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Re-Signing Kyle Lowry As The Final Piece For Toronto

Re-signing Kyle Lowry was one of the final pieces of the puzzle for the Toronto Raptors. With Lowry under contract for the next four years, the Raptors have every one of their starting five locked up for the indefinite future. They have a good young player at every position and the 28-year-old Lowry is the oldest of the group. This is a team on the rise, regardless of how much star power they have.

Bryan Colangelo made a lot of questionable decisions in his tenure in Toronto, but he left a pretty full cupboard for Masai Ujiri. The only thing Ujiri had to do was give away some of Colangelo's mistakes. Once he moved Andrea Bargnani and Rudy Gay, the Raptors were ready to take the next step. They have two-way starters at every position - there aren't many weak links on either side of the ball. 

As soon as they traded Gay, their season turned around. They went 6-12 with Gay and 42-24 without him, a 50+ win pace. They lost in the first round, but it was about as close of a loss as you could possibly have - losing a Game 7 on their home floor in the final seconds. It was a learning experience for a young team that is only getting better and will have the benefit of multiple years of continuity between their best players.

Lowry is the only one in his prime. Amir Johnson is 26, DeMar DeRozan is 24, Terrence Ross is 22 and Jonas Valanciunas is 21 ("ages" in which they just completed the past season). They have a young roster with plenty of room for internal improvement - this should be the start of a strong 3-5 year run for them. They remind me a lot of the 2010-11 Indiana Pacers, who won 37 games and lost to the Chicago Bulls in the first round. 

The next offseason, they signed David West and traded for George Hill, rounding out their starting five and giving them a group that could grow together over the next few seasons. They went from 37 wins to 42 in 2011, 49 in 2012 and 56 in 2013. They didn't need to make any major moves - they just relied on internal improvement every season. Toronto is at the beginning of that process.

The common knock on the Raptors is their lack of star power, but that will change with time. As they win more games, they will get more All-Star appearances. You already saw it happen this year - DeRozan didn't have statistics that were much better than Aaron Afflalo or Lance Stephenson, but he was the leading scorer on a division-leading team that needed at least one All-Star. A few more wins would have ensured an All-Star berth for Lowry as well. 

They have a lot of upside on the roster too. Lowry and DeRozan get most of the attention because they have the ball in their hands, but Ross and Valanciunas have the potential to be All-Star caliber players as well. They are lottery picks with elite tools for their position and they are both still very young. It will be like Lance Stephenson in Indiana - as they get better, the team will get better. 

At 6'6 190, Ross is not quite as big as George, but he's just as athletic and just as skilled. He's an elite shooter and an elite athlete who can handle the ball, so it's pretty easy for him to create a shot. The important number with Ross isn't the 11 points per game, it's the 9 field goal attempts. He took 29 shots to get 51 against the Los Angeles Clippers - he only got that many shots because DeRozan was injured.

Valanciunas is the key to the whole puzzle. Center is the hardest position to find a two-way player in the league - there are just not many guys who can play high-level interior defense and still be an effective player on offense. He's not quite as big as Hibbert, but he's more athletic and he's much more skilled. He already shoots 53% from the field and 76% from the free-throw line. 

In three years, Lowry will be 31, Ross will be 26, DeRozan will be 27, Johnson will be 30 and Valanciunas will be 25. All five of those guys will likely be under contract at the same time, which doesn't happen all that often. Lowry, as the oldest player in their core, is the David West in this scenario. In three years, they might have to start thinking about replacing him, but the rest will be near their peak. 

If you don't have a transcendent superstar like LeBron James or Kevin Durant, timing is the key to being an elite team. A lot of times, injuries can derail a group. The Pacers were able to survive the loss of Danny Granger because of Stephenson. Contracts happen too. Stephenson many end up leaving for more money in the offseason. For the time being, everything is lining up in Toronto.

Like Indiana, they will need to continue to move pieces around on their bench over the next few seasons.

Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson both play important roles on this team, but they are not irreplaceable. The good news is Masai Ujiri has a good track record of accumulating talent in Denver. Bruno Caboclo was an out of nowhere pick, but Lou Williams should be a good addition and DeAndre Daniels has more upside than most second-round picks. 

