Vasquez got paid well – $13 million U.S. over two seasons, according to Yahoo! Sports – after emerging as a key sparkplug down the stretch last season. Vasquez averaged 9.5 points and 3.7 assists as a Raptor, shooting 38.9% from three, including a stellar 44.8% in 30 games following the all-star break. The Sun reported last Friday that a multi-year deal was close after sources said it was a lucrative offer and both sides were confident, but Vasquez and agent Arn Tellem were not ready to sign until the offer came up a little bit, which it did Wednesday. The short term made the deal palatable for Toronto, since the team should still have considerable cap room the next two summers.
It’s likely that Vasquez was looking for a longer deal with the Raps, and the high salary was necessary compensation for the short length of the deal. Vasquez is essentially on a two-year audition, with a ton of incentive to perform well to secure a longer deal post-2016. Financial considerations aside, it’s worth emphasizing that Vasquez played a crucial role in a very successful Raptors season — both from a production stand-point and chemistry-wise. Bringing him back was a priority for the franchise, especially considering his versatility — he can run the point as a back-up and share the floor with Kyle Lowry, playing off the ball. There are also legitimate concerns, considering his history, his size, and how hard he plays, about Lowry’s health. If he goes down for any length of time, having a competent point-guard to steer the ship will be crucial.
Still, there’s bound to be some concern over whether and how Toronto can effectively and efficiently manage its backcourt minutes—especially with three players who’ve logged their fair share of starter’s minutes. Unless, of course, general manager Masai Ujiri viewed the Vasquez signing as a much needed insurance policy. Looking at Lowry’s injury history, the fear isn’t entirely unfounded: During his eight-year NBA career, the onetime member of the Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets has only twice logged more than 75 games in a single season. And while Lowry’s missed just 17 tilts the last two seasons, the Raptors simply can’t afford to have their best player out for significant stretches, even in a historically woeful Eastern Conference. Vasquez, by contrast, has been the quintessence of stability, missing just 22 games in four seasons, with a good number of those being rookie-year DNPs.
With this deal reportedly being made and the Lowry and Patterson deals having already gotten done, Raptors GM Masai Ujiri appears to have completed the most pressing items his off-season checklist. This move, coupled with rookie Bruno Caboclo’s signing earlier on Wednesday, as well as the trade with Atlanta for Lou Williams and Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira and the reported Steve Novak trade that will clear up some cap space will see the Raptors’ salary for next season at approximately $67.2 million, almost $4 million over the new salary cap, but still $9.6 million under the luxury tax threshold, meaning the team could still conceivably add a piece using the full $5.3 million mid-level exception.
It’s been rough, but this is one of those years I’ve got to keep grinding and keep working. I’ll be a restricted free agent [this summer] and we’ll see what happens. It’s just the business. At first Sacramento was talking about building a future with me and then all of a sudden I get traded. If I’m going to get traded [again] it’s going to be this year because I am going to be restricted. I am going to have to sign with somebody and find myself a home.
“It would be heartbreaking if I don’t come back,” Vasquez said in his memorable exit interview the day after Toronto’s postseason elimination. “I’m an emotional guy, so I really embrace, I’m really committed to the team, to the city, to this franchise.” Although a $6.5 million annual salary is on the high end for a backup point guard, the Raptors value Vasquez as more than that and the reasonable two-year term allows them to maintain their flexibility leading up to the summer of 2016. Vasquez has proven himself a capable starter in the league, averaging career-highs of 13.9 points and 9.0 assists while finishing second in Most Improved Player voting with New Orleans in 2012-13. Not only can he co-exist with both newcomer Lou Williams and Lowry in the backcourt, but he serves as insurance if the latter were to miss time with an injury.
“Masai (Ujiri) has known Greivis for a long, long time,” Head Coach Dwane Casey said. “He has known him ever since he was a young kid. He has stones. He is confident. He is a kid you are not afraid to put in any situation because of his confidence. “I love him and that’s the culture you want to develop is having guys like that who want to be here and want to be a part of the community, who want to be a part of a winning organization.”
Lowry’s team improved: the Raptors scored a sizzling 108.8 points per 100 possessions post the Gay trade, a mark that would have ranked fifth in the league behind only the high powered (and high salaried) Spurs, Heat, Rockets, Clippers and Nets. Unsurprisingly, Toronto’s offensive surge led to wins. The club went 7-12 before the trade and 38-22 after it, finishing third in the East, when many thought the Gay trade had signaled an organizational restructuring (AKA tanking). Lowry and the Raptors took Brooklyn to seven games in the first round of the playoffs, a series that included a 36-point hot shot exhibition by KL.
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