The Raptors and their fans are no strangers to a good old-fashioned point guard controversy. Whether it was ‘Forderon’ back in the good old days of 2007 or ‘Caldless’ last season, Raptor fans seem to love debating and second guessing the decisions pertaining to the point guard position. With three strong point guards on the roster this year, it is likely to be the most heated controversy yet even though the Raptors went out in the offseason and acquired a clear number one point guard.
John Lucas III
Kyle Lowry scored his first pre-season points off a steal against the Wizards in the paint and took it all the way down the court for a nice, transition lay-up. So began Lowry’s time as a Toronto Raptor.
The way he played in the preseason win on Wednesday night is likely a sign of what is to come. Lowry took the ball to the hoop, distributed well and played fairly strong defense against a weakened Wizard backcourt. He also struggled at times.
He started the game on Wednesday night with Valanciunas, DeRozan, Fields and Bargnani; a place he is almost guaranteed to find himself on opening night.
Lowry was not Colangelo’s first choice this offseason, but he might just be the right choice for the franchise going forward. He takes risks, but can score, distributes, drives the lane and most importantly defends the basket well (something sure to make a fan out of Dwane Casey).
Despite the fact he was brought in to start for the Raps, don’t expect the point guard position to be devoid of controversy. Incumbant Jose Calderon was reportedly not happy with being demoted to number two (though he has changed his tune since the start of training camp) and the emergence of John Lucas III throughout training camp should give the Raptors a very deep, albeit crowded, point.
Calderon has been the Raptors starter for the last five years and has played steady dependable basketball on the offensive end. He runs the high screen and roll well and has developed a strong kinship with many of the current Raptor players, most notably Amir Johnson; a player he will likely be teamed up with on the Raptors strong second unit.
As a backup Calderon should be successful. He will not have to match up against number one point guards, he will get plenty of minutes to focus on what he does well and when teamed with another point guard will be moved into a position where his best asset (his shooting) can be best utilized.
Calderon would instantly become one of the best backup point guards in the league and provides a pivotal counterpoint to Lowry. Lowry will drive the lane, score in bunches, play an uptempo game but will take more risks. Calderon protects the rock and distributes well and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, but slows the pace of the game down. He makes smart, calculated choices. He is a great ying to Lowry’s Yang.
This could be a beautiful partnership except it’s not as simple as a two-horse race. John Lucas III was also brought in this off-season and with his inspired play thus far in the pre-season, he seems destined to make himself part of the point guard conversation throughout the season.
Lucas was stellar last year in Chicago, playing key minutes when Derrick Rose was lost to injury. He has shown himself to be a leader and someone who can handle heavy minutes if called upon. He can score in bunches, distribute well and has played well on the defensive side thus far. Lucas will push Calderon for minutes off the bench and just may force Colangelo to make a move earlier than expected.
So far this pre-season Lucas has been solid, playing with great amounts of energy every time he touched the court and evoking praise from a difficult fanbase to impress.
With three strong point guards on the roster, the Raptors appear to have an embarrassment of riches at the point. The challenge for Dwane Casey is going to be distributing minutes. Expect Lowry to get the Lion’s share of minutes, but watch for Calderon playing a bit of 2 off the bench and on the offensive end in close games. Also anticipate Lucas getting more minutes than was originally planned. If there is to be a point guard controversy in Toronto it will likely be for backup minutes.
Lucas will push Calderon. Hopefully competition will breed better play for everyone.
Dwane Casey is going to have his work cut out for him managing these three players this year. It is very possible Colangelo will eliminate this problem for him by dealing Calderon before the end of the season.
No matter which way you cut it, the Raptors have turned the point guard position into a strength for the first time in long time. Three Point guards capable of starting is something the Raptors have never had the luxury of.
I’m pretty sure, regardless of the results, we will all debate who plays and when they play all season long.
The Zan Tabak Herald
Stay tuned for the Shooting guard preview early next week.