The lottery pick is reportedly top-three protected in 2013, top-two protected in 2014 and 2015, and No. 1 overall protected in 2016 and 2017. If the Raptors end up losing a top-two or three pick in this deal, it becomes much, much tougher to swallow. But if the Rockets come out of this deal with only Gary Forbes and a late lottery pick, they will have sold embarrassingly low on a player that looks to be on the rise.
If you’re into patterns, the Raptors have never missed the playoffs in five straight seasons, and have qualified in stretches of two-year and three-year runs. If that pattern holds true, they are due for a post-season trip in the coming season and won’t have to worry about losing a lottery pick for at least a couple of years. On the other hand, the Raptors have never gone more than four consecutive seasons without finishing outside the bottom-five in the NBA standings, and if that ugly pattern holds true, then the Rockets will more than likely get a pretty good draft pick out of this deal.
Unfortunately, we can’t possibly begin judging this trade based on a patterned prediction of what the future holds. We can, however, look at and discuss where this trade leaves the Raptors.
For at least the next two years, the Raptors have addressed the “point guard of the future” position. In Lowry, Toronto gets a 26-year-old point guard who can score, attacks the basket, can pass, and can rebound and defend with the very best at the position. As Scott pointed out earlier, Lowry has the stuff to be in the top-10 point guard debate in the NBA.
If you assume that Jonas Valanciunas is virtually untouchable until he shows what he is (I doubt Dwight Howard has Toronto on his list of preferred teams), then he’s pegged in as the centre of the future for the Raptors.
DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross might have the potential to solidify one of the wing positions going forward. The combination of Andrea Bargnani plus one of Ed Davis or Amir Johnson probably have one more season to show us if they hold the key at the power forward position. Regardless of whether it’s from internal improvement or external upgrades, the Raptors will obviously need to get better at the wings and at the four-spot.
Other than that, a decision will need to be made at backup point guard and at centre, where the team will need a reliable yet inexpensive option to help smooth Valanciunas’ transition into a full time starter.
I’m as big a Jerryd Bayless supporter as you’ll find, and the presence of Bayless, who has put up very impressive numbers when given extended minutes, was the reason I thought it would be incredibly short-sighted to overpay for Goran Dragic or sell the farm for Lowry. Unfortunately for Jerryd, he and Lowry play similar styles at the point, and Jose Calderon’s game probably compliments Lowry’s much better than Bayless’ would. On that note, Bayless may be the odd man out, leaving a pretty good point guard combination of Lowry and Calderon for 2012-2013. Plus, Calderon has to have some value as a large expiring contract who can efficiently run an offence, so if anything, the Raptors can probably get something for him in the middle of next season.
If the Raptors brass believes Valanciunas can play 20-plus minutes per night immediately, then I would be more than open to the prospect of re-signing Aaron Gray to a team-friendly contract and having him fill in at centre, with one of Amir or Davis filling the extra minutes at the five-spot. If they don’t feel Valanciunas is ready for heavy minutes, it could be quite the scramble at centre.
With the expected additions of Lowry, Landry Fields, Valanciunas, Terrence Ross and Quincy Acy, a total of roughly $18 million this season, added to the contracts already on the books, you’re looking at roughly $57 million committed to 12 players. The Raptors should still have a bit of wiggle room under the salary cap this season, and unless they make a trade that brings in a lot more committed money than it sends out, it should remain that way.
If they amnesty Calderon and keep Bayless or another cheaper point guard around, that instantly frees up millions. But if they make the smarter call, which is keep Calderon’s expiring contract around and amnesty one of Linas Kleiza or Amir, that’s about $14-16 million coming off the books next summer. Not to mention, amnestying Calderon is a short-term financial solution, where as Kleiza has two years left on his deal (second year is a player option) and Amir has two guaranteed years, plus a potential third season.
In any event, despite overpaying for Fields, the Raptors will still have financial flexibility over the next year or so to go along with an intriguing young core that has people talking. In fact, I’d say as presently constructed post-Lowry trade, this team could challenge for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference when healthy, and I doubt this roster won’t improve by the time the season opens in October.
It’s amazing how much can change in the span of 24 hours. This fan base went from hoping Steve Nash would be the saviour that returned us to respectability, to then overreacting that missing out on Nash meant the Raptors were headed towards extinction, to now realizing that a trade for Kyle Lowry gives us a young group to be excited about.
At this rate, imagine what tomorrow might bring…