Durant in 2016 is probably not going to happen, but they can be an elite team without him. As long as everyone stays healthy, the Raptors should be one of the most complete teams in the league. If you have a player who can contribute on offense and defense at every position, you will have a good team. All the pieces are in place in Toronto - it's not any more complicated than that.

Ten College Teams That Will Play Faster

Every summer coaches tend to give interviews and talk about how they plan to play faster the following season. But then the calendar turns to February, the games get tight, and coaches continue to exert a lot of control over what happens on the basketball court. Most of the summer talk about faster pace is just cheap talk.

But in a few cases, we may expect a faster tempo next year. Mostly this is due to coaching changes, but here are 10 teams that I am confident will play faster next year:

Washington St.: Former head coach Ken Bone wasn’t always a slow-paced coach. At Portland St., he once had one of the Top 25 fastest teams in the country. But given the way he was recruiting at Washington St., Bone soon learned that his only chance to win in the Pac-12 was to keep the score low and try to steal a victory at the end. By Bone’s final season the Cougars were 336th in the nation in tempo. New head coach Ernie Kent played at a much faster pace in his time at Oregon, and even if the talent level is not there in his first year, Kent will almost certainly increase Washington St.’s pace from last year.

Delaware St.: I don’t think Keith Walker will be a lightning fast coach. He has not been a D1 head coach before, and after he took over as interim coach in February, Delaware St. did not have a huge uptick in pace. But almost anyone would be expected to be faster than former head coach Greg Jackson. In the 13 years for which Ken Pomeroy has tracked the data, Jackson’s team always ranked as one of the 20 slowest teams in D1.

Montana: Montana’s Wayne Tinkle made the NCAA tournament in three of the previous four seasons, but last year Montana struggled. And Tinkle did what veteran coaches do when things are not working. He slowed things down, tried to get his team to focus on what they did well, and tried to ring a late season-run out of the team. The team finished 9-4 after starting 8-9 thanks in no small part to a more controlled pace. Tinkle departed for Oregon St. this off-season and new head coach Travis DeCuire will take over. But even if Tinkle had returned, Montana would have likely played faster than their unusually slow pace last year.

The next four teams are all from the ACC.

Virginia Tech: I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a bold statement. The ACC will not be the slowest conference in the nation for the second year in a row. A lot of people blame the addition of Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and Notre Dame for the ACC’s decreased pace. But the decrease in pace has actually been coming for a while. The conference couldn’t keep losing fast coaches like Gary Williams and adding slow coaches like Tony Bennett, Brad Brownell, and Steve Donahue, and expect to have the same up-tempo attack as always. The good news is that this year’s additions Buzz Williams (at Virginia Tech), Jim Christian (at Boston College), and Rick Pitino (as the league swaps Maryland for Louisville) should work towards increasing the tempo in the long-run. Williams will likely improve the pace at Virginia Tech in two ways. First, he uses a quicker system. Second, by upgrading the talent level, Virginia Tech will no longer need to play slow to be competitive.

Miami FL: A bigger reason the ACC will play faster next year is that many of the league’s coaches had unusually slow-paced years last year. Jim Boeheim had the slowest team of his career at Syracuse. And Jim Larranaga had the slowest team he’s had in the 13 years Ken Pomeroy has been tracking the stats. In Larranaga’s case, he felt his Miami team was under-manned and needed to play slow to have a chance to be competitive. But with key transfers like Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan joining the fold, Miami should not slow things down quite as much this season. The Hurricanes were the slowest team in the nation last season, and they won’t duplicate that.

Syracuse: I’m not quite as confident that Syracuse will play faster. The team will once again be breaking in a rookie PG. And like last year, the lack of depth could cause Jim Boeheim’s squad to play slower than he would like.

But when you look at the big picture, last year looks like a fluke in terms of Boeheim’s career tempo. Moreover, Syracuse’s pace was artificially deflated because Tyler Ennis never turned the ball over last year.


