The Toronto Raptors play a very team-oriented brand of offensive basketball.
The vast majority of their offensive possessions are either in transition or fall into one of two categories. They're either what Raptors coach Nick Nurse calls "next action basketball" or his "drive kick and swing" offence. Essentially, those latter two styles are predicated on running a series of actions or trying to collapse the defence around dribble penetration to create an advantage either with a kick-out pass or stringing together actions until the defence is forced into rotation.
To find success in the scheme Nurse needs his players to find the perfect balance between selfishness and unselfishness. A selfish player will take a shot when there isn't one to take, but an unselfish player will squander an advantage, forcing the Raptors to start searching for another opportunity as precious seconds tick away on the shot clock.
At times this season, it's been that latter problem that Yuta Watanabe has had issues with. His basketball IQ is so high and he's so team-oriented that he's occasionally been unwilling to take advantage of a good shot.
"He's so unselfish, he does so much cutting and flying around on offense, and he's valuable with that, he's a ball-mover, a person-mover," Nurse said earlier in the month. "If he's got a straight-line drive, he's got to score, and if there's multiple defenders in there, he's got to [pass] it, and doing that a little higher level."
Some of that lack of aggression can be chalked up to an ankle injury Watanabe dealt with earlier in the season. It didn't seem like a big deal at the time, but Nurse said he thinks it might have hindered the Japanese forward's attacking ability.
That, however, appears to be changing. Watanabe has made the most of his opportunities lately and has begun attacking advantages both in transition and in the half-court. On Friday, he scored a career-high 21 points and more importantly made a career-high seven shots on 11 attempts. Some of those came on aggressive dribble penetration and not passing 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," Nurse said Friday night.
None of what Watanabe did was particularly eye-popping. He had a few nice buckets off-the-dribble, 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 advantages Toronto's offence creates. When there's a chance to score, Watanabe needs to take it.