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

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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.

Toronto Attempts To Steal Fields

Bryan Colangelo made a shrewd move by signing Landry Fields to a three-year offer sheet worth $20 million.

Who cares if twitter and the rest of the internet doubts this offer sheet? This move gives Toronto a smart wing who can play either shooting guard or small forward. Granted, his stats aren’t flashy – 7.2 points and 3.0 rebounds last season –  but he was one of the top wings on the market and to secure him for under $7 million per season is a nice move.

Besides, it’s easy to chalk up his dip in stats last season due to having to fight Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire for touches.

Raptors fans can complain about spending this much money on Fields, but what other wing would you want to spend this kind of money on? There’s no way Toronto was going to get Nicolas Batum for that kind of money when Minnesota was going to offer him at least $10 million a season for four years.

For comparison sake, Gerald Wallace averaged 13.8 points last season and is on the tail end of his career, yet he inked a four-year deal with the Brooklyn Nets for north of $40 million.

There’s no way Toronto wanted to add a knucklehead like Michael Beasley into the mix for the next few season.

The reality is Colangelo needed to spend money on a wing and Fields is a solid get for this kind of money.

Now, lets see if Steve Nash joins the mix. If he does, then Toronto will be looking at a revamped starting five next year of Jonas Valanciunas, Andrea Bargnani, Fields, DeMar DeRozan and Nash. Plus the team will have Amir Johnson, Ed Davis, Linas Kleiza and Terrence Ross coming off of the bench. Not a bad mix for Dwane Casey to work with next season.

If Casey was able to work magic with his roster last year, imagine what Casey and Nash could do with that starting five?

Steve Nash Will Have Plenty Of Options

Despite have a wonky back and being one of the oldest free agents in the NBA, Steve Nash will have plenty of options this summer.

And why not? Nash finished second in the NBA in assists last season and he has lead the league in assists five times over the past nine seasons.

Despite only averaging 12.7 points per game last season, he was effective shooting the ball as he made 53.7% from the field and 38.9% from three.

Nash clearly still has a lot of juice left in his tank.

Granted, his minutes will start to decrease over the next few seasons, but Nash still has the ability to put fans in the seats, and, more importantly for an NBA point guard, he still makes his teammates better.

His current team, the Phoenix Suns, have claimed they want to re-sign their legendary player. But, if talks break down and Nash wants to play elsewhere, there appears to be an agreement between the two parties that they will work together on a sign-and-trade that will benefit everyone involved.

But it isn’t the lock many assume it is that Nash will bolt the desert. People are quick to forget the Suns have more cap space than any other team this offseason and love having Nash as the face of their franchise. ESPN’s Larry Coon reported that the team will have $26 million to play with this summer without using the amnesty on anyone.

Clearly Nash has a bond with the fans in Phoenix and the training staff have done wonders preserving his body.

“It was amazing to get that type of reception and support,” Nash told The Republic after his last home game in Phoenix. “It’s very special because it’s not something I asked for or imagined. To get that kind of reaction means it’s authentic, the relationship I thought we had. It really feels special. The fans have been phenomenal and it’s meant a lot to me to play in a city like this as long as I have and to feel important to the fans and community. I just feel like a very lucky guy.”

Despite being 38 on opening night next season, the list of teams that covet Nash is long and there’s no doubt somebody will provide him with the three-year deal that he wants. Some NBA team will give Nash a huge contract despite his bad back and the fact he will be 42 when the deal expires.

One of the intriguing teams rumored to be chasing Nash is the Portland TrailBlazers. It would provide Nash with the chance to play closer to where he grew up and where most of his family still lives. They have an elite power forward in LaMarcus Aldridge, same talented player on the wings, and two draft picks in the lottery.

Plus, with just under $35 million in committed salary going into next season, they will have enough cap room to both re-sign Nicolas Batum and offer Nash considerably more than the mid-level exception.

The Toronto Raptors, a team many analysts feel is one of the front runners for Nash, doesn’t have nearly the same splashy roster, but they would provide Nash the chance to finish off his career in Canada.

With his new role as General Manager of Canada Basketball, that may also sway Nash’s decision towards Toronto.

