A Little Housekeeping Off The Hop
Perhaps it’s my withdrawal symptoms kicking in, but Summer League hasn’t been this watchable for quite some time. Maybe I’m just enjoying Mario Hezonja’s debut against inferior opponents a little too much. Which reminds me, Super Mario looks the part and then some. What happens in Vegas, will most likely begin to haunt opponents in short order.
Orlando has built a group that screams potential, and at the very least they’ve joined the conversation to battle for the 8th-seed. The last thing Toronto needs after taking a step back last season is another up-and-coming team clouding the Conference picture. Yes, you can still label a team a failure despite them setting a franchise record in wins.
The Raps’ schedule doesn’t kickoff until Friday night, where they’ll be suiting up against Sacramento. If you’re one to usually scoff at Vegas Ball this time of year, I can’t take issue with you, its track record isn’t particularly noteworthy. However, a few intriguing factors could change your mind, and your channel.
Among them are a chance to check in on the progression (if any) of the usual suspects, Bruno and Bebe, as well as draftees Delon Wright and Norman Powell, and the one who continues to lurk in the background, the talented DeAndre Daniels.
Not to mention the fact that it’s basketball in raw form. Small crowds with minimal distraction, and an atmosphere where every single participant is trying to prove something. Besides, it starts at 6:30pm, there’s plenty of time for the rest of your evening. Just be weary of HOV lanes, and on the lookout for silver-black-and-white walkers.
It’s probably a good thing the Free Agency chaos has begun to cool off.
Examining how the Raps’ most recent addition, Corey Joseph, potentially affects Toronto’s future direction is the next step. This squad is creeping closer to a trending-north return, at least on paper. And the new-found excitement is helping provide a much needed stress release.
Despite LaMarcus Aldridge existing as a fantasy pick-up all along, the Raptors were dealt a few favours in the process. For starters, a player of his caliber simply holding a meeting can only aid this franchise’s capabilities in the marketplace moving forward. With troubling tax laws an annual roadblock, the lure of Toronto will seemingly always need an outside push.
It also furthers the developing interest in players who don’t necessarily jump ship to the most “mainstream” situation, as basketball decisions are trending upward in their own right. Keep your head up, Knicks’ fans, Kristaps Porzingis offers hope, even with Carmelo’s sabotaging ways.
And hey, at least Aldridge stayed in the West. I’m now looking forward to the upcoming Warriors-Spurs Conference Finals.
Or, as Bill Simmons put it:
Even if it's for 1-2 years, Duncan-LMA-Kawhi is an all-time holy-shit level frontline. I voted all 3 for All-NBA last season.
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) July 4, 2015
Speaking of high hopes. Aldridge’s assistance also trickled down to the Raps’ roster. After his decision was finally made, thoughts immediately shifted to the notion that San Antonio’s new arrival would likely force the Spurs to relinquish Joseph’s rights. In which Masai and company wasted little time benefitting from the situation, landing the underused, yet up-and-coming point guard with the Pickering, Ontario pedigree.
Considering the void in the frontcourt left by Amir Johnson’s departure to Beantown, hopes that Aldridge would ultimately choose Phoenix, where the same scenario could have played out making Markieff Morris available, arguably would have provided more satisfaction.
But in the end, there’s no complaints in acquiring a player coming from a disciplined and ball-sharing environment, while adding more firepower at such an important position in the process. On the surface, the amount of cash forked over caused a number of double-takes. In case you missed it, or bypassed the link above, Zarar Siddiqi quickly put out the fire:
The number looks high now, but the deal will become miniscule in Years 2 and 3. It works out to 8.3 percent of the cap in 2016-17 and 7.4 percent in 2017-18. That’s when Joseph should be hitting his prime, which could make this contract a bargain.
