In what is sure to be a heated summertime debate the Raptors may be faced with a choice that no man should have to make: a choice between John Lucas and Sebastian Telfair. The latter is an unrestricted free-agent while the former has one year left on his deal, and early speculation is that Bryan Colangelo, in a bold and rambunctious move, may bring both guards back, giving the Raptors lethal depth at the point guard position.
While the younger Telfair has seen three fewer springs, it is the older and mayhaps wiser Lucas that boasts a team-low 7.0 TOV%. Although the relevance of that statistic is hotly debated, NBA experts almost unanimously agree that is indeed a statistic and therefore carries some value. Lucas had a pre-season which, if there was a Hall of Fame for pre-season performances, would surely make him a first-ballot entry. He struggled to start the season and continued struggling in December. And also in January, but as soon as February hit, that is when the real John Lucas emerged and shot a blinding 51% for the month. His value as a game-winner was also clear to the naked eye as he supplied valuable ammunition at Indiana and New York in the midst of the Raptors brief but legendary play for the playoffs.
Lucas may have his detractors, like those who value passing and prefer point guards being less prone to the over-dribble, yet even they are forced to concede that he is capable enough to carve out a space on an NBA roster. The dilemma facing the Raptors may be that they already have Kyle Lowry as a starter, a player who much like Lucas, prefers the scoring role rather than the passing. Lowry has undoubtedly made some strides this season as a playmaker, especially later in the campaign, but it is his similarity to Lucas in being a scoring guard that may result in Lucas being considered surplus to requirements. This is where Telfair can eek into the picture.
Now that the nasty rumor about Telfair’s last name being DNPCD has been put to rest, it is possible that the youngish (27) point guard may be able to make one final push in the NBA. After all, Steve Nash didn’t win his MVP till he was 30, so there is a chance. On a serious note, Telfair has shown little to warrant a contract from the Raptors and boasts an unspectacular 25% shooting rate when “at the rim”. On the positive end, he is young. Or at least, youngish. Did I mention that he’s young…ish?
Childish banter aside, here’s a comparison of the season that just passed. It may come down to three-point shooting, which the 26th ranked Raptors (34%) may value, and if that’s the case then Lucas has the edge: 38% to Telfair’s 35%. If it’s playmaking the Raptors desire, it’s Telfair who gets the nod with a 2.6 AST% over Lucas’ 1.7%. Defensively, Telfair is the better player, but he’s also more turnover-prone than Lucas. This is simply too close to call.
In the end it may come down to the Raptors having no draft picks, no cap space, and owning Telfair’s Bird rights, that results in them bringing back both guards in roles similar to the past season. With no bargaining chips on the trade market and having only minimum salaried free-agents to pick from, the Raptors will have to get creative in how they intend to contend for the eight seed next year, and one of the plays may be just to retain their point guard situation. This tandem is only a problem if they’re headlining the scoring off the bench, and if Terrence Ross and Landry Fields can carry that scoring, it may not be the worst thing in the world if Lucas comes back as the official backup instead of the third-stringer that he was the past year. As for Telfair, you always need a third point guard and the minimum might just even cut it with him.
The larger question being posed here is about just how Bryan Colangelo will improve this roster considering the financial shackles it’s in, and without having any significant trade chips. That is what makes this off-season so interesting.
The player, GM and coach season recaps start tomorrow.