The New York Knicks were long thought of as the ideal situation for Nash, but with the strong play of Jeremy Lin this season, the resignation of Mike D’Antoni and Carmelo Anthony dominating the ball, it no longer seems like Nash to Gotham is the slam dunk that many felt it would be. In fact, now it appears to be a long shot.

Another team that many people thought might intrigue Nash is the Miami Heat.

Not so fast, according to Nash.

“Of course I want to win a ring,” Nash told The National Post nearly a year ago. “But at the same time I’m like, ‘I don’t want to win it with those guys. Those guys have been the enemy for X amount of years.’ So I’m not quite in that camp yet — ‘I don’t care, put me on the best team and I’m going to try to win a ring.’ I still feel like kids from my neighbourhood want to beat the kids from that neighbourhood, like (when) we were growing up. I’m not ready to concede, ‘Well, they’re better than us, I’ll join them.’ I’m just not there yet. Maybe I’ll get there.”

It appears that time has softened his stance at least a little bit.

“I’d listen,” Steve Nash told Dan Patrick back in March. “I love what they’re doing there. A lot of people don’t like them because they put all that talent together. They’re professional, they play hard, they play together. Their coaching staff has done a great job. So, I have a tremendous amount of respect for them, and I would definitely listen.”

A dark horse to win the Nash sweepstakes are the Los Angeles Lakers. For the past few seasons they have lacked a legitimate, all-star point guard to run their offense. After coming close to trading for Chris Paul last winter, look for the Lakers to try and woo Nash to Los Angeles this summer.

The tricky part is creating a contract offer that would entice Nash. Even if Ramon Sessions declines his player option and his salary comes off the books, the Lakers would still enter the 2012-13 season with nearly $79 million in committed salary, leaving only the taxpayer mid-level exception ($3.09 million) for Nash. Nash can make a lot more money from other teams considering he made $11.6 million last season and teams like Toronto and Portland will be willing to pay close to that.

The Chicago Bulls, Knicks, Heat and Lakers will all be both over the cap and over the tax next season so the chance of them being able to add Nash appear to be slim to none. Sure, it makes great headlines, but the reality is Nash would need to leave a team he loves (Phoenix) or leave big money on the table from teams like Toronto or Portland.

Due to the new CBA, teams over the luxury tax can only offer the mini-MLE which probably won’t enough to lure Nash to their team. Plus, some of teams will need to start shedding contracts in order to avoid the massive new tax bill coming in 2013-14 season so Nash would end up with less money and talent around him.

Regardless of who Nash signs with, he should get a three-year contract and he will land with a team he feels will be competitive night in and night out.

Not bad for an old man with a bad back.

Milwaukee May Not Spend Big Bucks For “Young Buck”

In the world of math, much is made about a concept called an inflection point–for the Milwaukee Bucks, July 1st will likely prove to be just that.

Effective July 1st, Herb Kohl, John Hammond, and the Bucks can officially negotiate and extend Brandon Jennings rookie contract–if nothing is done, the Young Buck becomes a restricted free agent at the end of the 2013 season.

Now, before we address this current situation, let’s take a look at the last time the Bucks franchise faced a decision like this with a promising lefty.  In 2004-2005, the Bucks had a solid core of young players–none more promising than Michael Redd.  This was the final season of a four year, $12M total contract, and Redd spent each of the four seasons proving he was a scoring threat to be reckoned with, improving his points per game (PPG) each year.

Given his scoring prowess and fan likeability, after the season ended the Bucks lavished upon Michael Redd and his agent, Kevin Poston, a six-year, $91M deal.  The Bucks investment of max money seemingly paid off, as Redd continued his improvement in per game statistics the next two years–but showed signs of durability issues in 2006-2007.  His effective Bucks career ended January 29th, 2009–as Redd tore his ACL and MCL at the same time.

Redd was an exciting young lefty that was loved by Bucks fans everywhere–and is still loved–but his contract proved to be crippling for the franchise.  During the Michael Redd $91M dollar contract era, the Bucks never broke .500, as they could never put the right pieces around Redd to compete.

Fast forward to July 1, 2012.  Brandon Jennings is the current face of the Bucks–yet was only the 11th highest paid player on the Bucks roster at the end of the 2012 season.  He boasts humongous upside at a mere age of 22 – and has posted three continuous years of improvement in PPG, field goal %, turnovers, and thefts per game, and maturity – as well as maintained consistency in assists and rebounds per game.

