While Jerryd Bayless torched opposing benches this season and then looked phenomenal in a five-game sample as the Raptors’ starting point guard, Raps fans debated whether Bayless should replace Jose Calderon as the team’s starting point man to finish the season. But they also debated about whether the Raptors should sign Bayless long term (he has a $4.1 million qualifying offer for next season) and what he would be worth if they did extend him.

He’s had his share of injury problems this season, but based on his solid play when healthy and the ever present NBA need for a scoring punch off the bench, most of us assumed the Raptors or another team would give the 23-year-old with a still unreached ceiling a fairly sized contract.

However, once Bayless was sidelined for the season, I thought it could deter any possible competition the Raptors might face for Jerry’s services this summer, assuming Toronto is interested (why wouldn’t they be?). At the very least, I figured Bayless’ absence from the lineup would keep him out of any potential free agent spotlight and cool the RFA talk.

So much for that.

ESPN stats master John Hollinger included Bayless in a column about free agents with potential to be this year’s “Mr. Wright,” as in Brandan Wright, the once unwanted youngster who has carved out a nice role for himself with the defending champion Mavericks. Here’s a couple of snippets as to what Hollinger had to say re: Bayless -

He’s averaging a point every two minutes with a solid TS% (56.1), and he’s not just jacking either — he’s averaged nearly seven assists per 40 minutes over the past two seasons.

Hollinger added this: “While he’ll never be a pure point guard, his knack for getting to the basket and drawing fouls has been complemented this season by a spike to 42.3 percent on 3s. Bayless has “Mr. Wright” potential on other levels too. He was a lottery pick, he’s been traded twice, and he is still only 23.”

It should be noted that Hollinger included players that he believes “should be available for the midlevel exception or less.” That’s one bit of good news for the Raptors.

I was already thinking of writing a quick post in reaction to Hollinger’s recognition of Bayless. As I was cooking that up, I refresh my twitter feed, and see this tweet from astute NBA twitter mind, @HPbasketball:

Perhaps I’m reading too much into a couple of Jerryd Bayless mentions in a span of a few hours, but it appears that people have noticed the type of season Bayless has had.

If NBA media people outside of Toronto took notice, it’s pretty safe to assume NBA executives did as well.

Scott recently stated that he’d like the Raptors to try locking Jerryd up for about three years, at around $10 million to $12 million total. I’d like that deal and agreed with Scott, as I’m sure most of you would as well. But those figures were based on an assumption by all of us that not too many teams will be looking to pay Jerryd.

The Raptors might get more competition for Bayless than any of us originally bargained for. And if there is a team out there with their sights on him, it begs the question, how high are Bryan Colangelo and Raptors management willing to go to secure a high potential, but potentially high risk young combo guard?