inside the 3-pt line? From what other spots on the floor has he been most effective? As the 3 on offense does he need to be more than a long-range shooter? I think so and think he has to be a threat to drive in the offense you envision. Seems to me his stint in summer league may have been the staff’s way of ensuring he starts getting into that mind-set in game-like conditions. Graham strikes me (and likely you) as the potential weak link in the line-up you suggest but that’s not a criticism of the overall approach. I’ve been wondering myself if Moon doesn’t deserve some time at the 2 given his athleticism. I also think you are spot on about realizing that at this point Bargnani is a one-dimensional player so that he needs to be used in a way that emphasizes the positive while minimizing his defensive (at least weak-side defensive) frailties.

    Subject to injuries (the great white elephant in the room for the Raptors), it’s analysis like this and Arsenalist’s thoughts on Kapono yesterday that strike me as exactly what fans and Raptors staff should be worrying about as we head into a season which could go either way for the team.

  3. khandor Says:

    Sam,

    First off.

    Kudos to you … for keeping an open mind and NOT closing yourself off to the possiblities involved with shifting J-Graham, J-Moon and A-Parker to different positions than what they’ve played primarily to this point in their careers for the Toronto Raptors.

    Secondly.

    As a ‘Bruce Bowen type’ SF … Joey G. would only NEED to be proficient from 3PT-land, in order for the Raptors’ offense to still be effective, given the presence of Bosh (inside & mid-range), O’Neal (inside & mid-range) and Calderon (outside & driving to the hoop off picks) in the team’s principal line-up.

    IF Jamario Moon can become an effective #2 (i.e. by shelving his pull-up jumper, using his ‘Catch & Shoot 3’s more or his slashing drives to the rim), which he can, with the proper coaching … in conjunction with a solid (but unspectacular) two-way player, like Anthony Parker, coming off the bench at the 1/2 spot, and 2 more ‘one-way’ offensive specialists/threats, like Kapono (3/2) & Bargnani (4/5) … this team would/should have no trouble scoring enough points to win important games this season.

    It would also then leave Kris Humphries (4/5) to fulfil the final key rotation role of a solid two-way Big off the bench in relief of CB4, JO or Il Mago … depending on the individual match-ups and the team’s foul situation, game-to-game … AND minimize the need for Ukic, Solomon, Adams and Jawai to make substantial contributions to the on-court success of this team, this season.

    Thirdly.

    FWIW … http://NBA.com/hotspots also shows that Joey G. is a more than capable finisher … when he’s put in situations tight to the basket.

    2007-2008 23-48, 0.479
    2006-2007 105-164, 0.640
    2005-2006 95-160, 0.594

    (ala Bruce Bowen … who is only allowed to either ‘Catch & Shoot 3’s’ or ‘Finish at the Rim’ for the Spurs)

    ===============================

    If this team goes injury-free … that, right there, is the type of 9-Man Rotation which an elite level coach – e.g. Gregg Popovich, or Pat Riley, or Phil Jackson (etc.) – might use with this collection of Raptors to win 50+ games this season AND a 1st Round Playoff Series, in the Estern Conference. 🙂

  4. khandor Says:

    Sam,

    In addition …

    if I showed most Raptors’ fans the following stat lines:

    ===============================

    Season Averages
    YR 01 02 03 Career
    GP 80 79 38 197
    GS 24 21 3 48
    MPG 19.8 16.7 8.7 16.4
    FG% 0.478 0.495 0.434 0.480
    3P% 0.333 0.290 0.667 0.331
    FT% 0.812 0.840 0.844 0.828
    OFF 0.7 0.7 0.5 0.7
    DEF 2.3 2.4 1.3 2.2
    RPG 3.1 3.1 1.8 2.8
    APG 0.8 0.6 0.4 0.6
    SPG 0.5 0.4 0.1 0.4
    BPG 0.2 0.1 0.0 0.0
    TO 1.15 0.62 0.61 0.83
    PF 2.90 2.00 1.20 2.20
    PPG 6.7 6.4 3.6 6.0

    Season Totals
    YR 01 02 03 Career
    GP 80 79 38 197
    GS 24 21 3 48
    MIN 1,581 1,319 331 3,231
    FGM-A 198-414 192-388 49-113 439-915
    3PM-A 29-87 9-31 2-3 40-121
    FTM-A 108-133 110-131 38-45 256-309
    OFF 57 55 18 130
    DEF 187 193 49 429
    REB 244 248 67 559
    AST 60 44 15 119
    STL 37 30 3 70
    BLK 13 4 0 17
    TO 92 49 23 164
    PF 228 161 47 436
    PTS 533 503 138 1,174

    ===============================

    for an ANONYMOUS player in the NBA …

    Is there any reason they could find for this specific individual NOT to be viewed (in fact) as a serviceable player?

  5. Sam Says:

    Alright, I’m more than willing to entertain the notion that Joey gets more time, maybe even starting time.

    Just goes to show you that for the Raptors right now the biggest emphasis has to be on coaching – which players are used how. While I like Sam Mitchell on a personal level he has enough to work with that 50+ wins and a playoff series victory has to be a minimum expectation for him and his staff. If he cannot wring that from this (injury-free) roster, then I my confidence in Colangelo will be shaken if Mitchell is not let go.

    With Philly (who’s changes I like better than the Raps’), Washington, possibly Orlando, Miami and maybe Chicago or Milwaukee all in that second tier of Eastern teams as we anxiously await real basketball the Eastern Conference should be extremely fun to watch. Might even be like the West was last year if the majority of the teams I just mentioned end up meeting or exceeding expectations.

