Playing Daryl Morey’s style of basketball hasn’t been working

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The Toronto Raptors have been an offense-driven team in the last few years, as Nick Nurse’s philosophy hinges on efficient shooting from beyond the 3-point line and tons of movement without the ball. The style of basketball pioneered by Daryl Morey and the Houston Rockets, which emphasizes 3-pointers and easy shots at the rim, has made its way to Toronto.

Normally, this style has helped Nurse compete for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately, due to injuries, COVID-19, and general underperformance, Toronto is outside of the postseason, and it might be due to an offense that is living and dying (and dying more often than not this season) by the 3-point shot.

FanSided’s Nylon Calculus showed that the Raptors are among the league leaders in MoreyBall percentage, otherwise known as the percentage of a team’s true shooting chances at the rim, free-throw line, or 3-point line. The Raptors also score highly on pace, off-ball player movement, and on-ball movement.

Despite the fact that the Raptors are playing a style that is more commonplace in the modern NBA, only two teams that play this style of basketball, the Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans, rank in the top 10 in the league in offensive efficiency. Toronto ranks 14th.

Is it time for Toronto to switch things up?

Should the Toronto Raptors switch up their offense?

Toronto ranks just 18th in points per game this season and 13th in offensive rating, a sharp decline from the last two seasons. Despite playing in an offense that requires tons of great shooting, only Gary Trent, who has played with the team for a handful of weeks, and Paul Watson, who isn’t a lock to remain in the rotation, are making over 40% of their 3-balls.

The issue with the Raptors’ offense right now is twofold. First, as great as Trent, Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet are, none of them are tremendous isolation scorers given their low points per possession. Norman Powell, top five in the league in points per iso, could’ve helped slow the offense down, but he’s plying his trade in Portland.

Second, teams that have proven to be adept at slowing the pace down can rely on bigger centers that can have their way in the paint. With Khem Birch being hailed as the second coming due to how poor Aron Baynes was, the Raptors lack the muscle inside to get the job done.

For such a smart, accomplished coach, Nurse doesn’t seem to notice the fact that this style of play is simply not working right now. While he doesn’t have the horses to completely reinvent his style, making some slight tweaks here and there could help him get a better evaluation of his team for next year.