For now, we should be embracing Money Masai making it rain:
Masai Ujiri this summer. pic.twitter.com/7rKDR9BOXo
— Raptors Republic (@raptorsrepublic) July 7, 2015
Still, in the spirt of the forever roller-coaster of emotions the Raps supply, a sobering dose of reality was required the next morning. It wouldn’t be a Toronto party without one. Which brings in the questions the acquisition of Joseph could eventually manifest into.
Back To The Future
Kyle Lowry will remain this team’s leading heart-and-soul moving forward, along with playing an added integral role in the development of the new back-up point guards. How fast the two 23-year-old kids can make substantial contributions largely depends on whether Casey and K-Low can manage a proper mentoring process.
This is where it gets messy, the relationship between Head Coach and floor general doesn’t exactly embody a perfect match, meaning patience is the right course of action for fans and execs alike.
Joseph has has earned his stripes. But what if Wright’s also a quick study, and his defensive calling-card begins to impact games sooner rather than later? Playing all four years in College only backs the thought. Lowry’s service to the team would then be deemed a success, but wouldn’t that also lead to his days in a Raptors’ uniform ultimately being numbered? As per the moment, neither Joseph or Wright translate well to the two.
Well, not necessarily, as there’s room for all three to help each other immediately, and eventually coexist evenly. The Raps’ usage of Lowry roaming off the ball is usually a focal point, and the proposition of the trio forming a two point-guard set rotation would be prosperous. Problem is, by the time Toronto is ready to be considered a contender, the young guns may have already surpassed K-Low.
But wait, the hits keep coming. Off-court obstacles do their damnedest to interfere as well.
DeMar DeRozan’s impending payday represents the team’s most pressing financial dilemma. Judging by the fact that DeMar’s name was bandied about when courting prospective Free Agents, it lends itself to the idea that the plan is to back up the brinks truck and load Derozan’s pockets before the 2016-17 season.
The looming and significant cap rise across the league can ease the burden of where money can be allocated, but mix in those four first-round picks over the next two years with thoughts of going all-in on the Free Agent class of 2016, an elephant in the room will undoubtedly appear.
That Kevin Durant led class includes the unrestricted likes of Joakim Noah and Al Horford, while also featuring the restricted Andre Drummond and Toronto’s own, Jonas Valanciunas. With the state of the frontcourt as we speak, and the fact that the Raps might even go with what they have, one has to think a major play will be made. Which at that point, the Raps might even be interested in moving Lowry’s contract via trade.
There’s still a major factor I have yet to give its proper due, and that’s Lowry himself. If his old-self reappears, it can go along away in silencing the idea of him moving on.
I’m referring to:
- The one who relishes drawing the charge.
- The point guard who gives the same effort at both ends.
- An opposite version of the three-year decline in Assists Per 36 minutes.
- Back, or closer to his 11.8 Win Shares of 2013-14, not the 7.1 level of last year (Offensive drop: 8.4 to 5.1, Defensive: 3.3 to 2.0).
- The more organized, and less isolation-style example being set (I know, the latter is likely impossible in this offense).
- The player who didn’t post his worst True Shooting % of his career last season (.527).
- A team leader who has the capability of seamlessly fitting into the new defensive-minded culture shift that Masai is trying to install.
- And above all, a completely healthy K-Low (slack is definitely given where it’s due).
With a first-round pick, and offseason money spent at the same position he holds, one would think that can spark the fire of rejuvenation, where most of these attributes can make an appearance once again. Lowry may be superior in talent and experience, but the backups promise might be serviceable enough going forward for this organization to concentrate on filling holes elsewhere.
A little saving grace comes in the form of the timeline the execs actually give Wright. Signing Joseph could be argued as a proactive approach to ensuring Lowry has a quality backup. Though with Bobby Portis still avaialble to draft and aid the club’s most pressing need at Power Forward, that’s a bit of a stretch.
There’s three years left on his contract, but Lowry needs to prove himself once again to see a future extension, or even its final year. He led this franchise’s resurgence to relevance, it would be a damn shame for the ending to have already started.
Happy Summer League, folks. Here’s to a Markieff Morris acquisition in the days ahead.