Previously, we touched on the Toronto Raptors and their preferred shot locations with a little depth on the centers Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka. While Toronto’s big men can stress the Sixers defense in some very different ways from their Round 1 opponent, the core strength of the Raptors lies in the length and versatility of Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam.
The pairing at the 3/4 position scored an average of 43.5 points per game. They also each have the defensive versatility to guard essentially anyone in the league. We touched on Kawhi’s defensive accolades earlier in the week in our early preview, but let’s go a little deeper on Kawhi.
Let’s start with a graphic. This is Kawhi’s shot chart via AustinClemons.com
For quick reference, the larger the square, the more frequent the shot was taken from that location. The color of the squares indicate how effective the attempts were, relative to average.
Kawhi is what people used to refer to as a “Three Level Scorer.” With the advancements in using analytics to inform shot selection, the midrange has fallen out of favor generally in the NBA, but as you see, Kawhi is one of the few who can effectively operate in the midrange. Still, his 0.88 points per shot in the midrange is something you will live with.
This is especially true when you factor in that roughly half of Leonard’s field goals come deep in the paint and carry an expected value of 1.404 points per shot. From long distance, Kawhi shot 37% overall but is much more effective above the break on the right wing or deep in the left corner. Broadly speaking, the diversity of his game offensively is impressive but keeping him from the rim is paramount. To do that, you need to first limit turnovers and transition opportunities and second, anchor the defense in layers in half court. Jimmy Butler backed by Embiid as Batman seems to be the best plan of attack in my opinion.
Siakam is in some ways more troubling, but in other ways much simpler for the Sixers. Siakam is only a dangerous shooter from three in the corners. He does his damage in transition and at the rim. Shooting 42% from corner threes is impressive, but that accounts for less than one make per game over the course of the regular season. While it is an indicator that the Raptors have a budding star on their hands, it shouldn’t necessarily be first and foremost in the mind of Brett Brown as he constructs a gameplan.
40% of all of Siakam’s shot attempts come within 3 feet of the rim. He wants to score on high percentage shots. Add to that another 30% come from 3-10 feet, and we are talking about a player who almost exclusively will hurt you from the paint.
Initially the matchup seems like a bad one for Tobias Harris, but if the Sixers can remain disciplined defensively and protect the rim as well as the ball, they can take away much of what Siakam does to hurt a team.
Generally the more “well if this happens” you need to justify picking a team, the lesser chance they have. The discipline defensively to protect the rim makes all the sense in the world until you go back and look at how the Raptors big men can hurt you. Read here for more on that.
Coming soon: The Raptors Guards