On February 11, 2012, much was made of this ESPN article that stated Jennings was “keeping his options open” and is looking at “big market teams.” Many have even wondered if this quote from Jennings led to the trade of Andrew Bogut and the acquisition of Monta Ellis to replace Jennings.

More recently, John Hammond was asked about Brandon Jennings contract situation.

“It’s something that we’ll look at and we’ll explore,” he admitted. “It’s going to have to be a little bit of a two-way street, so to speak. Something that is important to them and important to us. I think that is. But, it’s not something that we have to do. And the one thing that we don’t want to do and we talked about this. We’ve talked about this for the last couple of years, is not put ourselves in a position where we have to do things. If we have to do things, I think we’re negotiating and working out of a position of weakness.”

The key quote from this intelligent GM is “If we have to do things, I think we’re negotiating and working out of a position of weakness.”

Hammond understands the risk involved of paying more than you have to in order to keep a young star.  Jennings is an amazing player – one that I’d love to see in a Bucks uniform for many years – but only at the proper price. While Jennings is the star and fan darling of the Bucks franchise, he is not amongst the elite players of the league and is not worthy of such an investment.

If I were GM, what would I invest?  Five years and $35M.

What will the Bucks do as they approach another potentially huge inflection point in their 44 year history?  Two of their best assets are front and center right now – will the spotlight belong to Ersan Ilyasova?

Or, will the Bucks shine on both the “Turkish Thunder” and the “Young Buck”?

While the rest of Bucks Nation ponders the possibilities of the .7% ping pong probability, I’ll be pondering this meteoric franchise decision.

Toronto’s Offseason Starting To Take Shape

It has been an intriguing offseason thus far for the Toronto Raptors, that is to be sure. They haven’t even done anything yet and there has already been plenty of chatter surrounding the team and potential free agent signings since the day the season ended. Whether these rumours are based in truth or conjecture remains to be seen. Regardless of the eventual results, people are talking about the Raptors and fans are getting excited.

I’m not one to get caught up in rumours, but these rumours seem to have some weight to them and all of them could change the course of the Raptors hopes for next season as well as the long-term status of GM Bryan Colangelo, who has one year remaining on his contract.

First came the Steve Nash rumours. Now Steve Nash rumours are nothing new around these parts. He’s Canada’s greatest basketball talent ever and would look fantastic playing for Canada’s only basketball team. Over the years Toronto has heard lots about Nash coming to town, but there wasn’t really any way to get a deal like that done. But now the “Nash to Toronto” rumours have a certain weight to them.

He’s long been rumoured to be leaving the Phoenix Suns after this year and his recent appointment as President and General Manager of Canada’s Mens National Team would seem to indicate he wouldn’t mind spending more time closer to his homeland.

A Steve Nash arrival in Toronto would mean improved play on the offensive end and a whole lot of jerseys being sold at the ACC.

Nash would fit in swimmingly here in Toronto, despite the fact Jose Calderon already occupies the starting point guard spot. Calderon has been quite willing and ready to share time whenever necessary and the depth at point guard could give the Raptors a leg up on competition in the Atlantic division. Calderon seems better suited to the backup role anyway and could become valuable trade bait down the road with a large expiring contract.

The Nash rumours also have weight as his former Canadian National team coach, Jay Triano, is employed by the Raptors and Bryan Colangelo, the GM that drafted and then re-acquired Nash in Phoenix is currently the Raptors President and GM.

Nash has a knack for bringing the very best out of his teammates. Shawn Marion, Joe Johnson, Amare Stoudamire, Channing Frye, Jason Richardson all owe much of their success (and large pay cheques) to the point guard that gave them the ball.

Nash has always put himself second and his team first. His teammates were the beneficiaries on and off the court. How much could a point guard like Nash improve Andrea Bargnani’s game? or DeMar DeRozan’s? Makes you wonder.

Nash makes good players great. He brings the best out of his teammates and could certainly benefit some of the underachieving Raptor players.

Nash would therefore seem to be a perfect fit in Toronto. Unless, of course Jeremy Lin is. Lin is a restricted free agent and there are now reports from a host of sources claiming the Raptors will be very much in the mix for his services, should the Knicks decide to let him go.

