Toronto Raptors Shouldn’t Rush To Offer Kyle Lowry An Extension

kyle-lowry-houston-rockets-toronto-raptors

Kyle Lowry is putting up all-star caliber numbers this season and he has been the best player on the Toronto Raptors all season, but why rush to sign him to a contract extension after a couple of good months?

Last year was a rocky year to say the least for Lowry as he butted heads with head coach Dwane Casey and suffered through injury issues. He was anointed the savior of the team when Bryan Colangelo traded for him two summers ago only average 11.6 points while shooting 40% from the field last season while being limited to playing in only 68 games.

Sure, there was a meeting of the minds at the beginning of the season that gave Lowry a fresh new perspective, but there’s also the chance that this is a typical career year from a player in a contract year.

While fans and some members of the media are currently urging the front office to give Lowry an extension, there’s something to be said for waiting to see what the market dictates this summer.

The fact that few general managers were willing to offer up fair value for Lowry when Masai Ujiri floated him as being available is a sign that Lowry may not fetch the kind of contract he expects this summer.

The other warning flag for Lowry is that coaches around the NBA have labeled him as bristly as shown by their lack of votes for the all-star game. Granted, he still almost nudged out Joe Johnson, but it should have been Lowry’s spot if it was based just on performance.

Another thing to consider is Toronto will be flush with cash this summer if they don’t pick up the qualifying offers for Greivis Vasques and Patrick Patterson while paying John Salmons close to $1 million to not pick up his option next summer. If that happens the team will have under $35 million locked into salaries next season and they can make a move for a free agent point guard like Eric Bledsoe, Lance Stephenson, or Mario Chalmers.

Or, if they can’t sign a point guard, they will have the ability to trade for one, which will probably be their best option if they can’t retain Lowry.

Regardless, signing Lowry to a contract extension right now isn’t prudent. The Raptors would be best served by seeing how the next few months shake out on the court and then letting the market dictate how much he’s worth this summer.

All Eyes Are On DeRozan

For the better part of three seasons, DeMar DeRozan has been a little bit of everything. He’s been a dependable defensive presence, an important offensive weapon, a go-to scorer and a team leader.

He’s also had his fair share of disappointment.

He has drawbacks to his game. He has, over the season he’s been here shied away from contact, hasn’t been able to shoot the three consistently and hasn’t not shown he can be the predominant offensive weapon on a team.

He remains a puzzle.

This is the year Raptor fans finally find out what they have in DeRozan. Is he a solid piece of the puzzle, a superstar in waiting, or just another serviceable swingman? Or, if you want to look at it more seriously; is he a part of this core going forward?

DeRozan needs to prove to the raptors and the entire NBA that he is more than just a “flashy dunker” and that he can get to the free throw line consistently.

Since he arrived in Toronto as the number nine pick out of USC in 2009, there have been expectations, perhaps unfairly assigned. Fans wanted to see a high flyer, a guy who could score in buckets, an heir apparent to Vince Carter, and a possible superstar in waiting. Suffice it to say, a lot was expected.

So far DeRozan has been a little bit of everything, but hasn’t quite lived up to the hype of the fans. He’s shown strong defensive effort since his rookie season, enough that he was able to win a starting role on a team fighting for the playoffs in his first year.

He is a great target for our point guards when coming off of a cut and he can throw it down with some of the best in the league. If not for Blake Griffin’s infamous car jumping dunk, DeRozan would have won the dunk contest in 2011.

For stretches of time last year DeRozan seemed to be putting it all together. Runs of high scoring nights and frequent trips to the stripe but then steps backward where he would disappear on offense crack under the pressure of being the number one or falter when guarded by a premier perimeter defender. Without Andrea Bargnani to share the offensive duties, DeRozan was smothered by other teams’ defenses and was not as effective as he was with stronger support.

Coming into each of the last three seasons DeRozan hasn’t had to worry about his status as a starting wing. And make no mistake about it; DeRozan will be the starting shooting guard for the Raptors once again on Oct. 31st. But he’s got some competition on the bench waiting for their opportunity.

