Apparently DeRozan is following Jonas Valanciunas’s lead this summer and working on his post-up game with Hakeem Olajuwon. He wants a higher percentage of his shots closer to the rim next season, which would be good considering that DeRozan is never going to be a good 3-point shooter. He made it an emphasis last summer and did improve, but he is not going to make a leap in that facet. DeRozan acknowledging this should improve his approach and thus his all-around game. To me, it looks like DeRozan will continue to improve incrementally, but this past season was the big jump. If he happened to stumble upon a 40 percent 3-point percentage season, it may be a different story. But that is hardly likely, and it’s hardly likely that I, or the Raptors, are going to complain about DeRozan’s career or potential arc. All it takes is a little perspective during draft time. But knowing these desperate franchises at the top of the lottery and even more desperate GMs, that may be too much to ask.
Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri comments on the upcoming NBA Draft, the professionalism of Tyler Ennis and much more.
And now, because of the depth of Canadian talent, any player would be skilled enough to handle it rather than bow to demands of friends, family and high expectations. Past Raptors regimes have at times shied away from looking at even Canadian free agents because of the possible distractions; the lone Canadian to ever play for the Raptors remains Jamaal Magloire, the current assistant coach who was signed near the end of his career as much for his leadership skills as anything. There was no pressure to perform, nor any expections on him like there would be for a draft pick. “I can see why people would say that but I think there’s going to be pressure regardless,” said Ennis. “If you’re getting drafted, people are expecting you to come in and produce and whether that’s your hometown or not, there’s going to be pressure.”
“I don’t think anybody enters the draft just wanting to make a team and be happy there,” said Ennis, arguably the best pure point guard in this year’s class. “Personally, I want to make an impact. I thought I was ready for the next level when I decided to enter the draft and if I were to end up on Toronto, I would definitely want to make an impact, especially in my home town.” But will he be available to the Raptors at 20? “I’d be surprised,” Ujiri admitted.
As was the case with Arron Afflalo and Nene in Denver, Ujiri should probably retain Lowry, hope it works out and, if not, trade him fairly early in his deal. With so few starting gigs available and so much goodwill established in Toronto, it would be a surprise if Lowry went elsewhere this offseason, even if he’s the top point guard available on the market. If Toronto wants him back, he should be back, even if he won’t come cheap.
It seems like the more information we compile, the trickier it becomes to peg Lowry’s fair value. We see his PER ranked seventh among point guards last season, which theoretically slots his worth right between John Wall and Tony Parker next year. If he were the seventh-highest-paid point guard next year, Lowry would collect almost $13 million, which would put him right alongside Rajon Rondo. That feels like too much, doesn’t it? And if Lowry were to be paid for his contributions to actually winning basketball games, which is kind of an important thing, his No. 3 position in win shares among point guards could drive his price further skyward. Even if we split the difference between the third and fourth slots on next year’s point guard pay scale, that still puts Lowry between Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook—perhaps somewhere around $16 million per year. It seems crazy to imagine he’ll get anything close to that figure, and it’s only fair to admit that picking out Lowry’s statistical ranks and equating them to raw dollars is a crude way to go about nailing down his value.
I say JV is the Raps’ most important piece moving forward because he has a chance to be their best player at the thinnest position in the NBA. DeRozan is phenomenal, however high-scoring shooting guards aren’t exactly irreplaceable. Lowry is also incredible, however there are plenty of other incredible point guards out there. I’m not undermining these two in any way as they are both vital – the point is, Valanciunas can be the difference maker for this franchise. I can’t name many big men in the league that I would rather have right now. Andre Drummond, DeMarcus Cousins, and Derrick Favors are really the only centers in the league right now that project to be top-tier a few years from now. What does that mean? JV can in that handful of elite, dominant centers. Having that type of player is a luxury, and would pretty much be exactly what the doctor is ordering for the Raptors to move forward. Ultimately, if Valanciunas develops into a perennial all-star, the Raptors will be championship contenders in the near future.
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