We’re going to handle preseason player profiles differently this year on RaptorBlog. For each player on the 2012-13 Raptors’ active roster, Joseph Casciaro and I are going to email our thoughts back and forth and then post the resulting conversation on the blog. It’s an edgy new form of journalism! Or something…

John Lucas III, PG, 5’11″, 165 lbs.
2011-12 stats: 49 games, 14.8 MPG, 7.5 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.0 BPG, 0.4 SPG, .399 FG%, .393 3P%, .875 FT%, 16.3 PER

Scott: If John Lucas III is able to secure several years of a solid NBA career starting with his surprising performance as the Bulls’ sparkplug last season, it would be a pretty remarkable story. Lucas turns 30 in November, making him the third-oldest player on the Raptors’ roster after Jose Calderon and Alan Anderson. It’s understating things to point out the long odds of a 29-year-old suddenly blossoming into a viable NBA player after he went undrafted out of Oklahoma State in 2005 and logged just 500 unremarkable NBA minutes before last season.

It might sound crazy for me to suggest that Lucas got his two-year, $3 million contract (the second year is reportedly a team option) mostly on the strength of three late-season games, but it’s hard to figure otherwise when you consider that Lucas shot 36.6 percent from the field and 37.1 percent on treys in the other 46 games. Here were those three games:

  • March 14, 2012 vs. MIA: 27 MP, 24 Pts, 9-12 FG, 3-5 3P, 3-3 FT, 3 Reb, 1 Ast
  • March 19, 2012 at ORL: 21 MP, 20 Pts, 8-13 FG, 4-7 3P, 1 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl
  • April 26, 2012 vs. CLE: 27 MP, 25 Pts, 10-16 FG, 3-7 3P, 2-2 FT, 2 Reb, 4 Ast, 2 Stl

The performance against Miami stands out, of course, and many of you probably saw that game and are now cuddling a nice fat hunk of confirmation bias that completely ignores the games he shot 11-for-28 or 7-for-20 or 5-for-16. Yes, everybody can have bad games, but I’m having a hard time believing that we’re going to be seeing more of the former type of performance when no NBA team was willing to really give him a fair shot until the Bulls were decimated by injuries last season and were forced to give him playing time out of necessity.

Joseph: My take on Lucas is that he’s clearly better than most third string NBA point guards, but not good enough to be a consistent backup point guard. Right now, the Raptors are in a fine spot with where he is on the depth chart, but if and when a Jose Calderon trade goes down, I’m not confident in his ability to become Kyle Lowry’s primary backup on this team.

When he’s at his best, Lucas can be a really nice spark plug off of the bench on both ends of the floor. He gets most of his attention for being a scoring point guard who takes a ton of shots, but he’s also a solid defender at the point, which is pretty remarkable for a guy of his (lack of) size.

From what I’ve seen in very small samples, he’s also an underrated passer who finds the seams when he does decide to move the ball, but he too often settles for an ill-advised, forced shot, and that’s obviously not what you want from a point guard. He’s not going to shoot 7/10 like he did against Real Madrid very often.

But because of Lucas’ defensive awareness and his reputed competitive spirit, Dwane Casey seems to like him, and I think even with both Lowry and Calderon here, JL3 will still find some minutes.

Scott: I’m fine with Lucas as a third-string point guard, but when one or both of Lowry and Calderon get injured this season, I fear Lucas could shoot this team out of games rather than just trying to be a solid distributor and defender. If I had to look at a ceiling and floor for Lucas this season, I’d say his ceiling is Barbosa with better passing. His floor is last season’s Kemba Walker with worse passing and rebounding. Try to think of that player without gagging.

I can sort of understand why he had a few games where he jacked up a ridiculous number of shots last season because he saw himself as filling in Rose’s role in the offense — as absurd as that may seem. In the Raptors’ offense, the point guard isn’t expected to be a primary scorer, so I hope he recognizes that the team will likely be better off if he distributes to the legitimate scorers around him.

Joseph: That floor is brutal, but a ceiling of Barbosa with passing ability is pretty intriguing. I don’t know if he’ll recognize that he should be a distributor off the bat, but I’m hoping coach Casey drives that message home before the start of the regular season.

Of course, I don’t want him to totally forget about his own scoring, as he’s become quite the three-point shooter (over 39% last season) over the last year, and this team can use all of the long range shooting it can get.