This competition will hopefully push DeRozan a little more than he has been over the last few years. DeRozan has had it pretty easy so far in Toronto. A guaranteed spot, very little internal competition and the benefit of the doubt when playing with an injury plagued roster.

This is the year raptor fans need to see DeRozan step up and fulfill the promise he showed when he was drafted three years ago.

There is now a wealth of options on Toronto’s bench this year that could spell DeRozan at the 2 guard for stretches during the year. Landry Fields is more comfortable playing the two and is an excellent perimeter defender. Alan Anderson has earned the respect of the coaching staff with his strong work ethic and attention to defense and he could see some minutes at the 2.

Also, with three strong point guards on the roster there will likely be times when Jose Calderon or John Lucas III find themselves sharing the back court with Kyle Lowry as both posses strong shooting ability, a skill DeRozan hasn’t shown to be a strength.

The biggest threat to DeRozan this year, however, might just be rookie shooting guard Terrence Ross, albeit likely over the long-term. Ross is a strong defender and possesses a deadly long-range shot. He is a great compliment to Kyle Lowry who pushes the ball up the floor and often kicks the ball out to the perimeter. Ross is even more deadly off of a kick out because of how quickly he can release a shot. It is that deadly shot and accuracy that make Ross such an attractive option at this position.

This season will be a make or break year for DeRozan in Toronto. He is due for an extension and his agent will likely be looking for a large payday. If the Raptors don’t make the playoffs and DeRozan struggles, if he doesn’t find that magic chemistry with Lowry and the rest of the team, he may find himself wearing a new uniform this time next year.

DeRozan is going to have to prove to fans and management that he can be the player that he was thought to be back when he was drafted. DeRozan needs to be more than an average defender and a flashy dunker. He needs to take that next step and cement his place in the Raptors future.

Shooting guards who produce the numbers DeRozan has over the last three years (14.1pts, 3.4 reb, 1.5 ast, 45.7 FG% and 20.6% 3-pt %) are not terribly difficult to find around the league for a much lower price than DeRozan is likely looking for. If his stats last year (16.7 pts, 3.3 reb, 2.0 ast, 42.2 FG%, 26.1 3pt%) are an indication of what kind of player he will be this year, then he could see his last year playing north of the border. What the Raptors need is for DeMar to show he can be a three-point threat this year and score consistently in the paint.

Without that added aspect to his game, he will eventually sit in favour of better shooters or will ultimately be replaced by a cheaper option.

He has been working hard over the summer to strengthen his game. Dwane Casey offered, when asked about DeRozan: “He did a great job this summer of really putting on strength and right now he’s doing a great job of hitting the guys first, creating contact, not being afraid of getting into the paint, and it’s going to pay big dividends for him.”

This year we will finally find out what DeMar DeRozan is made of.

DeRozan has the ability and skills to be a superstar in this league, but needs to put it together soon or the Raptors will quickly run out of patience.

It’s time we all find out what exactly Toronto has in DeRozan. One thing is for certain, however, he will be the architect of his own destiny.

This could be the start of a beautiful relationship.

Or not.

Kidd Signs With The Knicks

For years, the Knicks have lacked depth at the point guard position. Since the departure of Stephon Marbury in 2009, the Knicks haven’t had a viable and productive option at point guard. That all changed last season  in a 25 game stretch with the emergence of Jeremy Lin, a guard whom the Knicks claimed off-waivers from the Houston Rockets.

Now, in the summer of 2012, Lin is a free agent and has signed an offer sheet with the team whom waived him after training camp. The Knicks are expected to match any offer made toward Lin, and to validate Lin as their point guard of the future, the Knicks have gone after several experienced floor generals to help tutor Lin.

Knicks GM Glen Grunwald made several attempts at signing two-time MVP Steve Nash, but they were spurned by Nash when he signed with the Lakers.

