NBA Playoff Preview, NBA Playoffs, Nylon Calculus, Orlando Magic, Toronto Raptors

Nylon Calculus: Raptors-Magic win probabilities, assist maps, style charts and more

Previewing the first-round series between the Toronto Raptors and Orlando Magic with shot charts, assist maps, offensive style charts and expected win probabilities.

Shot charts

In the first season without DeMar DeRozan and Dwane Casey, the new-look Toronto Raptors have ripped off another excellent season, finishing with 58 wins. Following an increasing trend from the previous year, the Raptors set a franchise record for 3-pointers attempted (2771) and made (1015) at a 37 percent clip. Toronto’s top four in 3-point attempts per game are Kyle Lowry with 7.0 at 34.7 percent, Danny Green with 5.4 at 45.5 percent, Kawhi Leonard with 5.0 at 37.1 percent and Fred VanVleet with 4.6 at 37.8 percent. The Raptors are 10th in the league in percent of points from scored by 3-pointers at 32.4 percent, percent of 3s that are assisted at 85.2 percent and percent of shot attempts from 3 at 37.9 percent. The below figure breaks out the approximate area field goal percentage for Lowry, Green, Leonard, and VanVleet.

The Magic snuck into the playoffs with a late-season charge, going 11-4 in their last 15 games. One of the major components of the season’s success has been the play of Nikola Vucevic. His season line of 21 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 assists on 31 minutes per game for a full 82 games is truly remarkable given his previous body of work. This season has also posted career-highs in true shooting (57.3 percent) and usage (27.3 percent). Interestingly, much of his scoring increase has come from an increased level of production in the paint, improving roughly four points per game from 2017-18. However, he’s also increased his efficiency from 3, if not his raw production, averaging the same 1.1 makes per game on 36.4 percent shooting, up from 31.4 the season before. The difference from 2017-18 to 2018-19 is presented below in terms of approximate area field goal percentage.

— Andrew Patton (@anpatt7)

Offensive style chart

These charts are not meant to evaluate whether an offense is good or bad. They are designed to help illustrate how teams go about the goal of trying to put the ball in the basket. Each team’s offense is evaluated on four stylistic spectrums.

Ball movement is measured with the average touch time for each team, from the NBA’s player tracking statistics. A lower average touch time means the ball is moving from player to player more quickly.

Player movement is measured with a combination of different NBA.com tracking statistics and works out to average distance traveled per 24 seconds of offensive possession.

Pace is measured with the average length of an offensive possession from Inpredictable, a more accurate representation for how quickly a team is working than traditional pace.

Shot selection is measured with MoreyBall percentage — in this case the percentage of a team’s true shooting opportunities that came at the rim, from the free throw line, or on a 3-pointer. It’s a generalized measure but captures something about how much each team hews to the shots that are, on average, the most efficient.

— Ian Levy (@HickoryHigh)

Assist maps:

At age 32, Kyle Lowry just set a new career-high of 8.7 assists per game this season. And yet, his role in the Raptors offense feels somehow diminished next to his new superstar teammate, Kawhi Leonard. In fact, Lowry started ceding some of his ball-handling duties last year, even before Leonard arrived in Toronto. Lowry has seen his time of possession decrease from 6.9 minutes per game in 2016-17 to just 5.1 minutes this season. And when Lowry does have the ball in his hands, he is attacking the basket less often — with just 7.8 drives per game this season compared to 12.9 in 2016-17. In fact, his rate of 1.4 drives per minute of ball possession is the second-lowest among the 50 most-frequent ball handlers (i.e., guys with 4.2 minutes of possession per game or more).

Lowry’s inability to penetrate deep into the lane is evident from his assist chart; we logged just 3 kick-out passes among the 50 assists sampled (one following an offensive rebound, one to avoid falling out of bounds, and one impromptu dribble handoff). Among the top 50 most prolific assist leaders in the league, no other player had a smaller fraction of his assists (27%) lead to a 3-pointer than Lowry.

Despite his reduced assertiveness, Lowry is still racking up assists with incisive passes thrown from above the 3-point line, all the way back to midcourt. We also logged several long outlet passes that Lowry made from the backcourt in transition. Plays like these have helped the Raptors to score 18.4 fast-break points per game this season, good for fourth-most in the league.

Last postseason, Lowry ramped up his aggressiveness in the first round — jumping from a regular season average of 8.2 to 11.0 drives per game — producing accompanying upticks in points and assists that helped Toronto beat Washington. It remains to be seen if this more-dynamic version of Lowry will re-emerge this postseason against the Magic.

— Todd Whitehead (@CrumpledJumper)

Win probabilities

To project the series, I am using my in-season game projection model. The model is trained off historical game data and accounts for rest, travel, team strength, and matchup. Since I began using the model to predict outcomes, I have been able to correctly identify the winner in about 70 percent of games.

The Raptors come into the series as heavy favorites, winning in 91 percent of the 10,000 simulations. The average length of the series was 5.2 games, with the Raptors given over a 28 percent chance to sweep the series. Behind the star power of Kyle Lowry, Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam, the Raptors should have relatively little trouble beating the Magic. The Magic have had a fantastic season, surpassing almost every expectation placed on them to reach their first playoffs in years. With a team as young and fun as they are, it will be an enjoyable series to watch. But ultimately, the Raptors should wrap this up in four or five games.

Jacob Goldstein (@JacobEGoldstein)

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