Olajuwon should be able to show Valanciunas how to carefully pick his battles and how to use his hands properly without the refs getting on his back for silly touch fouls. Teams need to dread taking the ball down the lane with Valanciunas in the middle. There needs to be an aura around that spot to the point where players think twice before attacking the rim. Valanciunas can be that guy.
I wouldn’t mind Adreian Payne as a potential Raptors first round pick if it weren’t for one key point — Patrick Patterson. While the two aren’t a like-for-like swap, they’d essentially play the same role in this squad. With Patterson offering some more resistance and versatility defensively, and only being a restricted free agent, I think it’d be a waste of an asset to replace him via the draft when there are other holes the Raptors need to fill. If the Raptors feel like they can’t afford to keep Patterson, Payne makes sense as a stretch 4 whose energy and athleticism hopefully helps him improve as an asset on both ends of the court.
The real question for the Raptors lies in their two youngest starters, Ross and Valanciunas. Both played at high levels for their team this past season, with Big V (in honour of his Lithuanian forefather, Zydrunas Ilgauskas) dialing up his level of play in the playoffs and Terrence matching a Raptors single game record for points in a game (51), set by none other than the love-to-hate Vince Carter himself. Ross has the athleticism, size and length to become a key player for the Raptors on both sides of the court in the future. Casey has shown confidence in him and in turn (aside from his playoffs fiasco) Ross delivered, cutting down on his turnovers while often guarding the opposition’s best scoring wing. When Patterson and Salmons were asked who surprised them the most coming to the team, both immediately showered praise on Ross, Patterson saying he “had no idea [Terrence] could shoot like that.” His glaring fault on offense is his lack of ball-handling skills, but with hard work he could take his game into the elite level, while also holding his own defensively at a position that features scorers. Valanciunas has impressed many with his first-round success, not long after capturing the Summer League MVP last August. He showed decisiveness offensively in the low post and the kind of bruising play that Toronto teams have sorely lacked since the departure of Chris Bosh. And to think, the man is only 21 years old. Valanciunas is boiling over with potential, and I see a future of 18ppg/10rpg/1.5bpg in his future. If they could get five or six seasons of that kind of production out of him it would go down as one of the last (not to mention few) things that former GM Bryan Colangelo did right in his tenure.
“Now he has experience to draw back from in reading situations,” Casey said. “Then his athletic instincts, his hands, his speed and quickness kicks-in after that. “I don’t want to anoint him as a defensive stopper, but he is growing into that role, doing a good job with it, learning – learning each time out. “3-and-D, I like that, that’s pretty good. That’s probably pretty good description. We want him to be more of a pick-and-roll guy, that’s the next step in (his) growth.”
It hasn’t been easy getting free agents to even think about coming north of the border and since Lowry has already been here for two seasons and said that he loves the place, it’s even more incentive for Masai to bring him back. Add in that he should have been an All-Star this season, his season-long heroics late in games, his out-playing of Deron Williams in the playoffs and his developing leadership skills, Lowry is a no brainer in that he needs to return to this team for them to have the same “oomph” that they’ve been missing in years prior. Lowry put up 21/5/5 and shot nearly 40% from deep and nearly 90% from the charity stripe against Brooklyn in the first round. Doesn’t seem like he’s asking for anything too crazy either, reportedly about $10-12 million for four years.
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