What are reasonable goals for the Toronto Raptors three-point shooting next season?

Toronto Raptors - Kyle Lowry (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Kyle Lowry (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors were one of the best three-point shooting teams in the NBA last season. With two key marksmen gone, what are reasonable goals for next year?

By just about any metric, the Toronto Raptors were one of the better three-point shooting teams last season. They finished eighth in three-point field goals and sixth in three-point percentage. Combining the two stats, only the Golden State Warriors finished ahead of them in both categories.

Next season, they will likely take a step back in this department. Out goes two of the team’s best shooters in Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard. In comes a bevy of potential replacements, almost none of which can shoot.

So while the team might slightly regress from its stellar 2018-2019 campaign, what are some reasonable goals for 2019-2020?

What the team lost

With the departure of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, Toronto lost two of its most prolific shooters. Last season Leonard finished third on the team in makes and fifth in percentage. Green, even more impressively, finished first on the team in both (min 25 attempts).

Not counting Leonard and Green’s attempts, Toronto made 34.6-percent of their three-pointers last season. That figure would have placed them 24th among all NBA teams. A huge drop off in percentage, just by losing those two players.

But Toronto won’t only have to deal with the percentage of looks made by Green and Leonard. The team will also have to try to replace the number of shots they put up.

Green and Leonard combined for 10.4 three-point attempts per game (9.0 if you account for all attempts/all games). Launching that many triples somewhat efficiently is hard to do. Doing it at 45.5 and 36.1 percent is nearly impossible.

What they added

With Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green out of the picture, Masai Ujiri restocked the forward cupboard with athletic, defensively-capable wings. However, one thing he did not replace is their three-point shooting.

Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Cameron Payne, and Matt Thomas where the team’s non-draft eligible free agent additions this summer. Besides Thomas, none of those guys can shoot. In fact, if Patrick McCaw is the team’s third shooting guard, ahead of Thomas, Green and Leonard’s minutes will be replaced exclusively by downgrades from three-point territory.

When you lose two players of Kawhi and Green’s caliber, you can’t replace everything. Ujiri elected to go the defensive route, a smart decision, but not one that will help the Raptors from behind the arc.

A full year of Marc

However, looking at the team’s season-long numbers is somewhat misleading itself. To more accurately judge the Raptors three-point shooting, it may be helpful to look at the team post-Marc Gasol trade, when they added another viable three-point threat.

After February 8th, the Raptors finished third in the NBA in three-point field goals and first in three-point percentage. While 41-percent is unsustainable for any team over the course of an entire season, Gasol clearly had an impact on the team.

Gasol made approximately one three-point shot per game on 44-percent shooting. However, his impact as a passer and screener might be even more important. With Gasol on the team, guards such as Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry both saw an increase in percentage.

Development and regression

The biggest potential growth for the Raptors is if someone on the roster takes a huge leap forward. While that is certainly possible, the chance for regression is just as high.

Kyle Lowry took a step back as a shooter last season, he could easily bounce back to his career percentages this year. Norman Powell shot 40-percent from deep last season, he could easily regress to his career percentages this year.

Pascal Siakam took a huge leap forward as a shooter last season. However, he basically shot exclusively from the corner and wasn’t tightly contested. As the team’s number one option, will opponents guard him more effectively this season?

The bottom line is it’s nearly impossible to project individual three-point growth and regression from season to season. To assume any player’s three-point percentage will change drastically is a bad bet.

Projecting at the team level based on roster composition is a much more reasonable proposition.

Goals for next season

The majority of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green’s minutes will be replaced by reasonable downgrades in Norman Powell, OG Anunoby, and Fred VanVleet. The minutes filled by the additions from this summer will be disastrously bad in terms of three-point shooting.

Having Marc Gasol for a full season will help, both with his ability to stretch the floor and his aptitude of freeing others open via screens and assists.

However, the Raptors are losing 310 three-point makes on an insanely efficient 42-percent shooting. With end of the rotation piece, Matt Thomas, being the only shooter added, the team is going to be worse both in terms of quantity and percentage.

If the Toronto Raptors can finish in the top two-thirds of the league in three-point makes (allowing them to make about two less per game) and can finish in the top half of the league in percentage (allowing their percentage drop 1.3-percent), they should consider it a success.

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The Raptors were a great three-point shooting team last season; they most likely won’t be next year. That’s okay, they just need to keep their head above water.