Many Raptors fans have begun to look ahead to the 2011 Draft in hopes that the brass will be able to find the point guard of the future. The dinos have not had a true star running the team since Damon left town, and with two first round picks in this years draft, it seems like an obvious move to make.
That is unless the point guard of the future is already on the Raptors roster.
When news broke that Colangelo not only got rid of the contracts of Jack and Banks, but that he got a young guard and huge expiring contract in return, many fans were impressed. But the recent injury to Calderon has given Bayless a chance to run the team, and he has been nothing short of impressive.
In the most recent game, where the Raptors came back from 25 points down to beat the mighty Pistons 120-116, Bayless shot a ridiculous 10 for 12 from the floor, and finished several times at the rim with his left hand. He added five boards and seven dimes in one of the most impressive games of his young career.
There are however skeptics that will say that as a score first guard, Bayless cannot effectively run the team for years to come. But the nature of point guards in the Association is changing. Russell Westbrook. Derrick Rose. Tyreke Evans. John Wall. These are slashing, scoring, driving point guards who are not afraid to take the ball to the rim. There are relatively few true point guards in the game, and even fewer that excel in the high intensity league.
Kyrie Irving is without question the top guard in this years draft class, and despite a toe injury that will keep him out of action for Duke for an indefinite period of time, he did enough in his few games with the Blue Devils to impress scouts. He too is score first and is not afraid to slash to the rim. Similarly to Bayless, Irving came out of a state that is not known for its elite hoops prospects and burst onto the national scene.
The other top guard prospects in this years class are Brandon Knight out of Kentucky and Kemba Walker out of UConn. We all know what kind of point guards Coach Cal produces at Kentucky, and Walker has already set the college ranks ablaze with his scoring, rather than his passing.
The pass first point guard is dead, and Colangelo found himself the perfect player to take the team into the next generation. Bayless is just 22 years old, but is already in his third full season in the league after spending just one year as an Arizona Wildcat. He learnt how to play perimeter D in Portland, and he is the best thing for the Raptors to succeed right now.
With the amount of wing players that are on the current roster, especially athletic ones, the team does not need slow moving half court sets to win games. They need to ball pushed up the court and passed to them on the break. DeMar, Sonny, Julian Wright, Amir, Ed Davis. They all excel in transition. Andrea does prefer to slow it down and get the odd kick out for deep long balls, but he gets his touches to matter who is running the show.
In 10 games for the Raptors so far, Bayless has put up 12.3 points per, 4 dimes and 3 boards. He has done all of this in just 21 minutes per game, and while shooting 45% from the field and an astounding 50% from downtown.
Whenever Jose gets injured, is is nearly impossible to pinpoint when he will return to action, so Bayless could be at the helm for the forseeable future. After Bayless struggled in his first start against the Nuggets, Triano told him to stick to his game and focus on getting to the rim and finishing. Jerryd thought that he had to be the floor general now that he was starting, and he got out of his groove. But you could tell from the tip against the Pistons that his mentality had changed. He was going to be aggressive and take it at whoever was guarding him.
The Raptors currently are struggling much more with their inside presence then they are on the wings and guard positions. This years draft is up in the air with a potential lockout looming, but if by some fate of god there is no lockout and the draft proceeds as normal, there are several big bodies that the Raptors could sorely use inside.
Enes Kanter, he who committed to Kentucky but was deemed ineligible is likely the top overall big man prospect in this years class, but it is unknown how his stock will fare after not playing this year.
Whoever the Raptors decide to go after in the draft is many months away, but lets hope that Bayless continues to impress or the rest of the season and he is handed over the full time reigns to the team next year.
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