Archive for the ‘Jerryd Bayless’ Category

He just wanted it more

Game No. 44: Raptors 114, Grizzlies 110 (OT)

After a nasty second half showing in New Jersey on Wednesday night, the Raptors had to put up with the playoff-bound Grizzlies in Memphis, who were welcoming Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay back to the lineup on Friday night. Throw in the fact that the Raps were still without Jose Calderon and were obviously without the recently traded Leandro Barbosa, and the odds were stacked against them.

As you can see, things didn’t exactly go according to script.

Here are some thoughts on the game.

1- The Raptors responded to one of their worst halves of the season (second half against the Nets on Wednesday) with what was easily one of the their most complete efforts of the year in Memphis. The Raps set the tone early, hit the Grizzlies first, continued to hit back after the Grizz responded and continued to fight for every possession, every loose ball, and seemingly every single point. It was an inspiring effort from the young Raptors, especially from Jerryd Bayless and Gary Forbes, and even though the team made some costly mistakes down the stretch, you have to give them credit for finding a way to eek this one out given the circumstances. Imagine how emotionally draining and uplifting this game would have been in the thick of a meaningful playoff race?

2- Jerryd Bayless has had games where he’s scored more than the 28 he poured in against the Grizzlies on Friday, but as far as I’m concerned, that was the best all around game I’ve ever seen the young guard play. 28 points on over 50 per cent shooting, nine assists, six rebounds, nine free throw attempts, and he was without question, the engine that pushed this team forward towards a scrappy road W. The defensive intensity and dribble-penetration dynamic that Bayless brings to the point guard position is a welcomed sight for Raptors fans, and a must in today’s NBA if you want to be a successful team. I’m not suggesting that Jerryd Bayless is a better point guard than Jose Calderon, because he’s not, but for all the praise heaped on Calderon, Bayless brings a lot to the table that Jose simply does not. As I tweeted during the game, while Bayless makes his fair share of questionable decisions playing the point, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a guy who wants it as bad as he does.

And about those questionable in-game decisions Bayless is known for, he’s actually recorded 32 assists to just nine turnovers in the four games he’s started in place of Calderon. That’s a 3.55 assist-to-turnover ratio.

3- Jerryd Bayless definitely deserves praise for his performance, but we have to acknowledge the work Gary Forbes put in as well. We all talked about the opportunity that Barbosa’s trade opened up for Forbes, and on Friday night in Memphis, Gary made good on his end of the bargain with a career-high 20 points on an incredibly efficient nine shots. Forbes actually took more free throw attempts (11) than field goal attempts (nine). He also hit some big buckets and attacked the basket when the Raptors were desperate for a make. In terms of the post-Barbosa future, you couldn’t have asked for much more from Bayless and Forbes in game no. 1.

4- Between the five second count against the Lakers and the iffy lane violation call on the Raptors late in this game, you have to wonder if NBA officials are proud members of Raptors Tank Nation. In all seriousness though, as has become the custom in closely contested ball games, the Raptors attempted many less free throws than the opposition. The Raps went to the line a respectable 38 times. Though it’s hard to call that respectable when the Grizzlies went their 51 times. I don’t think the officiating was as unbalanced as those numbers suggest, but at the same time, I don’t think one team was playing more physical or less physical to the extent that those numbers suggest either.

5- A few words on the Grizzlies. This team is good. Like, legitimately good. If healthy, they could easily go on another deep playoff run this Spring. To me, the Thunder are still the class of the Western Conference, the Spurs are still the team that poses the biggest threat to the Thunder, and the Lakers are still dangerous enough to win the West if things bounce their way. But realistically looking at teams’ rosters, overall talent and depth, it’s tough to come up with a team in the West better than the Grizzlies from top to bottom. Would I put money on them to win the West? No. But I wouldn’t be shocked to see them fight their way into the Conference Final. This is one of the teams I’m really looking forward to watching down the stretch.

6- If you’ve been a regular RaptorBlog visitor this season, you know I’m as big a Tank Nation proponent as you’ll find. Games won on the backs of veterans are incredibly frustrating in a rebuilding year. Games won against fellow lottery teams when the Raptors don’t even play well enough to deserve a win do nothing for me. But Tank Nation member or not, it’s hard to search for negatives in a hard fought victory like this that saw the Raptors outwork and upset a legitimate Western Conference playoff team on the road, especially when the victory came as a result of the work put in by two players in Bayless and Forbes that could be pieces of the team’s future.

