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.