After being eliminated and maybe a little embarrassed by the Cleveland Cavaliers last year, a certain team has the best offense in NBA history right now. Yes, this team’s offensive rating is better than that of the seven-seconds-or-less Suns, better than Magic’s Lakers, Bird’s Celtics and Jordan’s Bulls. In their last 10 games, nine of them wins, they have scored an unfathomable 122.3 points per 100 possessions, outscoring its opponents by an average of 17.7 points per game.
Here they are at the top of this handy chart:
The Raptors didn’t add a future Hall of Famer in the summer. They don’t often receive praise for playing a beautiful brand of basketball, full of historically lethal shooters and brilliant passing. In some ways, they fly in the face of the direction the league has been headed for the past few years — they rank 22nd in assist ratio, 23rd in pace and 23rd in 3-pointers attempted. Here are five stats that explain how exactly Toronto has done this:
- Free throws: The Raptors make a league-best 81.8 percent of their free throws, and their free throw rate is third in the league. A large part of this is that DeMar DeRozan is shooting a career-high 9.2 free throws a game and making a career-high 85.5 percent of them.
- Turnovers: Toronto has a turnover rate of 12.4-best, which is third in the league, a rarely discussed benefit of not running an offense where the ball is flying around the court all the time.
- Long-range accuracy: While the Raptors don’t shoot a ton of 3s, they are making them better than anybody. They are making 40.1 percent of their 3-pointers, thanks in part to Kyle Lowry (44.4 percent on 7.0 attempts per game) and Terrence Ross (50 percent — fifty percent! — on 3.7 attempts per game) shooting better than ever.
- Transition: Toronto doesn’t seem like a deadly transition team because it does not push the pace all the time, but it ranks first in points off turnovers, seventh in fast break points and, per Synergy Sports, first in transition points per possession.
- Usage distribution: DeRozan is using an absurd 34.2 percent of the Raptors’ possessions when he’s on the court, and Lowry’s usage rate is 24.4 percent. None of their teammates comes even close to them. This works for Toronto because the two All-Star guards have been incredibly efficient. They have spent the last five seasons not only learning how to complement each other, but how to create good shots in coach Dwane Casey’s offense. There is no question about the hierarchy here — DeRozan and Lowry are the two main playmakers, and everybody else fits in around them.
Fun fact: This is not the first time that a Raptors team has posted the best offensive rating in NBA history. The 2009-10 team — Chris Bosh’s last season in Toronto, Hedo Turkoglu’s only season there — held this distinction for a while. Remarkably, the Raptors also had the worst defensive rating in NBA history at the time, so the two extremes canceled each other out. Thankfully for Casey, this Toronto team has been average on that end of the floor, and there are signs that it will be better than that before the end of the year.