Norm a fashion mogul; also brushes off Kawhi’s departure | Hopefully no one trades for Lowry
Host William Lou is joined by Blake Murphy of The Athletic for a post-mortem on Canada Basketball’s disappointing showing at the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
- Why Canada failed to recruit top talent
- MLSE and OVO’s involvement
- How Nick Nurse fared as head coach
- Is Rowan Barrett right for the job?
- The case for extending Pascal Siakam
- Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka as impending free agents
- New faces on Raptors coaching staff
Smart moves, obvious and otherwise
The clear goal of MLSE when Masai Ujiri was hired was to bring an NBA Championship to Toronto and Masai definitely had his work cut out for him. The roster he inherited from Bryan Colangelo was too low on talent and too high on salary.
In short order, Ujiri lived his reputation for making smart moves. After just a little over a month as the Raptors GM, on July 10, 2013, Ujiri traded Andrea Bargnani to the New York Knicks in a move that can only be described as unloading.
Bargnani was drafted by the Toronto Raptors first overall in the 2007 NBA draft. If only Masai had been the GM at the time. Had that been the case, I think it’s a safe bet that the Raptors would have drafted 7-time All-Star and 5-time All-NBA team selection LaMarcus Aldridge.
Whatever the reasoning, Bargnani was picked instead. On paper, you wouldn’t think that Bargnani was as terrible as the comments you hear from Raptors fans. According to one Reddit conversation, the overall consensus seems to be that Bargnani was talented and had early success but lacked the motivation to improve his game and generally just didn’t care that much about basketball. How much of this is true, only Bargnani himself knows, but the result was that he ended up being an incredibly disappointing draft pick, especially at first overall and the Raptors’ loyal were elated to see him go.
There is no denying that Lou Williams’ time with Toronto was wildly entertaining. The man is a scoring machine and it didn’t take long for him to become a fan favorite. Who can forget when fans at what was then the Air Canada Center began the easily confused call of LOOOOOOU whenever he got his hands on the ball? A habit that hilariously prompted a Reddit thread asking why Toronto fans were booing Lou Williams.
That season, Lou Williams won the first of what would become 3 Sixth Man awards in 5 seasons… so far. He was forever cemented into Toronto and Raptors lore when hip-hop superstar and Raptors superfan Drake wrote a song referencing Williams called 6 Man, a play on Williams himself as well as Drake’s popularization of calling Toronto The 6ix because of the 416 area code that belongs to the city.
So, at the end of the season, when Lou Williams opted to become a free agent, it was a bit of a shock when Masai Ujiri didn’t make him an offer. Williams was apparently as surprised as anyone as he discussed in an interview on the Tim & Sid show.
Although I have to say, he seems to have contradicted his sentiments that he wanted to be in Toronto this summer when he publically shared his beliefs about why he feels that Toronto can’t hold on to NBA stars.
Ultimately, moving on from Lou Williams was another step toward the Raptors’ ultimate goal. As incredible as Lou Wiliams is, his style of play leans heavily toward iso-ball and therein lies the problem. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the Raptors had signed Lou Williams to a four-year deal. If Lou Williams had still been a Raptor in all likelihood, the Bench Mob of the 2017- 18 season never would have happened.
And if the Bench Mob doesn’t happen, maybe Pascal Siakam misses taking steps towards becoming Spicy P, an integral part of Toronto’s Championship starting line up. Maybe Fred VanVleet doesn’t find his footing as a leader for the second unit which he would have to do the following season without the benefit of Pascal Siakam coming off the bench. Maybe Jakob Poeltl doesn’t get enough touches to make him of interest to the San Antonio Spurs and Masai can’t make the Kawhi Leonard trade work.
Something to think about, right?
If you were designing the ideal point guard to play next to a superstar, his game would probably look a lot like Kyle Lowry’s. For starters, he would be able to score but not insistent upon it, striking the delicate balance that holds the attention of an opposing defense. You would want a pragmatic playmaker who reads the game without feeling the need to control it—like, say, the Raptors point guard who ranked second in the league in assists per game but 29th in time of possession. It would be best if this tailor-made guard were dynamic without the ball, given the way NBA offenses orient around their single best player. That requires not only three-point shooting (like you’d get from Lowry, a 37% long-range shooter for his career) but a sense of when and how to move. The last thing you’d want is some over-eager sidekick getting in the way, so this guard would also need Lowry’s particular combination of motor and discretion.
To fully fit the bill, they would need to be a stout individual defender who can adapt along with the team concept, and a disciple of the hustle play with natural competitive instincts. Check and check. They would have championship experience. It would help if they could hold their own in switch situations, like Lowry does, and even box out bigs here and there to bolster a team’s rebounding. Unselfishness would be non-negotiable. The guard in question would need to facilitate a transition game to build out the offense, just as Lowry does with his hit-ahead passes. You could dedicate countless resources and lean on some hideous science to try to Frankenstein together such a player. Or, you could just trade for Kyle Lowry.
Minnesota Timberwolves Receive: Kyle Lowry
Toronto Raptors Receive: Andrew Wiggins, Jake Layman, 2020 first-round pick (lottery protected)
Kawhi Leonard’s departure was just the first of what could be a number of sweeping changes for the champs. Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka are all on expiring deals. While TSN’s Josh Lewenberg reported the Raptors “have no intention of moving them,” he added the caveat of “at least not before the season.”
Why wouldn’t Toronto be open to change? The 30-somethings won’t be around for the long haul, and the Raptors already have Lowry’s replacement in Fred VanVleet.
If the Wolves can get the veteran floor general, they should. He topped their wish list in 2017, per SiriusXM NBA’s Mitch Lawrence, and he might still be up there considering RPM valued him as a top-15 player and last season’s No. 5 point guard.
Lowry’s arrival could free the Wolves to either move Jeff Teague for additional help or plug him into the second point guard role Derrick Rose masterfully filled last season. Lowry wouldn’t be a long-term solution, which would help the future budget, but he would prop up this team and position Towns for his best season yet.
The Raptors, meanwhile, have long had an affinity for Wiggins, a Toronto native and only the second Canadian selected first overall in the NBA draft. Marc Stein of the New York Times previously reported they “held exploratory discussions” about a Wiggins-DeMar DeRozan swap in 2017.
The Leonard-less Raptors could use Wiggins’ scoring punch on the wings, and their perimeter group would have an incredible collection of length, athleticism and versatility on the defensive end. Tack on Jake Layman—a hustling combo forward with a smooth shooting stroke (who can’t be traded before Dec. 15)—and a first-round pick, and Toronto would further its reconstruction effort.
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