Lin is much younger than Nash, could be cheaper and may fit better into the core that is developing in Toronto.

Jeremy Lin is a rumoured Raptor target this offseason. His acquisition could be the spark this young Raptor team needs.

He is a restricted free agent, so how much stalk can we put into these Lin to Toronto rumours? It is very possible that the Knicks get out-priced for his services. Lin is not a player that has been around long and therefore may not have earned the lucrative deal he seeks in the eyes of NBA GM’s. His stats are good, but the sample size is small, and he was never really able to mesh with franchise player Carmelo Anthony suggesting he may need to be a number one option.

Lin, who missed the Knicks’ run to the playoffs, could be the odd man out in New York, making him very much available to Toronto. A move for Lin would be very reminiscent of Colangelo’s other signing of a young point guard that changed his Phoenix Suns back in 2004. That, of course being, Steve Nash.

Lin has shown he can be a game changer, a superstar, a go-to guy. At the point guard position that is simply something the Raptors have never had.

It is clear that Lin’s stats are a small sample size and his median numbers are not nearly as good as his 2011/12 stats, but he could be worth the risk.

He is explosive and can certainly shoot the ball with confidence. He can drive the net and get his teammates involved in the offense. His defensive ability is weak but his deficiencies could be fit into Dwane Casey’s system. If Calderon worked out, Lin likely could too.

He would also become a big fan favourite here in Toronto, a city with a large Asian fan base. It could be a big marketing opportunity that the new owners at Rogers and Bell, simply cannot pass up.

Still, the odds of landing Lin rest in the hands of Glen Grunwald and the New York Knicks and what they are attempting to do this offseason. The Knicks maintain the right to match any offers the young point guard gets, meaning the Raptors will likely have to overpay to get him.

Lin presents an interesting option for the Raptors, but one that they ultimately don’t have complete control over.

Then there are the murmurs about Nicolas Batum. Now, none of these rumours are anything but pure and utter speculation, but he would fit very nicely into the Raptors lineup. A small forward with that kind of ability has alluded the Raptors since the days of Tracy McGrady. Batum would instantly become one of the best small forwards the franchise has ever seen. A great fit for the short and long-term. Plus his European background would be a plus in the locker room. He certainly won’t be cheap and the Blazers are very unlikely to let him go for nothing. Expect the Blazers to match everything and anything for Batum and then work out a trade with a team if they have to.

If the Raptors are serious about acquiring Batum, which they should be in my opinion, then they are going to have to put together a trade package that will make it happen. That is much more difficult than just signing a player, but if anyone knows how to work out a complicated off-season trade it’s Colangelo.

So despite the fact the Playoffs are going on without the Raptors, there is plenty for a fan to sit and ponder. This summer will be another chapter in the remaking of this Raptors team and it is exciting to imagine the possibilities. So far three of the most solid offseason rumours would offer the Raptors definite upgrades in talent at two key positions. All three rumoured acquisitions are big name players that would raise the talent level and profile of basketball in Toronto.

Like most Raptor fans, I can’t wait to see what happens on July first. Judging from the early offseason rumours, it is likely to be one of the more exciting ones yet.

Wolves Face Difficult Decision With Beasley

Last season, Michael Beasley arrived in Minnesota with no expectations. Cast off from the Heat in order to make room for LeBron James and Chris Bosh, Beasley was acquired for just a second round draft pick by Wolves GM David Kahn. Placed in a situation without expectations, and without the pressures of being the number two pick in the 2008 draft, Beasley began to thrive.

In November and December, Beasley averaged well over 20 points per game, shooting nearly 48% from the field. Speculation began to run rampant, as experts and fans wondered if he was finally going to produce at the level that was expected of him. Had a change of scenery turned Michael Beasley into an All-Star? It seemed too good to be true.

As with most cases of small sample sizes and inflated expectations, it was.

Beasley brought several positives to the Wolves. He was one of the best (and only) three point shooters on the team this season, and aside from Barea, Beasley was the only other Timberwolf who could create his own shot off the dribble. But he struggled this year especially, failing to fit into Rick Adelman’s free flowing offensive stylings.

