Change is coming for the Toronto Raptors at the point guard position sooner or later. Jose Calderon seems like his days with the Raptors will eventually be done. While he has never been a favourite of ours in the DNB, it seems clear now the end is coming. Calderon next season will enter the last year of the contract he signed back in 2008. In that time the Raptors record has been 103-170. Even Bryan Colangelo talked about the need for a point guard for the future. There have been rumours that Calderon himself wants to play for a contender. If he does I am not sure that it would be as a starter. But whatever the case it seems the longest serving Raptor who came here in 2005-2006 is on the way out. He along the way has averaged 7.1 assists and has 3,201 total assists currently, which is the franchise record all-time. But a lot has changed since 2005 and the point guard position has evolved. That evolution of faster type players at the position has been the problem that has plagued Calderon. While his offence at times has bordered on brilliance his defence has always been the issue.
Now if the Raptors had listened to this blog we could be already experiencing "Linsanity" here in Toronto. I am not going to tell you that I saw Jeremy Lin becoming the NBA's answer to Tim Tebow. I didn't see that coming. But what I did see on the day he was released from Golden State was an opportunity that seemed to make sense. The Raptors needed a third point guard option and this was a kid that was young and could blend in with this young core the Raptors had been trying to establish. But what I also saw was an opportunity from a pure business prospective for MLSE. The Raptors have always thought basketball first but a very close second has always been business and public relations. They are constantly looking at ways to expand their market to bring in people to support their brand. The fact they have a very international based look to them is not an accident or just by chance.
In the past we have seen the impact a Yao Ming has had, and even Yi to a lesser extent. I have to admit when I went to cover a game last season between the Raptors and Warriors I was taken back by the amount of Asian media that was there to see Jeremy Lin. Toronto has a large Asian community and this seemed the perfect slam dunk to cash in on that. Raptors needed a point guard. Here was one that had yet to develop but people felt had upside. He is born in the U.S and speaks English as a first language. He went to Harvard to play his college basketball. He fit the Raptors squeaky clean image of nice guys that we have gotten use too. It seemed like a perfect marriage of business smart and not basketball dumb. After all like I said people thought this kid had talent. Instead the Raptors passed and went for Anthony Carter as part of this veteran leadership movement they were trying to establish. It makes little sense to me at least at the point guard. Jose Calderon is not in need of a vet at this point. Bayless should be able to learn from Calderon to some degree. So why the Raptors went in this direction puzzles me. The fact Lin has found a place in New York who was desperate for a point guard only makes it sting a little more. So the Raptors missed the boat on "Linsanity"coming to Toronto.
So what now in terms of the search to find the successor to Jose Calderon. It seems clear the Raptors don't see Jerryd Bayless as the answer. The Raptors had the ability to extend Bayless but decided to pass on that. He still could be part of the puzzle but as the starter that seems unlikely. There is of course the NCAA Draft and the Raptors looking more like a lottery team by the day. You will have options in this draft class with out question. One of those being Myck Kabongo from Toronto who despite having some struggles in his freshman year at Texas is thought of as an NBA Talent. However, in a draft class that has so many options in terms of guys that play the small forward position, and rank higher than Kobongo, it makes drafting him seem unlikely if not impossible, at least with the Raptor's pick. If they acquire a second first round pick then point guard becomes a possibility. As much as this draft class has been hyped it really does not have that much in terms of the point guard position. Aside from Kabongo who is a freshman and would have to declare for the draft, there are only two other names listed at point guard that rank in the first round on Draft Express, Kendall Marshall from UNC and Damian Lillard from Weber State. I would also say that Austin Rivers who made a huge 3 last night to beat UNC is a guy that can play the point. But all of the players just mentioned at least at this point sit ranked outside of the lottery.
If not the draft then where do the Raptors go? Well Bryan Colangelo has made a point to remind us often of all this cap room he has secured for next season. Brandon Jennings would be a restricted free agent by time Calderon's deal is up. He has been recently noted by Raptor fans about his tweets about his love for Toronto. Let's face it who wouldn't want to live in Toronto compared to Milwaukee. Joking aside this is an option that might solve two problems at once. Jennings is a talented kid who can play the point. He has his draw backs for sure. But what he also has is a relationship with Demar DeRozan that dates back to growing up as kids in L.A. In terms of story lines with the Raptors a close second to the turnaround of Andrea Bargnani has been the inconsistency of Demar DeRozan. There are many theories as to why this has been. However the most common one seems to be a case of confidence. When Demar has it he can be the future rising star that people have seen him as. When he doesn't it exposes the flaws in his game that have become glaring and obvious.
The Raptors are likely to make a push to upgrade at the small forward position. This means the chances that Sonny Weems returning to Toronto to once again to be Demar DeRozan's main source of support seem unlikely. While some will see it as simplistic and not give that much credence, I think the lack of Weems plays a role in the struggles of DeRozan. Even if it is not evident to DeRozan himself. I mean this is a young guy, that saw his best friend on the team for the most part go away, while he was left with an increasing role and more demands on him. So it makes a lot of sense that Jennings could fill this missing piece for DeRozan. Jennings also is a kid that has a lot more swagger to him than Demar DeRozan does. If you brought a Brandon Jennings into the mix that swagger would likely impact on Demar and give him that confidence that has been lacking at times. It all seems to make sense.
The problem is to make it happen might not be so easy. Jennings is going to be a restricted free agent so the Bucks would have the ability to match any offers that came his way. But at times Jennings has clashed with Scott Skiles and the Bucks may not be willing to spend a ton of money to keep him at all cost. If the Raptors were to trade in some of that cap room they have for Jennings it would be something that might appeal to the Bucks. Would the Bucks have interest in a Calderon for a season and take the cap room he would provide for the future? Problem in that is Jose is not going to be Scott Skiles dream point guard. His lack of defence would likely drive him insane as it likely does Dwane Casey. But some how Bryan Colangelo owes it to himself to look at this situation and figure out some plan of attack to make it work. Jennings could be worth the gamble. Colangelo has never been afraid to do that.
Will it happen or will it be a case like the one with Jeremy Lin in which the Raptors miss the boat. Time will tell as they say. But it sure is an intriguing and risky direction to go. But Jennings does offer a skill set that can be one that fits a lot more with the direction the point guard position is heading in the NBA. He would be a huge change for what Raptor fans have become accustom to under Calderon. Both in good ways and in bad ways. However, as we discussed off the top the Calderon Era at the point guard position has not led the Raptors to any kind of real success. In fact the opposite is true. Jennings did little last night to make a strong case for his cause in his performance. Still, he has upside and a built in chemistry and connection in DeRozan waiting here in Toronto. It could be a magical combination for the Raptors. When you put it along side Bargnani, Jonas and a small forward to be named later likely coming from the draft. That is a young core and starting line-up that could be fun to watch for years to come.