I’m continuing to noodle around last season’s Toronto Raptors statistics, and this time I want to take a look at our rising star (we hope!) at Centre, Jonas Valanciunas. Those of you who have been following the NBA for some time will remember “Hack-a-Shaq”. That was the term given to the shameless tactic used against Shaquille O’Neal in his best years. Once that man-mountain had the ball inside, preventing him from cramming down an easy deuce was well-nigh impossible. The only recourse open to defenders was to grab him before he left the floor, accepting the foul, on the sound premise that doing so would be less “expensive” than letting him score. Shaq was a dismal free-throw shooter, averaging 52.7% for his career, so the tactic was sound.
Hack-a-Shaq is an extreme example of how to handle an unstoppable force. The closest parallel in today’s NBA is Dwight Howard, who get the Hack-a-Shaq treatment on occasion. The Houston Rockets’ big man led all Centres with 638 FTAs [Free Throw Attempts], but converted them at a risible 54.7%. That pushed Dwight into second spot in FTM [Free Throws Made] behind DeMarcus (The Real Big Baby) Cousins of the Sacramento Kings, who converted his FTAs at a respectable 72.6% rate. The most efficient shooter from the line at 82% was Chris Bosh of Miami, followed closely by Portland’s Robin Lopez.
What’s all this got to do with JV, you ask? I’m getting there. Jonas has little problem with free throws, converting them at a 76.2% rate last season, which is very strong for a youthful centre. [20-second timeout: JV is tied for 11th with Denver's Timofey Mozgov in FTAs with 260. I'll let it slip that I'm preparing a post on players set to break out into stardom, and Mozgov will be there. That guy can be scary.] The problem arises with the infrequency of his trips. JV attempted an average of 3.2 FTs per game, and that’s simply inadequate. While he won’t ever toe the charity stripe to the extent Howard (9.0 FTAs) or Cousins (8.4) do, he should be in the same company as Minnesota’s Nikola Pekovic (4.6). The Raps need to be drawing up more plays for JV, particularly on the low block. While I understand and support the need for him to be actively participating in the high pick & roll schemes our team runs so much, Man can’t live on bread alone. Jonas is extremely mobile, and can get down low in plenty of time to run an isolation, should the pick & roll not create an open shot for our backcourt.
There’s also the fait accompli that JV is not yet a star, and doesn’t get as many calls as he should. This problem afflicts Terrence Ross as well. We hope that bias against our kids will dissipate this season, as the league’s refs realize our people are for real.
What do you think, Rapture Nation? Will JV get more plays called for him, and see the line more often this upcoming season, to our team’s advantage? Please leave us your thoughts.