Jay Satur of Raptors.com recently sat down with Alex Rucker, the Raptors' Director of Analytics, to discuss a number of topics, including the new players Toronto will add for the coming season. The conversation focused primarily on the Raps' big trade acquisition (Kyle Lowry), the team's major free agent signing (Landry Fields), and last year's fifth overall pick (Jonas Valanciunas). Rucker shared some interesting observations on those players and how they ended up in Toronto. Here are a few of his comments:
On why the team targeted Lowry in trade talks:
"He’s a guy that’s been on our radar for three years as a guy that is underappreciated…. The value that he has is not captured well by the box score, so some people don’t quite get it. A lot of the things he does in terms of his style of play have a lot of value and he does a lot of things really well to help teams win ball games. I think [Rockets GM] Daryl [Morey] referenced that a couple of times in interviews about how a lot of their big wins were attributable to what Kyle did and maybe if you look at the box score, it wasn’t obvious, but he is a winning player."
"When teams are playing us, they’re never going to get a 'backup point guard.' You’re going to get 48 minutes of quality point guard play. So when they bring in their backups and maybe have a drop off in quality, we should be in a position to take advantage of that because we will always have a good point guard on the floor."
On how Fields showed up on the team's free agent radar:
"We identified the wing as a position we wanted to upgrade. We felt like when you come off a season like we did, rebuilding, you look at every position and ask, how we can get better? With the wing spot, we looked across the whole spectrum of free agent and trade target wings and Landry was a guy that kept coming up in conversations. The coaches liked him, management liked him and the analytics liked him. He was a guy that was on the radar months ago as one of the top wing candidates that could help us upgrade at the wing spots.
On the perception that the Raptors overpaid Fields, who signed a three-year, $18.5MM deal:
"If the only year he played in pro basketball was this past season, then I would agree with every bit of criticism that’s out there about the deal. However, there’s this rather large sample of games, minutes, possessions that occurred as a rookie and a lot of that season was a slightly dissimilar situation than the one they currently have in New York…. So what kind of a situation are we looking to have? What kind of offence are we going to run? What kind of personnel are we going to have? How might he fit within that? I’m not thinking he’s going to immediately revert back to his rookie year, if he does, great. But I think the truth is somewhere in the middle and I’m going to be very happy if it’s something in the middle."
On the expectations for Valanciunas:
"Not necessarily from day one but over the long term, I think Jonas will be a guy that is a really good rebounder at both ends and can protect the rim defensively as an on-ball and help post defender. His dedication to improving his free throw percentage speaks to an overall offensive potential that he’s just growing into. So the work ethic and the passion he clearly has for the game, those intangibles combined with what he’s done on the court are real strong indicators that this is a guy, over the long run, that could be this building block at center we have for 10-15 years here in Toronto."