Thoughts on Raptors – Rockets

2010 March 2
by rahat huq

So I was very upset last night.  I had merely assumed Chris Bosh would be in uniform, looking forward to building upon my very superficial earlier assessment of his abilities.  Of course that was not the case as he has been out with injury.  I will just need to catch a Raptors game on League Pass upon his return.

What really stood out to me during the first meeting was from just how far out Bosh likes to operate.  I don’t think I have seen another power forward in the league (other than Dirk, who doesn’t really count) who can shoot fadeaways with such ease from such great distance.

click to enlarge

The above is Chris Bosh’s hot zones for this season.  Most striking is that his favorite spot seems to be at the right elbow, a tendency which would be ideal for a Yao-centric offense, with Yao’s favorite spot being the left block (Yao can operate from either block but is more effective on the left because he can either fadeaway towards his right shoulder or come to the middle for the hook – on the right block, he can only fadeaway to his left shoulder; he has no ability to come towards the middle from that side.)

Chris Bosh also takes 53% of his attempts as jumpshots which of course is a crucial ability for a power forward to have in this offense.  Really, you can’t find a better fit for this offense in this league at the ‘4′ than Bosh.

I have long felt that Yao is most effective when he receives the ball at the end of plays rather than at the beginning of them.  If he receives the ball at the beginning of a play, he is then forced into passing upon drawing the double team; Yao is not a good passer and has very slow reaction time.  Ideally, you want to overload the other side and then swing it to Yao at the end so he can shoot before the defense reacts.  Unfortunately, for reasons unknown, we only saw this sequence during the second half of McGrady’s first year.  I have long felt that making Yao a scoring target (as opposed to an offensive facilitator) was the main adjustment made by Jeff Van Gundy that season to trigger the team’s second half run.  For whatever reason–possibly McGrady’s injury problems–we have never seen it again, and Yao has been used as a facilitator where he is prone to fronting defenses, turnovers, and getting blocked from the weakside.

I envision an offense where Bosh receives the ball on the right elbow, his favorite spot, as the focal point of each set.  Unlike Luis Scola, rather than just shooting or passing, he can actually turn his back from this distance and draw the double team.  The three guards continue cutting, keeping their men away from shading Yao.  Bosh now has the option to attack on his own from the triple-threat position, either shooting or driving, or he can move the ball to one of the guards with either a hand-off or a kickout.

Our multi-dimensional guards can now either shoot, where they are lethal, or drive in where they are equally lethal.

If the guards choose to pass, the ball can be swung around the perimeter and quickly dumped into Yao or handed off to him inside off of the drive.  The intent of such an exhaustive sequence is that through each successive event in the chain, the probability of the defense successfully rotating to Yao is continuously reduced.  Either a prior event produces a high efficiency attempt for another player or Yao receives the ball in his favorite spot with the optimal probability of single coverage.  The point should be to make Yao a scorer and simply a scorer.  Yao Ming is not a passer.

What makes Bosh so unique, distinct from someone like Amare Stoudemire, is the ability to actually set up from the high post.  You see, Stoudemire operates from the perimeter just as effectively.  The distinction though is that Stoudemire is the end of a play – he attacks immediately off the catch because his two skills are driving and shooting; he can’t hold the ball and draw the defense.  This presents somewhat of a conflict with Yao because Yao too is best used as an end target.  On the other hand, Bosh can actually hold the ball at the elbow and draw the defense because he has the ability to post up from that distance.

I will explore the dynamic between Kevin Martin and Aaron Brooks in my next post.

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  • I think Bosh + Yao would work well together because they they are two wonderful talents but I do believe there would be an element of diminished returns with them.

    When Bosh played with Jermaine O'Neal in Toronto he struggled more with his offense. Having a big man hanging around the paint reduced space and made it easier for help defenses to cover his drives. That is Bosh's bread butter -- face up game from 14-17 feet -- where he likes to use his quick first step to blow by his defender for a bucket in paint or to draw a foul (where he draws the majority of his fouls) or to setup his jump shot. Anyway, the spacing with Jermaine on the team was a problem for Bosh and made him less effective offensively. Bosh had a hot start in the first month of the season but if you back and check you'll find that most of his scoring came when Jermaine was on the bench and Bargnani was on the floor. When Bosh had free reign down in the paint.

