Pretending Nothing Happened and that Kyle Lowry was Always the Guy

Nash is gone, actually, he was never here.

The comments in yesterday’s late post by Blake sum up the Republic’s sentiment towards Steve Nash going to LA. It’s not any hate towards Nash, who made the respectable decision of chasing a championship instead of middling around with a bunch of nobodys. He might’ve used the Raptors as leverage and completely fooled Colangelo, but as players and GMs often remind us: it’s just business.

The comedy of signing Landry Fields to block the Nash move only to have LA hijack the play has also been thoroughly discussed, and safe to say that the spin on this will be that the Raptors’ interest in Fields was independent of the Nash approach. That’s what the organization is supposed to say and that’s what the beat writers will write, but the saner, smarter, fans who don’t have bosses to answer to know the deal.

Here’s Hollinger’s little section on the Raptors involvement in the Nash scene:

How do you get egg out of dinosaur hide?

And then there are the Raptors. Whoa, the poor Raptors. Toronto went for sentiment over logic, prioritized Nash over Dragic and Jeremy Lin and badly misread Nash’s desires. Patriotic sentiment was nice and all, but it wasn’t going to put Toronto any closer to his kids no matter how much the Raptors offered.

After 48 hours went by and the Raptors couldn’t get a yes, they might have gotten a bad feeling about this, but instead they doubled down by offering Landry Fields a ridiculous three-year, $20 million deal. The idea was to blow up any sign-and-trade deals the Knicks could offer Phoenix, with the assumption that the Knicks were the Raptors’ main competitor, but New York had another one lined up involving Iman Shumpert anyway. Meanwhile, Toronto never saw the Laker deal coming.

Now, at least, they won’t blow a huge pile on Nash, but there’s the little matter of the abysmal Fields contract — presumably the Knicks will be laughing too hard to bother matching — which will likely require them to lose Jose Calderon (to amnesty) and Jerryd Bayless (by renouncing his rights) to sign any other free agent of consequence.

Nonetheless, this probably saved the Raptors from a costly diversion on their road to rebuilding, and their books are clean enough that Fields’ contract won’t ruin their equally impressive cap-space hoard for next summer. Toronto can resume the slow, boring process of building a sustainable winner, an area in which it has already made considerable progress. Meanwhile, one hopes this setback will discourage the Raptors from chasing shortcuts so enthusiastically next summer.

I don’t want to dwell on how Colangelo’s reach in the market is basically limited to people he can overpay for, and how even that’s not a guarantee anymore (remember, he was supposed to be the guy who could help attract people to Toronto). In an effort to close the door on this ridiculous saga that has left the Raptors without a shred of dignity and further deepened the franchise’s inferiority complex, I say let bygones be bygones and shift our focus towards what Bryan Colangelo has planned next.

Stick with the Calderon and Bayless combo and pretend none of this ever happened? Meet Houston’s demands for Lowry? Look closer at Dragic? Or go with Jeremy Lin? I have sick feeling we’re going to go for Lin. This time it’ll be under the pretense of getting a point guard for the future who runs the pick ‘n roll well and can ignite the break with our athletic wings, but in reality it’s all about creating a circus in town. As Michael Grange paraphrased a few days ago on the Fan 590, winning isn’t really the concern right now, it’s to feed the fans some excitement.

However, ESPN is reporting that Jeremy Lin is set to receive a back-loaded offer from Houston, and with Nash, Williams, and Lin off the table, Goran Dragic’s value is suddenly on the rise. This might just leave Colangelo in a position to either outbid everyone for these guys’ services, or turn to Houston and Kyle Lowry, which is what Marc Stein is reporting.

I have no problem with Kyle Lowry, given the free-agent crop of this year and the Raptors’ total lack of attractiveness in the market, he really was the only realistic choice from day one. If we can’t sign good free agents, the next best thing is to acquire them with some time left on their deal. I’m not saying this is championship strategy, but who really is trying to win a championship here?

You’ve seen him play, a tough player on defense who has continually improved throughout his career, and finally turned into starter for the last two years. Here’s the Insider scouting report on him:

+ Tough, aggressive guard who pressures ball and defends. Loves taking charges.

+ Likes to push tempo but can get out of control. Mediocre outside shooter.

+ Good athlete who draws fouls. On the short side. Good rebounder for size.

A tough little son-of-a-gun, Lowry got hosed in the All-Defense voting. He got just two second-place votes; in contrast, Russell Westbrook got four first-place votes and five seconds-place nods. So nine of 30 coaches (or, more accurately, PR directors) thought Westbrook was a better defender than Lowry this past season. That’s indefensible.

Lowry also showed improved play at the offensive end, finally taking over the starting gig from Aaron Brooks after spending his first four seasons backing up inferior players in Memphis and Houston. He made a surprising 37.6 percent of his 3s, and while we should expect some regression (his three previous seasons were all in the mid-20s, and he shot only 30 percent on long 2s), he does enough other positives to still be a quality starter.

For instance, Lowry was ninth in the NBA in pure point rating and ranked in the upper half of point guards in every category except usage rate and free throw shooting. He’s not a pure shot creator and that limits his star potential, but he has a reasonable contract and is very solid at both ends.

He’s not the passer that Jose Calderon is or the shooter for that matter, but considering that Jose’s time is up, we can’t hand the reins over to Bayless, and Lowry is an improvement. He’s got two years left on his deal, is 26 years old, and is a much better fit in Casey’s defensive system which values defensive-minded guards who can press.

What would it take to get Lowry? Here’s what Houston was looking for and here’s what they turned down. So, somewhere in between works. Honestly, I don’t think the Raptors have the assets to acquire Lowry because with PGs thinning out on the free-agent market, his value just increased and this isn’t a case where Colangelo can throw house money at him. Unless, of course, he signs him to an immediate extension, which would not even surprise me.

So, whatever happens, I’m sure it’ll be very much like a circus, which is what this club is. We might have come some ways in terms of using analytics, expanding our scouting department, improving player facilities, serving to be more professional, but in terms of actual management of the basketball product, we clearly have a ways to go.