A natural ball-stopper, Beasley settled for mid-range jumpers on 38% of his shots, shooting just 40% from that range. His health was also a problem, as he missed 19 games due to foot and toe injuries. Midway through the season, Beasley lost his role as a starter to an ever changing cast of characters, including the equally disappointing Wes Johnson.

As Beasley’s production waned, so did his minutes. In March, Beasley topped 20 minutes in just two games, and though some of his games were limited by injuries, some were limited by general ineffectiveness.

There is a significant chance that Michael Beasley has played his final game in Minnesota. He is a restricted free agent, but since the Wolves own his option, they may choose to pick up the $8.1 million price tag that Beasley carries, or let him become an unrestricted free agent and try his luck elsewhere.

So Minnesota is left with a difficult decision: should they give Beasley one more year, one more chance to reach his considerable potential? Would a full length season with real practices and real coaching from Rick Adelman, a coach famous for getting the most out of his players, help Beasley become the offensive force that he could be?
Or should the Wolves pass on Beasley, clearing salary space to try and lure more established talent? Minnesota has an attractive package to offer an incoming shooting guard or small forward, boasting a solid core of Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic. The Wolves visibly enjoyed themselves playing with Rubio, a trait which could attract a talented player.

Conventional wisdom says that the Wolves will let Beasley walk. They have invested two years into resurrecting his career, and while their efforts haven’t been a total loss (Beasley averaged 19 points per game in 2010), the clock is ticking for Minnesota. Kevin Love has two years left before he can decide whether or not to pick up the player option on his contract. He will want to see results from the Wolves if they want to keep him. Minnesota needs a sure thing, a proven star.

Beasley, though dripping with potential and raw talent, is far from proven. And while his career is far from over, his time in Minneapolis has probably drawn to a close.

Rockets Committed To Re-Signing Dragic

Houston Rockets General Manager, Daryl Morey, wasted no time showing his commitment to Goran Dragic. As many athletes and GM’s do these days, Morey took to Twitter for his new #HouLovesGogi campaign.

Morey tweeted the commitment soon after the Rockets fumbled their way out of the playoffs, losing seven of their last ten games in the regular season.

Dragic who is an unrestricted free agent, will see the league react financially favorable considering the stellar job he did for the Rockets after starter Kyle Lowry went down with a mysterious bacterial infection. The timing for Dragic to shine could not have been better. With Lowry playing at an All-Star level, the Rockets misfortunes proved to be deadly. Having a highly capable backup at the helm kept the Rockets playoff chances alive. Dragic played 66 games, and was featured as a starter for 28 of them.

Dragic posted career highs in virtually every category, opening the eyes of teams all across the association. Dragic finished the season averaging 11.7 points per game, 5.3 assists, and a +13.21 efficiency rating.

The Portland Trail Blazers in specific have been reported to be highly interested in the Slovenian, after the “fire sale,” they produced during the trade deadline. Like the Rockets, the Blazers have money to spend, and can make a solid sales pitch to Dragic, given the playing time and money he will receive.

The situation is eerily similar to the takeover Kyle Lowry had on former Rockets guard Aaron Brooks. A unique cycle that has shown young guards at their best be shipped out for the next batch. The Rockets have found themselves in that type of cycle for the last few years, and while it has kept them highly respectable, and competitive, it has resulted in postseason misses.

The Rockets are in good shape financially, boasting around $19 million dollars in cap space. They have shown no signs of shying away from their responsibilities of retaining Goran Dragic, and swingman Courtney Lee. Signing Dragic to a starting level contract would more than likely move Kyle Lowry to the bench, or maybe a future trade scenario. Dragic has made it clear that he wants to be a starter in this league and for the Rockets that means they have a decision to make on Kyle Lowry. Lowry is on the books for a bargain price ($5.75 million) and teams would love his production in any acquisition that is discussed.

While most teams including the Rockets will be chasing free agent Deron Williams, the assumption is Williams will set himself up for a future pairing with Dwight Howard, eliminating the Rockets chances in those plans.

In the grand scheme of things, retaining quality players, and drafting strong, may be the best option that currently sits on the table. The Rockets commitment to stay competitive, will force their hand in keeping Goran Dragic, no matter what the cost is.