The Toronto Raptors give up 105 points a game. That’s kind of a lot. But hey, no big deal, teams are giving up 100 on average this season anyway! And besides, there are a ton of teams that have given up 105 points a game and made the playoffs. So you know, there’s not much shame in their defense really.
But that’s the old way of looking at things. It’s a new day! We have computers, the internet, music on download Netflix, and something called efficiency ratings. And they tell a much more accurate view of how offenses and defenses perform.
(If you’re even remotely comfortable with modern stats, feel free to skip on down.)
See, a while back, some folks decided that one of the problems with evaluating teams is that their performances are impacted by the pace of the game, which can fluctuate by game and by team.
The solution was to develop a formula for estimating the number of possessions in a game using box score metrics in a complicated formula (which I’ll spare you as to not give you an embolism). Then you evaluate the point scored divided by those possessions and you have points per possession. Multiply that by 100, and you’ve got a rough estimate (most games feature at or around 100 possessions) you can use as a baseline comparison.
Long story short, the Raptors suck more than we thought.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, the Raptors are currently at a defensive rating of 113.1. Since the ’77-78 season (when Basketball Reference starts tracking offensive and defensive efficiencies), there have been thirteen teams with a defensive rating of 113 or higher, including the Raps. Of those 13 teams, only one team, the 81-82 Nuggets, made the playoffs. So if the Raps somehow manage to sneak in they’ll be only the second team since ’77 to play defense as badly as they do and make the postseason. Meanwhile, that Nuggets team had an offensive rating of 114.3 compared to 111.1 for the Raptors.
On the one hand maybe it’s a good indication that advanced metrics are sometimes flawed and don’t tell the whole story. On the other hand, have you seen the flipping Raptors? They are far and away an abomination to the art of basketball defense. Can’t trap, can’t rebound can’t steal, can’t disrupt, can’t stop anything.
Toronto’s clinging to their playoff lives in the eighth seed. And if they don’t step up their defense in a big way, they’re going to saddle up as the second worst defense in the modern age to make the playoffs.