Axel Toupane’s Aggressiveness Helps Lead Improved Season

Updated: January 31, 2017

After receiving a 21-game audition last season for the Denver Nuggets, Axel Toupane returned to Raptors 905 this year looking to build on what he had accomplished.

Though his stint with the Nuggets left much to be desired in terms of production, the fact that he received that lengthy of a look was promising moving forward.

With some notes from the Nuggets coaching staff in hand and a full offseason to improve his game, Toupane has come back with a vengeance and has shown an aggressive streak that was at times lacking last year.

Though his counting statistics look relatively similar on paper, 16.5 points per game compared to 14.6 last year, 3.3 assists to 3.6 and 2.9 turnovers to 2.8, the underlying numbers show promising improvements.

His 6.2% improvement in field goal percentage (to 49.1% this year) jumps off of the page, as does the 5.4% step forward from behind the three-point line.

Though Toupane is converting at a more efficient rate from all over the court, the most important step forward that he has taken has been his shot selection.

While he converted on just 31.3% of his three-point attempts last season, nearly 35% of his shots came from three-point land. While those kinds of decisions can be wise for strong shooters like Gabe York’s (45.1 3P%) and Isaiah Taylor’s (44.8 3P%) of the D-League, it is not the best choice for an inconsistent shooter like Toupane.

To this point in the season, Toupane has realized his faults from last year and has made it a point of emphasis to take less three-pointers. This year only 23.1% of his attempts are coming from deep and with the decrease in volume he’s hitting at a 36.7% clip.

With his decision to move away from the three-point ball, Toupane is not simply loafing around on the offensive side of the ball. He’s made a concerted effort to be more effective in attacking the rim and despite his slight frame (210 pounds) he is finishing better than ever.

Compared to his 66.7% conversion rate from the Restricted Area last year, he’s finishing on 68.7% of those attempts this season. Considering the fact that he only 30.8% of his shots came from that range last season in comparison to 46.7% this year, that represents a large step forward.

By taking smarter shots and learning how to finish through contact more effectively, Toupane has seen his Effective Field Goal Percentage and True Shooting Percentage go through the roof. His 5.3% improvement in eFG represents the gap between Darren Collison and Stephen Curry this year, and his 7.5% jump in TS% is the difference between Iman Shumpert and Kevin Durant.

The improvements that he’s made to this point in the season have been a positive, but Toupane still has some work to do before he can really establish himself as an NBA-ready player.

His ability to get to the rim and fight through contact is unquestionably a big plus, but attempts like those are harder to come by at the NBA level.

The drop that he has seen in his jump shots (down to 29.5% on the year) is a bit alarming and will need to be curtailed if he wants to gain the interest of NBA teams once more.

Despite that however, it is a credit to Toupane that he has been able to recognize his faults and do what he can not only to mask them for the time being, but also to emphasize his strengths and make them a more visible part of his game.

With the improvements that he’s made in terms of both shot selection and aggressiveness on the offensive end, Toupane has made a great head start on working his way back into the NBA.

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