Knicks forward Carmello Anthony was shocked when Nash decided to sign with the Lakers, but those sentiments about Nash were forgotten when Grunwald shocked the basketball world and announced the signing of legendary point guard and future Hall Of Famer  Jason Kidd.

“I was shocked to hear Nash was going to the Lakers,’’ Anthony said Friday after the U.S. Olympic Team opened training camp in Las Vegas. “I honestly really thought he’d be in New York. But it was definitely a shock. To hear the J-Kidd news kind of took that burden off a bit.”

The Kidd and Lin tandem is going to help the Knicks on several fronts. The chemistry issue between Anthony and Amare  Stoudemire will greatly benefit from the presence of Kidd. The addition of Jason Kidd provides the Knicks with a player who can defend on the perimeter, rebound the ball, and shoot the open three.

Even with being the second oldest player in the NBA, at age 39, Kidd is still a respected floor general who demands the most from his teammates.

“It really doesn’t matter; Steve Nash, Jason Kidd. A point guard is a point guard,’’ Anthony said. “Someone to run the team, get guys in their position, get everyone going. It takes a lot of pressure off me to try to do everything out there. I can pick my spots. With Jason, it’s a point guard to bring the ball up the court and get everyone involved. I don’t have to do much ball-handling. My mindset is working off the ball a lot; this helps me out to prepare for that”.

Kidd is now reunited with former Dallas Maverick teammate Tyson Chandler. Chandler flourished under Kidd on the offensive end of the court due to Kidd’s use of the pick and roll.  With Kidd as his PG in Dallas, Chandler had one of the best scoring averages of his career – 10.11 points 9.35 rebounds, and 1.44 blocks per game.

“I talked to him all summer,’’ Chandler said. “I honestly didn’t think we had a good shot at him. I thought New York would be a great place for him. I expressed that to him. I was just as surprised as everyone else when he made the decision. I feel like he definitely has a lot left,’’ Chandler said. “I’d throw his age out the window. He’s definitely valued on the court, but he’s more valued off the court. Whether in the locker room, film, in the huddle, he’s unbelievable”

Kidd will be a valuable asset in helping the development of Lin. Yes, Lin did take the NBA by storm last season, but he only did it in 25 games playing against less than stellar teams. There are still too many questions about Lin’s game. Can he defend on a consistent basis? Can he score on a consistent basis? Does he still have trouble going left? How can he get on the same page with the rest of his teammates?

When Anthony returned from injury during the height of “Linsanity,” he struggled playing alongside Lin. It wasn’t until after Lin went down with an injury and was ruled out for the remainder of the season, that Anthony found his stride and had the best stretch of his Knick career during Lin’s absence during the month of April.

Kidd, in an interview on WFAN yesterday, said, “With the intention of signing Lin back, I saw that I can help. Hopefully, help them win and help Lin. He’s a talented point guard, so at this stage I just felt I could help those guys. I think he’s going to be a consistent player, then it’s up to the media to label him great or good. But if you’re consistent in the league, you’ll win a lot of ballgames. So that’s what I’m here to try to help him with.’’

Kidd was rumored to sign with Brooklyn as a package deal alongside Deron Williams. That rumor seemed to gain steam when a picture of Williams and Kidd surfaced of the two of them playing golf together.

“I thought it was a good spot for him, a good situation for him,’’ Williams said. “Number one, he can help that team out a lot; as far as distributing the ball, getting the ball in the right spots, taking the pressure off Carmelo to lead the team. He’s definitely a veteran guy who knows how to play the game and will be a Hall of Famer. He doesn’t have to do as much as he had to do with Dallas. At his age, it will help him out a lot. I thought he was going to Dallas. We didn’t even talk about the Knicks. It kind of came out of nowhere.’’

Kidd will make everyone on the Knicks better, and will help the long term development of Jeremy Lin. He will help mature this roster from immature players who fold even when some expectations are accepted from them, and finally he will bring this franchise something they haven’t had since the days of Patrick Ewing – respectability.