  6. khandor Says:

    Sam,

    Here’s the catch though …

    In no way would I suggest that the following line-up:

    STARTERS
    1 Calderon
    2 Parker
    3 Moon [or Graham]
    4 Bosh
    5 O’Neal
    —————-
    KEY BENCH SUBS
    1 Solomon
    2 Adams
    3 Kapono
    4/5 Bargnani
    —————-
    RESERVES
    1/2 Ukic
    4/3 Graham
    4/5 Humphries
    —————-
    HEALTHY SCRATCHES
    5/4 Jawai

    [the one referred to most frequently by Raptors’ fans everywhere]

    is going to win 50+ games this season AND a 1st Round Playoff Series.

    ==========================

    And … based upon what I’ve seen thus far from the Raptors’ current Management Team and Coaching Staff … THERE IS ALMOST NO CHANCE [i.e. 0.0%] this team is [ever?] going to use the line-up I’ve suggested to this point.

    Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

    To actually use a line-up like THAT … would take unconventional out-of-the-box thinking [i.e. shifting around Parker, Moon & Graham] AND a Team/Organizational Commitment to the value of REBOUNDING, DEFENSE & Highly Structured Team Offense, on the whole … which I have yet to see from anyone associated with the key decisions on the basketball side of MLSE [with the possible exception of Wayne Embry, who now seems to be a silent voice in the team’s management structure].

  7. Arsenalist Says:

    For Jamario Moon
    * 21-51, 0.411 … 3PT-Shooting from the Left Corner & Left Wing, 2007-2008 [as per NBA.com/hotspots]
    * http://www.82games.com/0708/07TOR8C.HTM
    * http://www.82games.com/0708/07TOR8B.HTM

    For Joey Graham
    * 15-35, 0.429 … 3PT-Shooting from the Right Corner & Top Of The Key [TOTK], Career [as per NBA.com/hotspots]
    * http://www.82games.com/0708/07TOR9C.HTM
    * http://www.82games.com/0708/07TOR9B.HTM

    Come on man, that’s the perfect example of lies and statistics. You can’t be serious about encouraging Moon to shoot corner threes. Rewind to all the times he missed jumper after jumper when left open in the fourth quarter to cost us games.

    If the Raptors are relying on exclusive thee point shooting as the only option out of a Bosh/JO kickout, we’re in trouble. Moon should be focused on slashing more than anything else at this point in his career. We have enough jump shooters and if that’s what he’s going to do, I’d rather have Kapono in there. As for Joey G, I’ve done some hard reflection and am officially closing the book on him as a Raptor.

  8. khandor Says:

    Arsenalist,

    First.

    You know that I don’t place much stock in ‘average stats’ to begin with.

    Second.

    I base my observations on what I see actually happening on the court in specific situations.

    Third.

    If I tell most Raptors fans that THEIR current perception of Jamario Moon as a poor 3PT-Shooter is not accurate and inconsistent with my own perception of his ability in this area of the game then they will simply dismiss my observation as utter nonsense … due to Moon’s 32.8% on 3-balls last season.

    Fourth.

    In my experience, one of the key mistakes a fan can make is to NOT be ‘specific enough’ in his assessment of the skills of a certain NBA player and, instead, to generalize that player’s overall ability to a range of skills which are simply not applicable.

    Fifth.

    Case in point …

    Last year, Jamario Moon actually shot 9-24 [0.375] from the Left Corner and 12-27 [0.444] from the Left Wing positions.

    These are NOT the shooting stats of a poor 3PT-Shooter, from those specific spots on the floor.

    Yes, indeed … Mr. Moon is a mediocre 3PT-Shooter from the Right Corner [9-28, 0.321]and a poor 3PT-Shooter from the Right Wing [9-32, 0.281] and the TOTK [1-9, 0.111] … but to the eyes of someone who knows what to look for in an elite level player, J-Moon is far from being an inept 3PT-Shooter.

    Sixth.

    Simply WANTING J-Moon to ‘slash to the basket more’, at this point in his career, is NOT making best use of WHO IT IS MR. MOON THINKS HE IS, as a player, at this level of competition … and is setting up a situation in which there is an unnecessary conflict between (i) what a player actually does on the court and (ii) what someone else [his head coach, perhaps?] WANTS him to do for the team.

    In general, this is the type of critical mistake in judgment an inexperienced basketball coach/evaluator-of-talent can make when assigning proper roles to the players on a specific team.

    At this point in his career … I’d be willing to bet a substantial amount of money that J-Moon perceives himself to be a Rebounder/Shot-blocker/Defender, who can shoot the ball effectively and, every once-in-a-while, slash to the basket when an open lane presents itself … IN THAT SPECIFIC ORDER.

    Seven.

    A Horns-based, High-Low Offense with 2 spot-up shooters in the Left & Right Corner/Wing positions … which emphasizes Pick & Roll/Pops with the Bigs & Point Guard AND efficient 3PT-Shooting from the #2 & #3 players, in concert with the occasional slash to rim … is the basic offensive structure the Spurs have used to win multiple NBA championships.

    Eight.

    J-Moon & J-Graham are relatively efficient 3PT-Shooters, from these spots on the floor, AND are capable of REBOUNDING & Defending in a way that Jason Kapono is NOT.

    An elite level NBA team should bring a player like Jason Kapono off the bench.

  9. Second piece of good news coming from Raptors’ camp « Khandor’s Sports Blog Says:

    […] Toronto Raptors’ Best 5-Man Unit [Sep 11 2008] * Raptors line-up … tough enough [or not] [Sep 8 […]

  10. Second good news out of Raptors’ camp « Khandor’s Sports Blog Says:

    […] Toronto Raptors’ Best 5-Man Unit [Sep 11 2008] * Raptors line-up … tough enough [or not] [Sep 8 […]

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