Jan 21 NBA Action: Taking a Side on Toronto Raptors @ Memphis Grizzlies
Toronto Raptors +6.5 (-118) at Memphis Grizzlies
Toronto has become a tough bet against the spread lately. While kicking off the season on a 19-11 run versus the number, the Raptors are an atrocious 2-9 since. Stretch Guard DeMar DeRozan returned to the Toronto starting lineup three games ago. Once DeRozan again finds his form, the biggest benefit we expect of his return is a shoring up of the Raptor defense.
Even though they played much of the first half of the season without their star Guard, Toronto sports the fifth most productive offense in the league, averaging over 106 points per game (it is only very recently that the Raptors have lsot their way offensively). However, Toronto gives up more than 101 points per contest this year, compared to a more miserly 98 last season. DeRozan's defensive real plus minus (DRPM) is +0.19, while backup Guard Louis Williams' DRPM is -1.34 (these figures imply that, all other things constant, DeRozan's defense shrinks the differential between opponents and the Raptors score, while Williams' efforts widen the gap. Thus, with the lineup again intact, we see scope for imminent improvement for Toronto on the defensive side of the ball.
DeRozan went 0-9 from the floor in Toronto's win and cover at Milwaukee on Monday. DeMar averages 19 PPG, on about 7-16 from the field. As such, we would not be surprised to see a strong offensive showing from DeRozan to make up for the dissappointing display two days earlier. When these teams last met in mid-November, DeRozan shot 10-22 and was the leading scorer in the Raptors' 96-92 win.
Like Toronto, Memphis is also 21-20 on the year ATS, but the Grizz are 5-5 most recently. In fact, the Mavericks just snapped the Grizzlies four game straight up and against the spread streak on Monday. Memphis is 10th in points allowed and 11th in overall defensive efficientcy, so taking on the Grizzlies at the Grindhouse is no cakewalk. However, our work suggests it is time for Toronto to regroup -- especially given that DeRozan is back.
Bottom line: In spite of their recent struggles, we think Toronto can rise again. Our simulation based work, as well as our quantitative assessment suggest the Raptors will build on Monday's win/cover. Accordingly, we are taking the points and siding with Toronto at FedExForum tonight.