When Masai Ujiri dumped the anvil that is Rudy Gay‘s contract onto the Sacramento Kings he was lauded by most of Raptor Nation. It turns out there was a team willing to pay Gay $38 million over the next two years. Hallelujah! It also turns out that the Raptors could get some pretty decent players in return for Gay — an added bonus.
Without question, Greivis Vasquez figures to be the most attractive player of the bunch dealt the Toronto Raptors‘ way. Vasquez was the runner-up for the Most Improved Player last season to Paul George. Vasquez’s numbers jumped considerably in three critical categories — points, assists, and rebounds. Vasquez improved from 8.9 to 13.9PPG, 2.6 to 4.3 RPG, and 5.4 to 9.0APG. This represents 56.2, 65.4, and 66.7 percent improvements (which was clearly more than George’s 43.8, 35.7, and 70.8 percent improvements but that’s another story).
In Vasquez, the Raptors figure to have acquired a traditional point guard in much the same mold as they once had with Jose Calderon. Vasquez is a facilitator in the truest sense of the word. He led the league in total assists last season with 704. Vasquez’s 9.0APG ranked him third in the league last season, just behind Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul. However, unlike Rondo and Paul, Vasquez wasn’t playing with perennial All-Stars like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Vasquez wasn’t even playing with an athletic and solid supporting cast like Paul did with Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Caron Bulter and Jamal Crawford. To put it bluntly, Vasquez was playing with some bums when with the New Orleans Pelicans. Vasquez’s main option with the Pelicans was a rookie (a rookie who will eventually become special in this league but a rookie nonetheless) in Anthony Davis. Not only this, but Davis only suited up for 64 games in the 2012-13 season due to injuries. The supposed main scoring option on the team, often injured Eric Gordon, only played in 42 games last season. After these two went down, Vasquez had Ryan Anderson and Al-Farouq Aminu as his main scoring options. That’s some pretty slim pickings as far as scoring options. Yet, despite the obvious offensive limitations of the team, Vasquez still was able to average nine assists per game, putting him in the same breathe as the top tier distributors in the league. Now imagine Vasquez in T.O where he has the ultra athletic duo of Demar Derozan and Terrence Ross running the wings. Vasquez also has more than capable big men in Jonas Valanciunas, Patrick Patterson and Amir Johnson to feed off some pick and roll or drive and dish action.
So should Vasquez start over Kyle Lowry? That’s a tough call. Lowry is no slouch at the point guard spot either. He is currently averaging 14.8PPG, 6.7APG (11th in the NBA), and 3.6RPG while shooting 41.9 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from three — solid numbers. On the one hand, Lowry is definitely an upgrade over Vasquez on the defensive side of the ball and Lowry has been playing well. On the other hand, Lowry has also shown an inability to excel in the pick and roll situation as Vasquez does. Vasquez has also shown an ability to excel as one of the top distributors in the league when given an opportunity — as he was with the Pelicans. In fact, before being traded from the Kings, Vasquez averaged 5.3APG (22nd in the NBA) despite only playing 25.8 minutes per contest. Compare that now to Lowry this season who is only averaging 1.4 more assists per game in 10.8 more minutes played than Vasquez. Raptor Nation can now see why coach Dwane Casey may be inclined to hand over the reigns to Vasquez so that he can cure his sputtering offense.
Surely all Raptor fans still vividly remember the point guard controversy that surrounded the club for years in the past. First it was between T.J Ford and the aforementioned Calderon. Next, it was between Jarrett Jack and Calderon. Finally, the last saga was between Lowry and Calderon. Now it appears that there is yet another chapter to add in Raptorland between Lowry and Vasquez. There’s no question that Vasquez will immediately challenge Lowry for playing time and his starting spot. Now it’s up to coach Casey to figure out how to use them both properly for the betterment of the team moving forward.