And if even all of that can’t cheer you up, fellow Tank Nation members, then just look at the NBA scoreboard for Friday night, where you’ll see that the Kings matched the Raptors by upsetting the Celtics.

Raptors Player of the Game: Jerryd Bayless – 44 Min, 28 Pts, 9-17 FG, 3-5 3PT, 7-9 FT, 6 Reb, 9 Ast, 3 Stl, 1 Blk, 3 TO, 6 PF

Grizzlies Player of the Game: Rudy Gay – 40 Min, 26 Pts, 10-20 FG, 3-5 3PT, 3-4 FT, 11 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk, 4 TO, 6 PF (Zach Randolph or Marc Gasol could have been given the nod here)

Man with a plan

RaptorBlog founder and self proclaimed “Blog Father” Scott Carefoot did a fine job posting on the Barbosa to the Pacers trade amid all the madness that was NBA deadline day 2012, so there’s no need to go over the trade again.

What I did want to get into is what the immediate future now looks like for the Raptors in the post-Barbosa era, both from an on-court angle and from a financial perspective.

I’ll start with this. Leandro Barbosa and the now officially waived Anthony Carter played approximately 1153 combined minutes for the Raptors this season, which works out to 26.8 minutes per game over Toronto’s 43 contests. Even with a healthy Jose Calderon, that’s an extra 27 minutes that Jerryd Bayless and Gary Forbes, and maybe even DeMar DeRozan, can share. Remember that Bayless has a qualifying offer worth over $4 million for next season, so it’s imperative that the Raptors’ brass gets a good enough look at him to be able to make a fully informed decision.

We’ve always known this season was supposed to be about development and analysis of the younger Raptors, and with Barbosa and even the little used Carter now out of the way, the Raps can take another step towards that development and analysis.

On to the finances.

The Raptors now have around $11 million or $12 million in cap space that they can use between the end of their season (which should come to an end on April 26) and July 1, when the 2012-2013 season will be officially open for business. That flexibility can be used to obtain more draft picks, or of course, to obtain an actual player before the start of free agency, which is a positive, since a lot of players end up getting overpaid after July 1.

Thinking further ahead (and assuming that the NBA’s salary cap stays around $58 million), the Raps are in line to have about $14 million or $15 million in cap space if they choose to extend the aforemtnioned qualifying offer to Bayless. If they were to renounce that option on Bayless (which I really can’t see them doing without Barbosa in the future plans), the cap space grows to $18 million or $19 million.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, as those figures don’t take into account the two top-10 draft picks the Raptors are expected to be paying next season. According to this NBA rookie salary scale, Jonas Valanciunas will be paid about $2.8 million in his rookie season. Assuming that the Raptors select somewhere between No. 1 and No. 8 in the 2012 draft, you then have to add another $2.1 million to $4.2 million in player salaries.

So, the Raptors will likely add anywhere from $4.9 million to $7 million in payroll between Valanciunas and their 2012 pick, and that’s not including the two second round picks that they now own, which are non-guaranteed contracts. If Bayless gets his $4.1 million option, the Raptors would be in line to have about $49 million-to-$52 million committed to 12 players next season.

Those players would be Jose Calderon, Jerryd Bayless, DeMar DeRozan, Gary Forbes, James Johnson, Linas Kleiza, Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson, Ed Davis, Aaron Gray, Jonas Valanciunas and 2012 pick. We’re obviously not looking at a championship core there, but if the 2012 pick is a good one, which it should be, and Valanciunas lives up to the hype, you definitely have a solid foundation, without having an insane amount of financial commitment.

I know a lot of disheartened Raptors fans will read a post like this as blind optimism, but I maintain that if the Raptors get one of the studs coming out in 2012, they’ll have a good enough core and financial situation to lay the building blocks for future success, and it would take blind pessimism to ignore that. Of course, it all does depend on how Lady Luck treats Toronto on lottery night.

The next six weeks of Raptors basketball should be intriguing to monitor. The 63 days between April 26 and June 28 (Draft day) could be fascinating and future-shaping.

Game No. 43: Nets 98, Raptors 84

As Scott mentioned in his pre-game thread, the Nets have been decimated by injuries, and as I mentioned earlier today, if Dwight Howard is out of the short term plans, the Nets may be on the cusp of a monumental tank-job.

