Title: How the Raptors became an elite defence and what they can do to be even better
Date: March 2, 2018
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I dug into how the Raptors have been able to quietly rank No. 3 in defense on the season because of all of the attention on their offense and despite a counter-intuitive quirk in their opponent shot profile.
A jump in assist rate. Fewer minutes for the stars. A more democratic, balanced and matchup-proof approach to offensive basketball.
These have been the talking points around the Toronto Raptors ever since president Masai Ujiri uttered the words “culture reset” following a sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Those are the scales by which the Raptors have been measured all season long, and for good reason: It’s on the offensive end where they’ve stumbled in recent post-seasons, where the drop-off from their regular season was most pronounced, and where, it seemed, the Raptors faced their biggest bottleneck in terms of breaking through to the next level.
The returns through three-quarters of a season are encouraging. It is not on the offensive end alone, though, where the Raptors have taken strides. They own the league’s third-best net rating – one that lends historical confidence to their playoff outlook – but it’s not only because they are ethering teams with the best offence in franchise history. They also rank third in the NBA in defence, by far the best they’ve ranked under head coach Dwane Casey, who has had the team flirting with a top-10 mark almost annually but has never had them humming quite like this, relative to league scoring levels.