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Toronto Raptors

What's going on with the Raptors? Five stats that explain Toronto's slow start

When it rains, it pours.

In losing to the Boston Celtics on Monday, the Toronto Raptors fell to 1-5, giving them the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference through two weeks of the season. Their lone win came against the New York Knicks on New Year's Eve. The Raptors have lost two games against the New Orleans Pelicans and one each to the San Antonio Spurs, Philadelphia 76ers and Celtics despite having a double digit lead in each game.

So ... what's going on with the Raptors?

The season is still young, but here are five stats that shine a light on some of the issues that are plaguing Toronto.

107.0: Toronto's defensive rating

Last season, the Raptors were above average offensively and elite defensively.

So far this season, the Raptors have been above average defensively and abysmal offensively.

According to NBA.com, the Raptors are giving up 107.0 points per 100 possessions through six games, ranking them 13th in the league in defensive efficiency. They're averaging only 103.1 points per 100 possessions on the other end of the court, ranking them 28th in offensive efficiency ahead of only the Cleveland Cavaliers (102.1) and Oklahoma City Thunder (99.2).

While the Raptors underwent some changes in the offseason, replacing Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka with Aron Baynes and Alex Len, they still have Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby, each of whom were All-Defensive Team candidates last season.

After watching the Raptors stifle teams last season with crisp rotations, it's weird to see possessions like this, where a clear lapse in communication leads to a breakdown:

This from their loss to the Spurs was even worse:

Before the start of the season, Lowry said that he wanted the Raptors to become a "real-life defensive monster." They still have the personnel to be an elite defensive team - it's promising that they ranked fifth in defensive efficiency prior to Monday's loss - but they clearly have some work to do.

0.97: How many points per possession Toronto's averaging in transition

That's ... not good.

For perspective, the Raptors led the league in transition scoring last season while scoring at a rate of 1.15 points per possession, ranking them in the 93rd percentile in efficiency. The Raptors are still among the league's leading scorers in transition, but they've been the least efficient team in the league in the open court, ranking dead last with an average of 0.97 points per possession.

We're working with small sample sizes here, but the Raptors proved to be the best transition team in the league last season. Their issue was when the game slowed down, as they were middle of the pack in halfcourt scoring efficiency.

Given their limitations in the halfcourt, the Raptors can't afford to struggle as much as they have in transition to start this season.

31.5%: The offensive rebounding rate of Toronto's opponent

In other words, teams are grabbing almost a third of their misses against the Raptors, which is - you guessed it - one of the highest rates in the league.

The Raptors have done a decent job on the defensive glass with Baynes at centre, but they've been a disaster on both ends of the court with the Australian in the lineup, with opponents outscoring them by an average of 13.2 points per 100 possessions. (Again, small sample alert, but something worth monitoring). The Raptors have a positive net rating with Chris Boucher on the court, but their defensive rebounding rate falls off a cliff, down from 75.2 percent with Baynes to 62.3 percent with Boucher.

Len has given the Raptors the best of both worlds - a positive net rating and a respectable defensive rebounding rate - but his minutes have been up and down. He went from playing 21 minutes in his season debut against the 76ers to under 10 against both the Pelicans and Celtics. There's a good chance his minutes will continue to be dictated by matchups.

"I've got to find some combinations that can rebound together," Nick Nurse said before Toronto's matchup with Boston. "Like I've been talking about here early, we need a little more size out there, a little more athleticism, whatever it is.

"I've got to find the right groups that fit together a little bit, like we used to fit together, that could rebound the ball and defend the way we like to, and the way we are capable of."

30.2: How many points per game Toronto's bench is averaging

The only teams with less productive second units are the Indiana Pacers (29.3), Houston Rockets (29.2) and New Orleans Pelicans (25.7).

Toronto's bench didn't exactly light it up last season - the Raptors ranked 25th in bench scoring with 33.4 points per game - but some of that had to do with Ibaka and Norman Powell starting in almost as many game as they came off the bench due to the time Lowry, VanVleet, Siakam and Gasol missed with injuries.

So far this season, Boucher has been the only player off the bench who has made a notable impact off the bench for the Raptors. Powell is averaging 8.5 points on 30.8 percent shooting from the field following the best season of his career, Matt Thomas hasn't registered a single minute in Toronto's last three games for defensive reasons, Len has flashed some potential but has never been a scorer and Stanley Johnson has gone three straight games without scoring a single point.

Following Toronto's loss to Boston, Nurse singled Powell and Thomas out, as well as Terence Davis, for not playing up to their standard.

"He was OK," Nurse said of Malachi Flynn. "I think my bigger thing is that, if you wanna be honest about it, he didn't really do much out there. And if you wanna be honest about it, Norm hasn't played very well this year, TD hasn't played well, Matt hasn't played well."

Johnson and Len have at least provided some solid defence, but the Raptors need someone other than Boucher to pop offensively off the bench.

42.5%: The percentage of Toronto's points scored from the 3-point line

No team is attempting more 3-pointers on the season than the Raptors (44.8). That in itself isn't a bad thing - the Raptors attempted the sixth-most 3s per game last season - but they've been ice-cold from the perimeter, making only 33.5 percent of their attempts.

The biggest culprits have been Siakam, Anunoby and Baynes, who have combined to shoot 21-for-81 (25.9 percent) from deep. Siakam made huge strides as a 3-point shooter last season but has been unable to get them to drop so far this season, both from a standstill and off the dribble. Ditto for Anunoby, who has made only 25.7 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3s, and Baynes.

Siakam and Anunoby should improve in the coming weeks. The one to watch is Baynes. Baynes had the best 3-point shooting season of his career in 2019-20 but started out on fire and declined as the season wore on, going from shooting 43.9 percent from 3-point range in October and November to 20.7 percent between December and March.

If Baynes can't regain his shooting touch and provide some of the same spacing Gasol and Ibaka did, it would be a big loss for Toronto's halfcourt offence.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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