Generally you would say having two really good players at one position is a blessing, but not in Toronto. The Raptors are loaded at point guard, with Jose Calderon and Kyle Lowry. Calderon, a sharp-shooting vet, is on the last year of a terrible contract that pays him more than $10.5 million in the 2012-13 season. And Lowry, the guy who the Raptors acquired from Houston, near the Jeremy Lin signing, for Gary Forbes and a lottery first-round pick, is on the books for $5.75 million this year and $6.2 next in the final year of his deal.
Throw in John Lucas, who’s making $1.5 million each of the next two years, and that’s three guys making $17.75 million this year on a non-playoff team, a team whose payroll of $59.3 million — ignoring DeMar DeRozan‘s 4-year, $40-million extension, signed on Halloween — already exceeds the NBA’s $58 million cap for this year, with Calderon’s contract the only of note coming off the table this summer.
The point being: the Raptors need to free up some salary space, but a host of bad deals aren’t helping them. Former No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani is owed $33 million over the next 3 years, one of the worst contracts in the NBA, Amir Johnson will get $19.5 million over the next 3 years, and Landry Fields, who’s struggled mightily in his first year in Toronto (5.1 points per game this season), still is in the first year of a front-loaded 3-year, $20-million deal.
And yet the Raptors, who would be in even more cap trouble had they succeeded in courting Steve Nash this past summer, are, according to sources, looking to deal Kyle Lowry (even over Calderon), the one chip on the roster worth any value. CBS Sports’ Ken Berger takes it one step further, saying the Raptors could be open to dealing Lowry to Los Angeles as part of a package for Pau Gasol, another God-awful max contract signed through 2013-14.
But why not Calderon? He’s the one with the expiring deal the Lakers, with a payroll exceeding $100 million, might be more interested in, especially given his outside shooting touch; then again, Calderon is a very similar player to Nash, who also gives up a lot defensively, even though he’s improved leaps and bounds since his early years. After all, the Raptors did give up a guaranteed lottery pick for Lowry.
But Lowry’s also a much more dynamic player than Calderon, with an ability to break down a defense, as well as penetrate and score. His shooting touch may not be the same, though far from horrible, yet his defense and intangibles more than make up the difference. And he still has a year and a half left on a very affordable deal.
Lowry has missed substantial time this year with a partial biceps tear, suffered in early December. But since his return, he’s picked up his effectiveness in limited minutes, playing smarter and involving his teammates more and more in the offense. His field goal percentage, from the field and from 3, has improved as the season’s progressed; in December, he shot less than 29% from 3-point range, but he’s up to 47% in January. He’s dishing out more assists this month than in November, when he played 7 more minutes a game. And his 21.55 PER is tied for 17th in the league, only trailing Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving among Eastern Conference PGs.
If I’m Toronto, Lowry’s a piece I want to hold on and build around alongside DeRozan, even if only for a slight return on my lottery-pick investment.
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