April 27, 2012
Raptors notebook: What about Jerryd?
By MIKE GANTER and RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI AGENCY
Jerryd Bayless’ future remains as clear as mud.
Bayless is a restricted free agent who can either be signed to a long-term contract extension, signed to a $4.16 million U.S. qualifying offer which would make him unrestricted next season, moved in a sign-and-trade or lost to an offer sheet the Raptors decline to match.
While the point guard has played extremely well in 25 games as a starter over the past two seasons (averaging 18 points and six assists on considerably better shooting than what he’s posted in 77 appearances off of the bench as a Raptor), he has had injury issues and is not a traditional floor general.
Bayless intoned on Thursday that he sees himself as a starting calibre point guard, but the general thinking is he is better-suited to a scoring guard role off of the bench.
Head coach Dwane Casey is a supporter, but recognizes Bayless is still a work in progress.
“He wants the ball in his hands. He wants to make the play. But also it’s to his detriment, because for his growth, he’s got to be able to get everybody else involved. That’s going to help his game, when he develops that sense of: ‘OK, I’ve got the ball, but here’s DeMar, he’s got a better shot, or here’s Valanciunas rolling down the lane. I’ve got to make that pass.’ I’ve clearly told him that and he knows that,” Casey said.
“He’s got a niche in this league where you can look at James Harden in Oklahoma City and Jason Terry (two great scorers who can also handle the ball). Guys don’t like to be compared to other players, but those guys make a nice living at doing that.”
Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo said Bayless has even made a comparison of his own — Chauncey Billups — the one-time Raptor who bounced around constantly as a youngster before eventually emerging as an all-star and finals MVP.
“(Bayless) works his tail off, he’s professional, he approaches the game and the business the right way. It’s not the end of the world for a guy like Jerryd not to know exactly where his position is when he’s only 23 years old, it doesn’t happen at the same time for everybody,” Colangelo said.
“He’s a talent, he’s an athlete, he can defend the ball, he can score the ball, and we’ll see.
“I would say as a young prospect, he’s certainly someone that we’ve got an interest in keeping or retaining and again, he’s got talents that can be utilized on a basketball court.”
While Colangelo also admitted that while Bayless’ hefty $7.2-million cap hold (in effect basically until he signs a qualifying offer or new contract) could complicate his off-season manoeuvring (the ability to sign or trade players) and that moving Bayless in a sign-and-trade could also be a possibility, the veteran executive also said the way Bayless has handled himself has endeared him to the organization.
“I appreciate the fact that a young player says: ‘I want to be here in Toronto, I love the city of Toronto, I love the opportunity you guys have given me, I love the staff, I really want to be here,’” Colangelo said.
“That makes some sense to us.”
Lots of draft options
Should the Raptors stay put at eight following the May 30th draft lottery, the team might choose to move the pick. If Bryan Colangelo elects to make a selection there instead of trading up or out, here are some of the players the team might consider mid-lottery:
Harrison Barnes, North Carolina SF – Once seen as a sure-fire top 3 pick, Barnes stayed at school and continued to be an inconsistent player. Big-time shooter who might be more suited to pro game.
Jared Sullinger, Ohio State PF/C – Has the heft of a centre but is short even for a power forward. Still, nobody in this draft has a better post game and Sullinger’s a strong passer who can really rebound the ball.
Damian Lillard, Weber State PG – Went under the radar at a small school and shares many similarities to Jerryd Bayless, but no guarantees Bayless stays a Raptor. Lillard, a top-notch scorer, could be his replacement.
Kendall Marshall, North Carolina PG – This would be a bit of a reach, but Marshall has a great feel for the game and with the Raptors looking to get better in transition, would be ideal fit for his ability to push the ball ahead.
Jeremy Lamb, Connecticut SG – Stock dropped when he couldn’t follow up his Final Four heroics. There are some questions about his mental makeup, but zero questions about what he can do offensively, which is put up serious numbers and come through in the clutch.
