Woz Blog: Raptors head to all-star break riding high after greatest first half in franchise history
That’s a wrap on the most successful first half of a season in Raptors history. And it isn’t really close, nor, given the early slate of road games and the removal of a few veterans, was it at all expected.
These Raptors have vastly exceeded expectations, emerging as a fringe contender, though much remains to be proven, and they go into the all-star break on a high.
The Raptors handed out 38 assists. Yes, Chicago is a poorly constructed defensive outfit, but that’s impressive. You have to go back to 1997, not long before Damon Stoudamire left town, for the only game where a Raptors team compiled more assists (39). Now, the frequency of three-point shots has a lot to do with this, but of the top-11 assist games in franchise history, three have come this season.
Pascal Siakam had a 2.9% assist percentage as a rookie. He’s up to 12.8% now, an incredible jump. Through the magic of basketball-reference.com, we discover that Siakam’s metrics as a passer are eerily similar to two of the best passing Raptors bigs to come through these parts, Jorge Garbajosa and Charles Oakley (we are erasing memories of Oakley’s behind the back specials here). Of course, Garbajosa and Oakley were a decade or so older than Siakam when they posted those stats, so the young sophomore has a chance to enter another category as a passer moving forward. Robert Horry, David West, Trevor Ariza and Ron Artest are other decent comparables here
Serge Ibaka has really ramped his game up lately and it makes sense that all of that extra rest the bench has made possible has been great for Ibaka.
Ibaka’s averaging about 15% fewer minutes than he did in his Oklahoma City prime and his fewest since his second and third years in the NBA. He’s putting the ball on the floor and attacking more than we’ve seen in the past and he’s simply been a far more productive player than he was in either Orlando or Toronto last season and probably better than his final Thunder campaign as well.
This celebration was pretty great too. The choreography might not have been spot on, but it was highly entertaining.
Remember when the Raptors could never beat the Bulls, losing every game year after year? Well, that’s 4-for-4 for Toronto this year, the first sweep over Chicago since 2001-02, the height of Vinsanity (also, the ill-fated Eddy Curry/Tyson Chandler era, which featured guest appearances by Charles Oakley Jalen Rose, at least the media had people to talk to).
A stat that popped out from the notes (and one that also demonstrated how prevalent the three-point shot has become): Chicago is only 25 made threes away from setting a new team record for a season. There are still tons of games to go. That’s bonkers.
Off to L.A. with lots of NBA all-star coverage to come.
2 – Serge Ibaka
3 – Pascal Siakam