Jerryd Bayless’ future remains as clear as mud.
Bayless is a restricted free agent who can either be signed to a long-term contract extension, signed to a $4.16 million U.S. qualifying offer which would make him unrestricted next season, moved in a sign-and-trade or lost to an offer sheet the Raptors decline to match.
While the point guard has played extremely well in 25 games as a starter over the past two seasons (averaging 18 points and six assists on considerably better shooting than what he’s posted in 77 appearances off of the bench as a Raptor), he has had injury issues and is not a traditional floor general.
Bayless intoned on Thursday that he sees himself as a starting calibre point guard, but the general thinking is he is better-suited to a scoring guard role off of the bench.
Head coach Dwane Casey is a supporter, but recognizes Bayless is still a work in progress.
“He wants the ball in his hands. He wants to make the play. But also it’s to his detriment, because for his growth, he’s got to be able to get everybody else involved. That’s going to help his game, when he develops that sense of: ‘OK, I’ve got the ball, but here’s DeMar, he’s got a better shot, or here’s Valanciunas rolling down the lane. I’ve got to make that pass.’ I’ve clearly told him that and he knows that,” Casey said.
“He’s got a niche in this league where you can look at James Harden in Oklahoma City and Jason Terry (two great scorers who can also handle the ball). Guys don’t like to be compared to other players, but those guys make a nice living at doing that.”
Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo said Bayless has even made a comparison of his own — Chauncey Billups — the one-time Raptor who bounced around constantly as a youngster before eventually emerging as an all-star and finals MVP.
“(Bayless) works his tail off, he’s professional, he approaches the game and the business the right way. It’s not the end of the world for a guy like Jerryd not to know exactly where his position is when he’s only 23 years old, it doesn’t happen at the same time for everybody,” Colangelo said.
“He’s a talent, he’s an athlete, he can defend the ball, he can score the ball, and we’ll see.
“I would say as a young prospect, he’s certainly someone that we’ve got an interest in keeping or retaining and again, he’s got talents that can be utilized on a basketball court.”
While Colangelo also admitted that while Bayless’ hefty $7.2-million cap hold (in effect basically until he signs a qualifying offer or new contract) could complicate his off-season manoeuvring (the ability to sign or trade players) and that moving Bayless in a sign-and-trade could also be a possibility, the veteran executive also said the way Bayless has handled himself has endeared him to the organization.
“I appreciate the fact that a young player says: ‘I want to be here in Toronto, I love the city of Toronto, I love the opportunity you guys have given me, I love the staff, I really want to be here,’” Colangelo said.
“That makes some sense to us.”