John Henson, North Carolina PF – The Raptors already have a skinny UNC four-man, but the shot-blocking dynamo could be the best player on the board.
Austin Rivers, Duke SG – Doc’s son can fill it up but is not a true point guard and does not have great size to be a shooting guard. Many see him as the next O.J. Mayo.
Perry Jones III, Baylor F – Arguably as talented as Anthony Davis or Andre Drummond, Jones’ lack of interest and intensity makes him a non-starter for the Raptors. Still, they could take him at eight to move him since somebody will gamble on his upside.
LOTTERY ODDS NOT IN JAYS FAVOUR
There were some really, really bad teams in the NBA this season and as a result of that fact and a random drawing on Friday, the Raptors will only have the eighth-best odds of winning the lottery on May 30th. Golden State and Toronto each finished 23-43, but the Warriors won the draw giving them 36 out of 1000 balls in the hopper to Toronto’s 35. If neither team moves up and nobody behind them does either, Golden State will select seventh, Toronto eighth. The Raptors have a 10% chance of bolting into the top 3. The draft is a crapshoot, woeful Charlotte has only a 25% chance of staying at No. 1, while teams with the seventh (Yao Ming), eighth (Kyrie Irving last year) and ninth pick (Derrick Rose) have lucked out over the past decade. Toronto also holds its own second-round selection (37th, or 38th if Raptors move up) and Indiana’s second 56.
TEAM RECORD LOTTERY CHANCES
(out of 1,000)
Charlotte 7-59 25%
Washington 20-46 19.9%
Cleveland 21-45 13.8%
New Orleans 21-45 13.7%
Sacramento 22-44 7.6%
New Jersey* 22-44 7.5%
Golden State# 23-43 3.6%
Toronto 23-43 3.5%
Detroit 25-41 1.7%
Minnesota (To New Orleans via LA Clippers) 26-40 1.1%
Portland 28-38 0.8%
Milwaukee 31-35 0.7%
Phoenix 33-33 0.6%
Houston 34-32 0.5%
* This pick will be conveyed to Portland if it does not jump to top 3.
# This pick will be conveyed to Utah via New Jersey if Warriors move down from current spot.
COACH LOVES TORONTO
Dwane Casey didn’t listen to all the negativity when he signed on with the Raptors last off-season and having been here the better part of a full season, he now feels comfortable telling any would-be Toronto-bound players to follow his lead.
“All the stuff people say about free agency with Toronto being another country and you’ll have tax problems , all that is crap,” Casey said. “I’m telling you right now. This city is one of the finest cities. It’s a top five city in North America. It’s not even close and I’ve been in all of them. For any free agent who doesn’t think this is a special situation, they are sadly mistaken.”
Casey said he found this out first hand over the past year and wants to make sure everyone else knows it.
“If a player wants to come in here and make his brand and that’s what the NBA is all about, (he should do it),” Casey said. “Each player building their brand, their niche the in league, you can do it right here in Toronto, Canada. This is a special place, a great organization. You are going to get the media coverage too. We only won just 23 games and look at this coverage. Each player is dying for that coverage and they can get that right here in Toronto.”
Casey knows GM Bryan Colangelo is somewhere in the neighbourhood of $12-million under the salary cap and looking to add.
“Our recruiting hat is going to be on this summer with free agency,” Casey said. “Bryan is one of the best. He has done it before. When he first got here he turned this program around and I have all the confidence that he and Ed (Stefanski) and the rest of the staff will do it again.
STILL DIGGIN' THE BARGS
Andrea Bargnani may have played just 31 games this season, but it was enough for both Bryan Colangelo and Dwane Casey to consider him “on board” with the new direction this team is headed.
Bargnani’s season may have been thwarted by injuries, but before those injuries took him away from the court, Casey was able to get Bargnani to buy into his defensive scheme, something no one saw coming a year ago.
