The Toronto Raptors play a very team-oriented brand of offensive basketball.
The vast majority of their offensive possessions are either in transition or in one of two categories. They are either what Raptors coach Nick Nurse calls “the next basketball action” or his “drive kick and swing” attack. Essentially, these latter two styles rely on performing a series of actions or attempting to collapse the defense around the dribble penetration to create an advantage either with a kick-out pass or a chain. actions until the defense is forced to turn.
To be successful in the scheme, the nurse needs her players to find the perfect balance between selfishness and altruism. A selfish player will attempt a shot when there isn’t one, but a disinterested player will squander an advantage, forcing the Raptors to start looking for another opportunity as precious seconds slip by on the shot clock.
Sometimes this season, it’s this last issue that Yuta Watanabe has struggled with. His basketball IQ is so high and he’s so team-oriented that he sometimes refused to enjoy a good shot.
“He’s so selfless, he does so much cutting and flying on offense, and he’s precious with that, he’s a bullet engine, a nobody’s engine,” Nurse said earlier this month. “If he has a straight line training he has to score, and if there are several defenders in there he has to [pass] and do that on a slightly higher level. ”
Part of that lack of aggression can be attributed to an ankle injury that Watanabe treated earlier in the season. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, but Nurse said he believed it might have hampered the Japanese forward’s attack ability.
However, that seems to be changing. Watanabe has been making the most of his opportunities lately and has started attacking the advantages both in transition and in half court. On Friday, he scored 21 points, a career-high and, more importantly, seven shots, a career-high in 11 attempts.. Some of them came on aggressive dribbling penetration and didn’t pass up ideal opportunities.
“It’s good to see, isn’t it? It’s good to see. I mean he’s, well, he’s really becoming a threat,” the nurse said Friday night.
Nothing Watanabe did was particularly striking. He had a few good buckets out of dribbling, but that’s not necessarily what the Raptors need from him when everyone is healthy and playing together. For him, it’s just about making the most of the benefits of the Toronto attack. When there is a chance to score, Watanabe has to seize it.