The Raptors looked like the team playing for pride in the first half, outhustling and easily outplaying the shorthanded Nets. The second half was a different story, however, as the Raps came out of the break flat and seemed like a defeated club over the last 24 minutes, being outscored 58-39 in the second half.

Now here are some thoughts on the game.

1- I refuse to give in to the notion that the Raptors were simply fatigued on the back end of a back-to-back roadie. The Nets were severely undermanned for this game, were playing in front of a dead crowd and looked to be on the ropes in the first half. Instead of capitalizing, most of the players in black just seemed to quit, almost as if they were content with a game and a half of solid basketball. On the “bright” side, we won’t have to worry about the tank and subsequent lottery position with efforts like this.

2- Aside from the aforementioned second half effort, or lack thereof, if you want to pinpoint a major factor in how this game ended up in loss no. 29 for the Raptors, look no further than the bench. You will rarely see one team’s bench absolutely torch the opposition’s bench like the Nets did tonight, outscoring Toronto’s reserves 61-24. Yes, you read that correctly, New Jersey’s bench outscored Toronto’s bench by 37 points. Gerald Green (26) outscored the Raptors’ bench on his own.

3- The one consistent effort the Raptors got tonight was from Jerryd Bayless, who was solid in Jose Calderon’s absence once again. Bayless managed this game as well as he could from the point. He dished out eight assists and took just two shots in the first half, but when the Raps’ offence sputtered in the second half, Bayless became a scorer, going five-of-nine from the field and consistently attacking the basket en route to 14 second half points. Bayless finished with a double-double of 16 points and 10 assists compared to only two turnovers. In the three games since Jose Calderon rolled his ankle, Bayless has averaged 17.3 points on over 50 per cent shooting to go with 7.6 assists and 3.3 rebounds while committing just two turnovers per game. You can’t ask for much more than that from your usual backup point guard.

4- After looking like he was ready to find his groove again on Tuesday night in Cleveland, Andrea Bargnani struggled mightily and looked asleep for most of Wednesday night in New Jersey. He never looked comfortable in this game, and the final statline proved it, as Bargnani finished with 10 points on four-of-13 shooting and grabbed just two rebounds. We had to expect there would be some lingering rust considering Andrea has played just six of 32 games over a seven week span.

5- A few words on the Nets. Outside of the Cavs during the whole ‘Decision’ saga, has any other team ever faced such an all or nothing situation like the Nets face right now? On one hand, they are seen as favourites to land Dwight Howard, partner him with Deron Williams and take over the basketball world from their new home in Brooklyn. On the other hand, if they don’t acquire Howard, they also lose Williams, and end up moving into the Knicks’ city with absolutely nothing to build with going forward, aside from a 2012 draft pick and role players. It’s basically the difference between being an immediate contender or being the equivalent of an expansion team.

6- I knew that with the Knicks sputtering and the bottom half of the Eastern Conference still very weak, a few losing teams would look like playoff contenders for the time being. But I didn’t realize how much of a joke the East playoff race was until the Raptors, at 14-28, moved to within four games of eighth place with their win in Cleveland on Tuesday night. I’m on the record as a card carrying member of Tank Nation (though I want the Raptors to remain competitive, lose with dignity, throw in some upsets here and there and show me some positive signs for next season), but I still expect the players to shoot for W’s every time they step on the floor.

I was extremely interested to see how the Raptors would approach this game, as they had to realize that they could close the gap with the Cavs and Bucks playing each other tonight. Suffice to say, while they looked good to start the game, the second half effort was beyond disappointing. Again, it’s not that I want the team to make a pointless run for the eighth seed, but I was hoping to see them play this like it was a meaningful game, because to them, it should have been.

Raptors Player of the Game: Jerryd Bayless – 39 Min, 16 Pts, 6-11 FG, 0-1 3PT, 4-4 FT, 4 Reb, 10 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 TO

Nets Player of the Game: Kris Humphries – 38 Min, 16 Pts, 7-18 FG, 2-2 FT, 21 Reb, 3 Ast, 3 Stl, 3 Blk, 3 TO

Game No. 42: Raptors 96, Cavaliers 88

The Raptors headed to Cleveland for their third matchup of the season with the improved Cavaliers, who the Raps had already beaten twice earlier in the year. Only this time, no Jose Calderon.