Syracuse Raw Tempo

Avg 2002-2010










On the other hand, it has now been four years since Syracuse has had a speedy team. While the Orange used to average over 70 possessions per game, Boeheim’s team has been trending towards a much slower pace of play in recent years. I’m projecting that Syracuse’s pace will increase significantly next year (to around 64-65 possessions per game). But without a lot of depth, I would still expect Syracuse to play slower than they have historically.

Boston College: Over his last two seasons, former head coach Steve Donahue slowed BC to a crawl. Donahue was hoping to ring out a few more close wins with the more deliberate pace, but it didn’t work and he lost his job.


Boston College

Tempo Rank







New head coach Jim Christian has been a mixed bag in terms of tempo. He’s had some fast seasons and some slow seasons with his former teams. But he should get BC to play faster than what we saw last year.

Western Illinois: Former head coach Jim Molinari preferred an extremely slow pace, as his team’s tempo ranked 325th or worse in his entire tenure with the school. Billy Wright just left a Ball St. team that played at a faster tempo. But again, this is really just a case where any new coach would be expected to speed things up when the team ranked just 332nd in tempo last year.

Lamar: This is a bit of a stretch because former head coach Pat Knight employed an up-tempo system. But if you look at what Tic Price did at McNeese St., he clearly believes in an up-tempo attack. And if Price’s historic coaching-style is a fair representation, you can expect Lamar’s players to go even faster next year.

Auburn: Whether it was at Wisconsin-Milwaukee or Tennessee, the numbers support the fact that Bruce Pearl is one of the fastest-paced coaches in the nation. He will install an up-tempo exciting system at Auburn, and put transfers like Antoine Mason and Cinmeon Bowers in a position to play well. Bruce Pearl might not contend for an SEC title right away like at Tennessee, but make no mistake, Auburn will be a running team under their new head coach.

Grading The Deal: Warriors Sign Shaun Livingston

The Golden State Warriors agreed to sign Shaun Livingston for three years and $16 million (two fully guaranteed, the third partially guaranteed) at the full Mid-Level Exception on Tuesday, the first day of free agency.

One of the key distinctions I like to make is between “Point Guard” and “primary ballhandler.” In my eyes, like every other position point guards should be defined by who someone defends rather than an offensive role.

This distinction matters for the Warriors because while they had other point guards during Stephen Curry’s career, they have only had one reliable primary ballhandler other than Curry: Jarrett Jack for one season. Having a second person who can run the offense effectively should keep the team afloat when Curry sits and allow Steph to play off the ball more regularly when they share the court. Considering Curry may be the best catch and shoot player in the entire league, that combination should work.

What makes Livingston a particularly good fit for the Warriors is that he can defend both guard positions, meaning he can shield Curry when they play together like Klay Thompson did the last few seasons. Even though Livingston cannot shoot a lick, he was a shockingly effective post-up player last year and could work wonders with whatever young Warriors do not make the starting lineup. I harped all of last season about how Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes needed to play more with Curry and those drop-offs without him should improve with another lead guard that can actually run the show.

Finally, Livingston fits beautifully with the team whether or not they move Thompson this summer. A trio of Curry, Thompson and Livingston would be very effective, but Livingston’s ability to play with Curry means that Golden State can downgrade a little from Thompson at shooting guard with less dramatic consequences. In fact, Livingston would pair well with Zach LaVine, Minnesota’s first round pick that I would like to see included in a Kevin Love trade should Klay Thompson head east.

The Warriors fixed their single largest flaw from last season with a player who makes complete sense with their best player. While Livingston works better as a complement to Curry than an injury replacement since they are so different, he works incredibly well with the current roster and even better if they can add a power forward who can stretch the floor.

Grade for Golden State: A-

More than anything, I am so happy for Shaun Livingston. After starting his career as a star prospect and then the point guard of the future for the Clippers, he suffered a horrific knee injury (that I have still never had the heart to watch) and worked his way all the way back to relevance in the NBA. Despite having shown so much promise before his 20th birthday, 2014-15 at the Mid-Level Exception will be the highest salary Livingston has ever had in the NBA. While Shaun will never be what we dreamed he would become, making it back to this level in the best league in the world is absolutely admirable.

