Toronto made the right move in getting Lowry, made the right move in keeping him, thrived with him, and now might lose him even though no one wants this. It seems as though overly restrictive rules on extensions are sufficiently flawed in their design that they offer neither the player nor the team the protection they may both mutually seek. Now, a once rocky marriage that has become ultimately quite loving, is under threat when no one wants it to be. And this feels wrong. After all, by trying to encourage teams and players to divorce, who are we helping?
Rather than being a player relied upon to carry the scoring load, Bargnani has long seemed better suited as a third option, perhaps even in a backup role — one that could diminish his shortcomings in other areas of the game. Aside from the pressure that goes along with the bright lights and big stage, that opportunity appeared to exist with the Knicks. That is until an early-season injury to Tyson Chandler left the team with no better option than to insert Bargnani into the starting lineup where his flaws were once again exposed.
A perimeter defender would be a nice addition to Dwane Casey’s system. After struggling to contain Joe Johnson in Toronto’s first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets, adding another wing with size and quick feet would be welcomed. An athletic power forward eager to play defence, grab rebounds and use his fouls wisely would bring front-court depth to the roster, too. Toronto fans have long swooned over the thought of having a Canadian suiting up in a Raptors uniform. While that almost certainly won’t be the case for Andrew Wiggins, all but considered a lock at one of the first three picks in the draft, sharpshooter Nik Stauskas and point guard Tyler Ennis will also be available in the first round. Although neither is expected to be around when the Raptors are on the clock, stranger things have happened. The team could also try to move up if the right deal is available.
The Lakers landing outside of the top three is probably a good thing for Toronto. How good remains to be seen but if the Lakers keep their pick, suddenly a couple top point guard options like Marcus Smart and Dante Exum are in their range, which may mean they stay away from Kyle Lowry in free agency. No guarantee of course, but you have to think that landing a Wiggins, Parker or Embiid would have made things a little more intriguing for propspective free agents, and perhaps would have made Los Angeles press hard for a veteran to run the show. Considering that LA seems to be one of the biggest threats to Toronto’s retention of their team MVP, anything, even the smallest wrinkles, help.
It certainly is not keeping teams from embracing calculated losing. While the league’s worst team — Milwaukee, this year — is not guaranteed of the top pick like it would be in the National Football League, it is ensured of, at worst, the fourth pick. If obtaining top-level talent via the draft is part of your team’s goal, it is better to be very bad than mediocre. While Philadelphia was the only team that clearly punted this season — the 76ers finished with the league’s second-worst record, and fell to third in the lottery — there are several more teams that accept the reality of losing once it becomes clear in-year success is hopeless. Check out the end-of-season lineups of Milwaukee or Los Angeles or Utah if you want confirmation. You can hardly blame them: from LeBron James to Pau Gasol to Shaquille O’Neal to Tim Duncan to Hakeem Olajuwon to Michael Jordan, players picked in the top-three are repeatedly at the centre of championships teams.
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