Toronto recovered from a slow start to take control of the game in the second quarter, and never really looked back, moving to 3-0 against the playoff contending Cavs. It took the Raptors just 21 road games this season to surpass their total of six road wins in 41 games last season. Progress is a slow process.

Now here are some thoughts on the game.

1- I mentioned the Raptors taking control in the second quarter. After falling behind early, the Raps were able to hold the deficit to just one point after the first quarter. Toronto then outscored Cleveland 33-24 in the second quarter on a ridiculously hot shooting spree, as the Raptors shot over 70 per cent in the second frame. While the Raps didn’t take a commanding lead, they certainly took a good crowd out of the game in the first half and swung momentum in their favour with that second quarter performance.

2- Andrea’s back. After a couple of slow games for Andrea Bargnani in his return from an extended absence, the Italian really rounded in to form on Tuesday night in Cleveland, scoring 19 points on over 50 per cent shooting in 28 minutes of action. Also encouraging was that Bargnani grabbed eight rebounds, looked to be getting his quickness back, and hasn’t lost the new found intensity he was playing with before his injury. Case in point, he clanked a jumper in the game’s final minute with the Raptors already up six, but ran down his own rebound and slammed it home. He still has a little bit to go before getting back to the All Star level he was playing at pre-injury, but he’s answered any questions we had about whether the same surprising effort would be there when he returned.

3- Jerryd Bayless was solid in place of Jose Calderon at the point, finishing with 20 points on just 13 shots to go along with seven assists. Even more impressive was that Bayless was able to have a good night offensively while leaving it all on the floor defensively. Did anyone notice how many times Jerryd ran his butt off to get back on D and attempt to take a charge? While he didn’t put up noticeable numbers, Gary Forbes gave the Raptors a stable 11 minutes off of the bench as well. In case you missed it, I wrote earlier on Tuesday about what Calderon’s presence in the lineup means, or doesn’t mean, for Bayless and Forbes.

4- Amir Johnson and Ed Davis provided great sparks for the Raptors, in addition to Bayless, but it wasn’t all good for Toronto’s youngsters, as DeMar DeRozan was barely noticeable on the court. DeRozan seemed to be replicating his January performances from before Bargnani got hurt, as he rarely moved off the ball on offence (finishing with four points on 1-of-6 shooting) and looked tentative on defence. DeMar has been pretty good for a consistent stretch of the season now, but we’ve seen the bad DeRozan too often this season to just sweep this performance under the rug. Hopefully he can put this behind him with a strong showing in New Jersey on Wednesday, before one bad game becomes another month long slump.

5- A few words on the Cavaliers. I don’t know whether to credit Byron Scott for the fact that his team is actually in playoff contention, or to fault teams like the Knicks for allowing awful teams like Cleveland to hang around. Aside from probable Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving, the Cavs’ starting lineup in this one consisted of Anthony Parker, Alonzo Gee, Antawn Jamison and Ryan Hollins. On paper, this team is as bad as anyone in the East not named Charlotte, and I still feel that they’ll pay for their over-achieving season in the long term. Irving looks like he can be a stud in the NBA, and Tristan Thompson should be at worst serviceable, if not above average. But after that, the Cavs aren’t exactly busting at the seams with young talent. Cleveland needs to acquire more high potential youngsters, and the only likely way they can do that is through the draft. Finishing 10th, 9th or even dare I say eighth in the East with this roster would be a nice story for the city, but it would probably prove detrimental to the franchise in the long run. I’d be really interested in knowing how die-hard Cavs fans feel about the way their season is currently going.

6- It was nice to see the Raptors’ defence recover in this game after a couple of 2009-2011 defensive performances against the Pistons and Bucks that saw those two teams score 105 points each on a combined 50 per cent shooting. The Cavs shot over 50 per cent in the first quarter on Wednesday, but were completely shut down by the Raptors’ suffocating D after that, finishing 29-for-76 from the field (38.2 %) and failing to score more than 24 points in any quarter.

***

The Raptors moving to 3-0 against Cleveland is a sign of a favourable matchup against the Cavaliers, but is also a sign of how weak the bottom half of the Eastern Conference is, especially when you consider that the Cavs came into this game just 0.5 games behind the Bucks and Knicks for the East’s final playoff spot. Eight of the 10 worst records in the NBA currently belong to Eastern Conference teams.