Casey said it was a combination of being demanding and being very specific with his expectations, not just for Bargnani but all of the Raptors players.
“The one thing that I appreciate about Andrea is he allowed me to coach him as hard as any star player will allow a coaching staff and myself to coach him,” Casey said. “I know (legendary Italian) coach (Ettore) Messina coached him hard as a young kid and he responded. And I was on him as hard as anyone else, but in a respectable way. I didn’t demean him or anything like that, but if he made a mistake, he knew about it. He responded to that.”
Casey felt Bargnani also responded to his philosophy of laying out exactly what was expected of Bargnani and every other player on the roster.
“We had specific rules and a system and I think that’s important to certain players because they want to know exactly what their job is on the defensive end,” Casey said. “I don’t think a player on this team didn’t know what their job was on the defensive end.”
Colangelo said the how’s and why’s of Bargnani’s defensive emergence don’t interest him in the least.
“You might say it was the system, you might say it was the coach motivating him,” Colangelo said. “Bottom line, he was better, he was more effective for us. Don’t really care why he was.”
VALANCIUNAS MUST LEARN ON THE JOB
Barring a collapse by the Lithuanian National team of epic proportions, Dwane Casey and the Raptors likely won’t get a first on-court look at Jonas Valanciunas until training camp.
Last year’s first-round pick (fifth overall) has taken on near-mythical stature with the Raptors fan base over the past year playing for Lietuvos Rytas in Lithuania while also seeing time on both the under-19 national team and the senior men’s national team.
Colangelo, who is well aware of the 7-footer’s status in his home country — “If he comes in as the president of Lithuania, I’ll be nervous, but he literally has that kind of status in Lithuania.” — says regardless of any expectations, Valanciunas will determine how much he plays and where on the roster he is a fit for the Raptors
“No-one’s going to predetermine how many minutes he’s going to play, we’re going to let it play as need be,” Colangelo said.
And unlike some of the younger players this year who were able to play through mistakes, Valanciunas is arriving in a season where that luxury will not be afforded him or any other Raptor.
“We’re going to be targeting something different next year, so although it’s going to be important to develop him and integrate him into this process, we’ve got to do it in the right time, and the right time will not be determined by me today, it will be determined by how he reacts to some of the things that we put him through, the situations he finds himself in,” Colangelo said.
“I anticipate nothing but positive things out of Jonas, but I do anticipate as a 19-year-old, 20-year-old next year, he’ll struggle at times. Every young player does, every rookie does, young players take time to figure it all out, what the nuances of the NBA are all about. He’ll be fine. But we’re not going to force-feed anything, I’m not going to tell coach he’s got to play him so many minutes, not going to say he’s got to start, I want to do it in the right fashion. As he responds and produces, he’ll get more and more opportunity and we’ll see how it plays out.”
CALDERON NOT AN AMNESTY TARGET
Don’t hold your breath on the Raptors using the amnesty clause this season.
Certainly where Jose Calderon is concerned, you can pretty much forget about it.
Calderon, who has a year left and 10.561-million on his contract has been speculated in the past as a potential amnesty target.
The amnesty clause was included in the NBA collective bargaining agreement signed in December and allows teams a one-time only opportunity to get out from under their worst contracts.
The Knicks did it with Chauncey Billups and the Orlando Magic did it with the Gilbert Arenas deal. Toronto could use it to free up more cap space, but Colangelo sounds very reluctant to use it at all and even more reluctant to use it on Calderon’s final year.
“There is no promise or assurance there and I’d say based on the progress of Jose Calderon — he’s the one that everyone targets as that potential amnesty piece — I can share with you that there is tremendous value on this team for Jose Calderon within the coaching staff, within the management team, within the locker room,” Colangelo said. “All of our post-season meetings with the players led us to a clear conclusion that there’s a few leaders in that locker room and one of them is Jose Calderon. The players have a tremendous amount of respect for him.”