The Raptors seemed bent on bringing Canadian born Steve Nash up North of the border, but that plan fell through when he went to Hollywood instead. The Plan B turned out to be Kyle Lowry.
In the aftermath of Nash's choice to sign with the Lakers, Bryan Colangelo wasted no time in pulling the trigger on a deal that landed the team their new starting point guard Kyle Lowry, in exchange for a protected first round pick. As far as plan B's go, the Raptors could have done a great deal worse than Kyle Lowry. The other most hyped move the team made was signing last year's fifth overall pick Jonas Valanciunas, ensuring that he will make his long-awaited NBA debut this season.
Who is this Jonas brother? Glad you asked.
The other addition that looms largely is that of Jonas Valanciunas. If the Olympics were any indication, it's going to take some time for the 2011 lottery pick to adjust to the speed of the game at the highest level. But he's a very tall man, and those tend to help on defense (Bargnani excepted). How well Casey and his staff teach and use Jonas early on might dictate whether Toronto can become a truly excellent defense squad instead of a slightly better than average one. The same applies to rookie Terrence Ross on a smaller scale: if he gets playing time, he could also help Toronto's mediocre wing defense. But it'll take adjustment, training and time.
So, was Lowry worth the pick given up in trade? Good question.
All this is to say that Lowry's a definite upgrade. But is Lowry worth a high lottery pick, which is what the Raptors very well could be giving up? That's a tougher question to answer. In Toronto's defense, they're clearly making a playoff push, and they needed help immediately to do so. Lowry is in the middle of his prime and is coming off a career year. The problem is that Lowry doesn't really have one elite skill. He does a lot of things well, but there isn't one area where he stands out relative to his peers. Guys like Jeff Teague and Ty Lawson are jet quick. Players like John Wall go so fast from end to end. Peers like Ricky Rubio have such incredible court vision. Lowry may not have their weaknesses, but he doesn't have their strengths either. That makes him more of an above-average caretaker than a real game-changer.
This completes our circuit through the Atlantic Division. We'll be posting the full deck of links for this division shortly.