For as far away as Toronto is from legitimate contention right now, they actually aren’t that far or that many pieces away from playoff contention in the East. I do not want this team to make any sort of meaningless run for the eighth seed this season, and I’m pretty confident that they won’t. But I honestly believe that with the right draft pick in June and good health next season, the Raptors could find themselves fighting for one of the last playff spots in 2012-2013, without deviating from their long-term rebuild at all.

It’s easy to say that in March of this season, with seven months to go until 2012-2013, but if you look around the East and project futures, it’s really not that crazy of a thought.

Raptors Player of the Game: Jerryd Bayless – 37 Min, 20 Pts, 6-13 FG, 4-7 3Pt, 4-4 FT, 4 Reb, 7 Ast, 3 TO

Cavaliers Player of the Game: Kyrie Irving – 30 Min, 14 Pts, 5-17 FG, 1-4 3PT, 3-4 FT, 7 Reb, 7 Ast, 1 TO

When Jose Calderon rolled his ankle at full speed on Saturday night in Detroit, a lot of thoughts and scenarios simultaneously rolled through Raptors fans’ minds.

While no one (at least I hope not) wished ill will on Calderon or hoped for serious injury, many fans did wonder how a Calderon injury that kept him out of the lineup long term could affect the Raptors. Would it “help” the Raptors by way of making them worse in the short term and contributing to their slowly improving lottery hopes? Would it hinder any Calderon trade possibilities ahead of Thursday’s NBA deadline? Lastly, would it give Jerryd Bayless and even Gary Forbes the consistent minutes they have been searching for this season?

A Calderon trade doesn’t seem likely, according to Raptors-related writers and insiders, with just 48 hours until Thursday’s deadline. And many of those other questions will likely go unanswered, as recent reports suggest the Spaniard could be running the Raptors’ offence sooner than expected after the scary looking injury. Jose accompanied the team on their five-game road trip, and though he won’t play in the trip’s opener tonight in Cleveland, the Raptors’ PR twitter feed announced this morning that Jose had already shed the walking boot.

What we’re left with is the assumption that unless something drastic changes between now and Thursday, or unless Calderon suffers another injury, he will be playing the point and starting for Toronto until the end of the season. While I’ve consistently said that trading Calderon just for the sake of it without obtaining fair value is senseless, I’ll admit that his presence on the court takes away from a season of development for the aforementioned Bayless and Forbes.

Bayless finished last season (with Calderon sitting out) with an explosive final eight games, averaging 22.5 points on over 48 per cent shooting, including 41 per cent shooting from three-point range, while getting to the free throw line an impressive 58 times over the course of those eight games. While some pointed to the fact that the numbers came in a meaningless end of season stretch, it’s important to remember that Bayless put that stretch of games (which accounts for about 10 per cent of a regular season) together as a 22-year-old.

Unfortunately for Jerryd this season, injuries and Calderon’s strong play (10.5 points, 8.5 assists, 4.46 assist-to-turnover ratio) have limited him to just 21.7 minutes per game. Why this is particularly troubling for Raps fans is that Bayless has a qualifying offer worth over $4 million that the Raptors can offer him for next season, and you would have hoped that the now 23-year-old would either play his way into a long-term extension with the team or would be getting more of an opportunity on the court. Bayless has been inconsistent both this season and throughout his short NBA career, but he has also never been given much of a chance to prove himself long-term.

The ideal situation for the Raptors would be to keep Jerryd around next season and hope that he earns his extension then, but it might be just as ideal, both for “TankNation” and for Bayless’ development, if given Calderon’s latest injury, the team holds Jose out of some games down the stretch for “precautionary reasons,” also known as “rebuilding reasons.”

As for Forbes, head coach Dwane Casey admitted that the Raptors needed to get a good look at Gary (who was signed to a multi-year deal in the pre-season) when the team released veteran point guard Anthony Carter last week. Forbes, while as inconsistent as anyone in his short spurts this season, has shown some intriguing flashes while playing the point, a position that he’s not yet fully familiar with. A consistent spell with Calderon out of the lineup would have helped with that familiarity, and would have given Casey and his staff that sought after analysis of Forbes.

While I’ll reiterate again that I’m not suggesting fans should have hoped Jose would miss significant time and I still don’t believe trading him is an absolute must, I think it’s fair to say that Calderon being in the lineup to finish this season may leave fans, coaches and management with more questions than answers.