There’s a narrative going around that the Toronto Raptors are being plagued by bad refereeing. It’s the usual kind of thing people complain about when they’re losing and they’re not getting to the free-throw line enough.
So far this season the Raptors rank dead last in free-throw attempts per game with 17.8 and second last in fouls drawn with 18.2, just ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies. While it’s fair to wonder how the team could be so close to the bottom in fouls drawn while also having the second most fouls called against them, the NBA doesn’t have some elaborate scheme to try and burn Toronto.
The reason, at least in part, is pretty simple. If you want more calls, get in the paint.
So it makes some sense then that the Raptors rank at the bottom of the league in fouls drawn considering they rank near the bottom of the league in shot attempts at the rim. Through five games, they’re attempting just 24 shots at the rim per game, the ninth-lowest in the league, and just 31% of their shots have come at the rim, according to Cleaning the Glass, again, the ninth-lowest in the league.
After the Raptors’ loss to the Pelicans on Saturday night Pascal Siakam was asked what he specifically can do to draw more fouls considering his free-throw attempts per game have dropped from just over five per game last season to just two per game this year.
“That’s a great question. I don’t know, I don’t know,” he said. “I’m trying to figure that out. Me, I watch a lot of games and I watch a lot of things and it’s tough when you go out there and don’t feel like you’re getting the whistle or whatever the case might be, but I got to finish through contact on my part, continue to get better at that, being stronger at the rim. I don’t control the whistle, I don’t know what’s happening there but I got to look at myself and find a way to get better at finishing at the rim and drawing two or three people and making the right pass.”
Looking closer at his shot attempts this season, the reason for the drop is pretty clear. So far this season he’s taking just 21% of his shots at the rim compared to 39% last season, according to Cleaning the Glass. That’s a massive difference to start the season and a clear reason why he’s not drawing calls these days.
Right now the Raptors are taking an overwhelming plurality of their shots from behind the arc. They lead the NBA in 3-point attempts per game. If they want to draw some more foul calls and get to the line, they’re going to have to adjust and get back to playing old fashion inside the paint basketball.