    Now, the situation won't repeat itself exactly with Yao. There were three other problems with Jermaine that Yao will be an improvement on (1) scoring efficiency in the post and around the rim (2) a quality midrange jump shot (3) passing skills. Oh, and also, Bosh has developed his post game more this offseason which has improved his scoring versatility which would help a Yao-Bosh combination too.

    So, it won't be as bad for Bosh as it was with Jermaine but it will still be considerably less effective than the Bosh you're seeing with Toronto this season alongside Andrea Bargnani.

    Luis Scola would provide a very good big man combination for Bosh. Nice mobility, solid defense, very good rebounding, solid jump shot an excellent cutter + finisher around the rim. A nice complementary weapon. Put Bosh at center and build a running game. Similar to the Rockets of this season. Bosh and Scola would give you great quickness up front and you'd still have all that speed out on the perimeter. They'd also give you a solid interior defense + excellent rebounding. And Bosh would be the 24-25ppg threat that he is in Toronto.

    If Houston did acquire Bosh, I think they should start him alongside Yao but sub him out of the game around the 6 minute mark in the first and third quarters and then bring him back in to play with the second unit. He won't be able to fulfill his offensive ability alongside Yao but he will in the second unit. That would be the best way to fight against the diminished returns of Bosh's offense.
  • I would love to see the Rockets pursue Ryan Anderson. Offer their lottery pick this season to Orlando for him. Start Anderson alongside Yao and use Luis Scola as the team's sixth man with Chuck Hayes remaining in that fourth big role. I think those four players give the Rockets an excellent combination of complementary skills.

    Ryan Anderson's shooting ability will allow the Rockets to space the floor to a better degree. Hence, giving Yao more room to operate in the post + more room for slashers (Martin/Ariza) and dribble penetration (Brooks/Lowry). Anderson would also give the Rockets more lethal weapon in pick and pops which opens up the pick and roll game further for Houston. And he's a quality rebounder + a continually improving defensively.
  • rottendoubt
    great analysis, but i must say i was happy that bosh was out considering we're missing lowry and ariza still. we needed this win and hopefully can build on it. the next 9 games are all winnable in my mind. would be great to have a 5-10 game win streak although that's probably asking for too much.
  • Allen
    Yeah reading an article on how well Bosh would fit with the Rockets is a little painful seeing that there is about 10% chance of him coming here. A lot of things have to fall into place for Bosh to land in Houston. Plus, playing with a healthy Yao is no given at all which probably makes Houston less attractive to free agents.
  • rahat_huq
    alituro - that's a really good point - i had totally forgotten that shane was out against utah.

    luislandry - i think what makes brooks/martin so scary IS that they are out there together, so you can't break that up to spread it out.
  • luislandry
    I wouldn't make too much of the defense w/o some of our best perimeter guys, and I think it's already established we don't have a shotblocking/altering presence inside. I wonder how the Rocket's would do starting Lowry and letting ABZ destroy the backups without getting beaten too badly defensively. This might not make sense now, but when we have more scoring (Yao, some PF hopefully named Bosh), it might be the right thing to do. Or I might be totally off, and having some 7 footers would cover for ABZ while his excellent long range shooting gives them room to work.
  • Alituro
    Off-topic here. I think last night's game reinforces the idea that a healthy dose of backcourt defense is a necessity, what with a 40 pt. swing in points against between the last two games. Now I do realize that a depleted Raptors team is nowhere near the powerhouse that a fully-manned Utah is. D'Antoni nor Nelly ever did anything with their all offense teams, they were always around because they put up lots of points, but you need defense to win championships, at least some. Brooks/Martin is a godsend of a backcourt duo offensively, and I wouldn't give that up ever. I'm just saying that you need to have at least one player or more each in the front and back courts that is able to cause disruption defensively. Battier was that guy last night that made the difference. I think against Utah, were Battier, Ariza and Lowry able to contribute some minutes it would have been a closer game. Harken back to Rick's Kings, a major part of their success came from having guys like Williamson, Divac, Christie and B. Jackson coming off the bench providing some stops and steals. Not saying we should go back to the JVG defensive extreme, but some balance is imperative.
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