It certainly didn’t take long for Bryan Colangelo to move on to Plan B.
Less than 24 hours after the Raptors missed out on signing Canadian legend Steve Nash, the Raptors president and general manager responded quickly by swinging a deal with the Houston Rockets that brought Kyle Lowry to Toronto.
Sometimes Plan B is the better route to success though.
Yes, Nash is a special talent that would have sold tickets at an astronomical rate and possibly transformed Toronto into a playoff team but he is in the twilight of a stellar career and is the cherry on the top for a team that is looking to contend for a title. He is not a piece of the puzzle for a team trying to climb into the upper echelon of the NBA.
At 26, Lowry is exactly what the Raptors were hoping to add to the team when last season ended. The team wanted a young veteran who would meld with a rapidly-developing core of youngsters. Pair Lowry with Jonas Valanciunas, Andrea Bargnani, Ed Davis, Terrence Ross and DeMar DeRozan and you have a pretty impressive group of youngsters to thrown on the floor.
In his first season in the Big Smoke, coach Dwane Casey changed the culture in Toronto, transforming a team that was woeful on its own end of the floor into a squad that moved into the middle of the pack defensively. Nash is not exactly known as a defensive stopper (more like a turnstile) but Lowry is a gritty one-on-one defender and he will only help move the team to the next level when they are looking to protect their own basket. And the grit is also a big factor as this is a team that is a tad soft at times.
Lowry’s contract will pay him just under $12 million over the next two seasons less than the salary that Nash was reportedly offered per season by the Raptors. (And the team may have been considering upping that to as an enticement to Nash prior to his decision to move to the Los Angeles Lakers.) Of course the addition of a new starting point guard creates another problem for the Raptors. What do they do with Jose Calderon?
The Spaniard has been a solid team player and role model for all of these youngsters during his time in Toronto and is a fairly strong player in his own right. His ability to take care of the ball is second to none – his assist to turnover ratio of xx was especially impressive last season when you looked at some of the players the Raptors threw onto the floor.
Odds are, the classy Calderon would be willing to move to a back-up role for the Raptors if that is what the team requested but with a salary of $10 million next season, that would is quite the payout for a player who is not a starter.
The team could exercise the amnesty clause and buy out Calderon but that would likely be a waste of money. The Raptors would only use the clause if they find another piece that would immediately fill the team’s major hole — an NBA-calibre solid small forward. Looking at the slim pickings remaining in the free agent talent pool that seems like a rather unlikely proposition.
Sure they signed Landry Fields but he looks better suited to be a bench player than a starter so it would be a surprise if they didn’t look for another option at the position as well. James Johnson is still in the mix but he was in the doghouse at the end of last season after a tete a tete with Casey so he is probably on the block as well.
In today’s NBA, there is tremendous value in expiring contracts like Calderon’s and perhaps he would be a valuable trade chip in a deal for a small forward. There are some seriously big names rumoured to be available on the trade market at the position in Rudy Gay (Memphis), Andre Iguodala (Phildelphia) and Tyreke Evans (Sacramento) so that would be the best route for Colangelo to take to upgrade his talent base. The trigger doesn’t have to be pulled today or tomorrow, the Raptors can just sit and wait for the right name to become available.
Whatever happens there is still plenty of time for the Raptors to make a decision but one thing is certain, they are already going to be a better team next season than this.