Grade for Shaun Livingston: A+

Team-By-Team Analysis Of The 2014 NBA Draft

With the new CBA magnifying the importance of the draft and one of the most talented groups of prospects in recent years, what happened on Thursday night will have significant ramifications on the balance of power in the NBA for the next decade.

Leroux's 2014 NBA Draft Review

Breaking down which teams had Great, Good, Enh and Bad drafts with Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid going in the top-3.

2014 NBA Draft: The Underrated

The key to finding sleepers once you are out of the lottery is identifying players with the ability to do multiple things, which allows them to impact the game without the ball in their hands. That means guys with the physical tools to be impact defenders or the all-around offensive games to contribute in a variety of roles on offense.

2014 NBA Draft: The Overrated

Doug McDermott, James Young, Jerami Grant, Mitch McGary and Cleanthony Early are five players we expect to be selected too early relative to the value of their contributions in the NBA.

Top-13 Of The 2014 NBA Draft

The 2014 class could end up rivaling 2003 based on its depth. If the Top 3 players in this year’s draft ever got on the same team, it would be something.

Draft Report: Aaron Gordon Of Arizona

Aaron Gordon might never be a guy who averages 18-20 points a game, but he does everything else on the court that helps you win. He’s the ultimate teammate, a guy who plays elite defense at multiple positions and moves the ball on offense.

The Tough Trade-Off

Specialists have recently had a bigger role in the NBA. An underlying factor behind these shifts could end up coming to the forefront with the 2014 draft class: the player’s impact has to be high enough to justify coaches and other players working around their flaws.

Which Types of Players Benefited the Most From Change in Way Fouls Called? (Part 2)

The rule changes increased points per possession scoring and increased ORtgs at every position, but the increase in free throw rate and decrease in turnovers was not equivalent for all positions.

Tim Duncan Carries Spurs Through Generations, Leaves Robinson Hoping He'll Continue

Five championships later, yes, you don’t hold back Tim Duncan. You set him free on the league, and reaped rewards come for Spurs players across the generations.

Why The Warriors Should Trade For Kevin Love This Summer

The Warriors stand out in the Kevin Love derby because they possess the pieces to make a move without sabotaging their present or future, while also fitting his strengths and weaknesses with their remaining roster.

Marcus Smart: Why College Coaching Even Matters For Top-5 Picks

Marcus Smart just lived through the worst possible timeline at Oklahoma State, but he's an ideal player for a rebuilding team because he can be successful next to any type of guard.

Which Types of Players Benefited The Most From Change In Way Fouls Called? (Part 1)

Points per possession were higher, free throw attempts were up, and turnovers were down. But we have not seen any discussion about how this impacted different types of players.

Kawhi Leonard Delivers Spurs The Present And Future

Kawhi Leonard is the connector of present and future on the Spurs’ legendary dynasty of championship contention. Gregg Popovich has persistent belief, they all do around the Spurs: One day, Leonard will grow out of his role as a foundational part – and become the foundation.

Top-10 American Players In 13-14 Euroleague

RealGM has ranked the Top-10 Americans who were most productive and had most success in 13-14 Euroleague season. Five players from this ranking (Dunston, Rice, Dentmon, Brown, Delaney) played in the Euroleague for the first time in their career.

LeBron James Vanquishes Spurs' 'No Guard' Scheme

LeBron James didn’t complete the everyday star’s task. He vanquished the Spurs, tarnishing San Antonio’s version of a rulebook against James once and for all, if only for one night.

LeBron James' Body Unravels In Sweat Of NBA Finals Opener

The most dominant player on the planet has also been the most indestructible, treating injuries with tape and pressure, not rest – and suddenly, on the grandest stage of professional basketball, a catastrophic malfunction left LeBron James at his body’s mercy.

College Basketball Greatness Is Always Fleeting

In the major conferences, no team has improved more than three years in a row right now. Iowa St., Oklahoma, Houston, Wake Forest, and Virginia have all made improvements for three straight years.

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