Jerryd Bayless

Season Stats (With the Raptors only): 60 GP, 22.4 MPG, 10 PPG, 42.9 FG%, 34.8 3PT% 81 FT%, 4 APG, 2.5 RPG, 0.6 SPG, 1.83 TO

Career Stats: 198 GP, 17.4 MPG, 7.6 PPG, 41 FG%, 32.1 3PT%, 81.7 FT%, 2.6 APG, 1.7 RPG, 0.4 SPG, 1.4 TO

When the Raptors traded Jarrett Jack and David Andersen to the Hornets in the early part of the season, I was disappointed that Jack’s valuable contract made him more movable than Jose Calderon. I also thought it would be nice to see a three-point legend, Peja Stojakovic, dawn a Raptors jersey.

But the thing that made the trade a no-doubter for me was the acquisition of Jerryd Bayless. I’ve always been high on Bayless, and still believe that he can be a starting point guard on a good team for years to come.

Despite the fact that Bayless had appeared in 138 games, and started in 11 of those, over two-plus seasons in Portland and New Orleans, the truth was that he had never really been given a tremendous opportunity in terms of minutes played. When he was given that opportunity, he definitely raised some eyebrows in a Blazers uniform.

Sure, most still saw him as a raw young guard that shot too much to be a point guard and was too small to be a shooting guard, but those same sceptics also knew that if he could figure it out, Bayless could be a star in the making.

His opportunity to break out and shine arrived in the form of a trade to Toronto, where Bayless was paired with one of the youngest teams in the league during a rebuilding year, even if Bryan Colangelo wasn’t admitting that much at the time.

Bayless probably didn’t have the immediate impact some Raptors fans were hoping for, and spent most of the season playing behind a better than expected Jose Calderon. However, there were nights throughout the season, like during the Raptors’ franchise-record comeback in Detroit and their undermanned win in Dallas, where Bayless showed the type of poise, swagger and leadership that still has some hopeful of the Arizona product’s NBA future.

I won’t sugar-coat things – Jerryd definitely struggled at times. He especially struggled with trying to adapt to being a pure point guard rather than a shoot-first guard. But he also showed some positive signs of being a great passer and making good decisions while driving through the heart of the defense in the latter part of the season.

Not to mention, Bayless is the first Raptors point guard in years who truly understands the importance of perimeter defense. And as we’ve learned painfully with other Raptors guards over the years, that’s not exactly something you can teach a guy.

Bayless’ shooting numbers rose slightly with the Raptors, but I won’t pretend he shot the ball well enough to warrant him earning extra field goal attempts. What I will say is that Bayless is most effective when he is aggressive and drives to the basket, thus allowing him to either convert easier baskets, draw fouls, or find an open teammate. In addition, while shooting 34.8 per cent from three-point range isn’t spectacular, Bayless did provide signs of developing into an above-average three-point threat.

To be honest, my biggest problem with Bayless’ first season as a Raptor is that he didn’t get enough of an opportunity or enough playing time, especially considering this season was supposed to be about a youth movement. When he finally got that opportunity towards the end of the season, the 22-year-old Bayless responded in impressive fashion.

Over the final eight games of the season, Bayless logged over 37 minutes per game and scored at least 19 points in each of those games. He averaged 22.5 points on 48 per cent shooting, including 41 per cent three-point shooting, adding 5.6 assists and a steal per game for good measure.

It would be silly to assume that just because Bayless finished this season with a bang, he is automatically going to carry that over into a great second season for the Raptors. However, it is just as foolish to simply dismiss Bayless’ final eight games when we’re talking about a 22-year-old who still has plenty of time and room to grow.

This is a feisty, incredibly competitive and seemingly mature young man who brings the type of fire that Raptors fans have been yearning for quite some time. He appears to have the right attitude to succeed, and also appears to enjoy playing in Toronto.

No one can guarantee that Jerryd Bayless will live up to his potential or even come close to it, but at 22-years-old there isn’t much risk to keeping him around and seeing what he becomes. The potential benefits of Bayless’ ceiling far outweigh any risk involved in committing to him next season.

Of course, things could change drastically should the Raptors land Kyrie Irving in the draft or should they acquire a star point-guard in a trade. But if Jose Calderon and Jerryd Bayless return next season as the Raptors’ point guard combination, then Jerryd Bayless has to be the starter, alongside the Raptors’ other young athletes.

Scott Carefoot’s take on Jerryd Bayless:

It struck me that local media and fans were somewhat dismissive of Jerryd Bayless’ strong finish. I say this because it doesn’t seem like everyone is on board with the idea of Bayless taking over the starting point guard role for the Raptors next season. Sure, you can pinpoint flaws in his game — particularly his questionable decision-making with the ball and his shaky jumper — but when a 22-year-old has an eight-game run like Bayless had to close out the season, I pay attention. Granted, he has some maturing to do in terms of trusting his teammates more and being smarter with his shot selection, but I think he’s earned the right to show us if he can make those improvements while playing 30-plus minutes per game.

Next up in our list of player evaluations is Jose Calderon, with that post coming later this week. Until then, debate the future of Jerryd Bayless in Toronto.