Despite the fact that it falls after the 41 game mark of the regular season, All-Star break is the de facto midway point of the NBA season.
It's considered a checkpoint for a reason, as it becomes a time for comparison and evaluation. Coming out of the break, the Toronto Raptors have finally gotten much-deserved respect thanks largely in part to winning 15 of their last 16.
This year's Raptors are off to a better start than last year's championship team, despite the number of changes abound.
In addition to the departures of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, this year's team has dealt with a number of injuries to each of its key players, with eight missing at least 10 of the first 55 games.
How have they done it? Let's take a look into what's changed - and what's stayed the same - from last year's championship team at the unofficial midway point.
By the numbers
|2018-19||NBA Rank||2019-20||NBA Rank|
|Record||43-16 (.729)||No. 2 in East||40-15 (.727)||No. 2 in East|
|Home Record||24-5 (.828)||-||21-7 (.750)||-|
First thing's first, the most important number is that Toronto is now 25 games above-.500 thanks to its recently snapped 15-game win streak, owning a win percentage that is just under last year's team coming out of the All-Star break.
What stayed the same? The Raptors have been second in the East behind the Milwaukee Bucks at this point of the season in back-to-back years, only this year the gap (7.0 games back) is much larger than last year (1.0 game back).
Here's what stands out:
- Toronto again boasts a top-10 scoring offence and scoring defence
- The defence is what this team hangs its hat on, to an even greater extent this year. The Raptors boast the league's second-rated defence coming out of this year's All-Star break after being ranked eighth at this time last year.
- This year's team has become an elite 3-point shooting unit, as it ranks in the top five in both 3-pointers made per game and 3-point percentage.
Replacing lost production
|Kawhi Leonard||27.0 PTS, 7.7 REB, 3.3 AST, 1.9 STL, 16 games missed||Pascal Siakam||23.5 PTS, 7.5 REB, 3.5 AST, 1.0 STL, 11 games missed|
|Pascal Siakam||16.1 PTS, 7.0 REB, 2.8 AST, 1.0 STL, 2 games missed||Kyle Lowry||19.6 PTS, 7.6 AST, 4.7 REB, 1.2 STL, 12 games missed|
|Serge Ibaka||16.0 PTS, 8.0 REB, 1.5 AST, 1.3 BLK, 4 games missed||Fred VanVleet||18.0 PTS, 6.8 AST, 3.7 REB in 36.0 MPG, 10 games missed|
|Kyle Lowry||14.3 PTS, 9.2 AST, 4.5 REB, 1.4 STL, 12 games missed||Serge Ibaka||16.1 PTS, 8.0 REB, 1.4 AST, 0.8 BLK, 11 games missed|
|Fred VanVleet||10.5 PTS, 4.6 AST, 2.7 REB in 26.8 MPG, 8 games missed||Norman Powell||15.3 PTS, 3.9 REB, 1.7 AST, 40.1 3P%, 17 games missed|
|Marc Gasol||10.0 PTS, 6.3 REB, 1.7 AST in 20.1 MPG over 3 games||OG Anunoby||10.2 PTS, 5.4 REB, 1.5 AST, 53 starts|
|Danny Green||9.8 PTS, 4.1 REB, 1.4 AST, 42.1 3P%, 2 games missed||Terence Davis||7.9 PTS, 3.5 REB, 1.7 AST, 41.9 3P%, 0 games missed|
|Norman Powell||8.4 PTS, 1.9 REB, 1.6 AST, 34.9 3P%, 22 games missed||Marc Gasol||7.8 PTS, 6.5 REB, 3.5 AST, 20 games missed|
|OG Anunoby||7.1 PTS, 3.1 REB in 20.3 MPG - 5 starts in 48 games||Rondae Hollis-Jefferson||7.6 PTS, 4.9 REB, 1.8 AST, 12 games missed|
|Chris Boucher||3.8 PTS, 1.6 REB in 5.5 MPG over 17 games as two-way||Chris Boucher||6.3 PTS, 4.3 REB in 12.9 MPG in 47 games played|
|Patrick McCaw||2.1 PTS, 2.2 REB in 11.2 MPG over 10 games||Patrick McCaw||4.9 PTS, 2.3 AST, 2.2 REB in 24.1 MPG, 24 games missed|
Before the season started, many wondered whether or not the Raptors could score enough with Kawhi and Danny Green now in Los Angeles.
The answer is a resounding yes, thanks to savvy moves and individual improvement throughout the roster:
- As a No. 1 option, Pascal Siakam has again made a leap in increasing his scoring average by over 7.0 points per game.
- After taking a step back last year, Kyle Lowry returned to his scoring ways to become the team's second-leading scorer.
- Embracing his role as a full-time starter, Fred VanVleet has increased his production across the board with more playing time.
- Serge Ibaka is the definition of consistency. At 30, he is still contributing just as he was last season.
- Norman Powell has gone from good to great from beyond the arc to nearly double his scoring production.
- A starter's role suits OG Anunoby well, and he'll only continue to get better.
As for savvy moves, undrafted rookie Terence Davis has looked the part of a top-10 pick while Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has become a bit of a do-it-all high-energy glue guy for the team, showing a willingness to do whatever's asked of him.
Depth is again a strength.
At this point last year, 13 Raptors had scored 15 or more points in a game; this year, 12 Raptors have scored 15 or more points in a game.
The Big Picture
Ultimately, it's an 82-game season and nothing truly meaningful is won by the All-Star break but this Raptors team is again positioning itself for a deep run come April.
Toronto has built a 1.5-game lead over the Boston Celtics for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, a desired spot in the playoff bracket that would delay a potential postseason meeting with the juggernaut Milwaukee Bucks until the Eastern Conference Finals.
Having home-court advantage in the first two rounds of last season afforded the Raptors a Game 7 at home in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Toronto is again an elite home team with a record of 21-7 at Scotiabank Arena. Even more impressive? Its 19-8 record away from home.
As last year indicates, championship teams find ways to win on the road; this year's team has done just that. Championship teams also take care of business against lesser opponents. Ahead of the break, the Raptors are 31-3 against teams with records below .500, a figure on par with last year's team that finished 36-4 against such teams.
The Raptors are on pace to win 60 games, which would be the most in franchise history. When taking change and injuries into consideration, it's a remarkable feat.
Can they parlay that into another deep postseason run?
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