NBA PM: Bayless Rewarding Raptors’ Patience?
Some team is going to cash in on Jerryd Bayless’ athleticism and Bryan Colangelo wants it to be the Toronto Raptors.
The club’s president is patiently shepherding Bayless from a scoring role to a distributing one, which is a leap the 6-3 combo guard failed to make at his previous stops in Portland and New Orleans. What makes this opportunity different is Bayless’ maturity (he was only 19 when drafted by the Indiana Pacers in 2008 and is still just 23) and his willingness to learn from new coach Dwane Casey.
“I think he’s the best coach I’ve had since I’ve been in the league,” Bayless told HOOPSWORLD’s Bill Ingram of Casey. “He’s not a really loud coach or a screamer but when he speaks everybody listens and he gets his point across. I think he’s done a great job with this team so far. I think defensively we’ve taken tremendous steps and without him I don’t think we would be close to where we are right now. We’re only two games in now and we’re 1-1, but I think we’ve improved tremendously defensively from last year.
“He’s won at the highest level and that’s something we can all learn from and I think we all will learn from,” Bayless continued, referring to Casey’s role as an assistant for the 2010-2011 NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks. “I couldn’t be happier that coach Casey is our new coach and hopefully I’m with him for a long time.”
The length of Bayless’ tenure with the Raptors depends on his development. Specifically, Bayless is still learning to become a point guard.
In some respects, he’s improved. His true shooting percentage went up to 59.9% last season thanks, in part, to his 81% mark from the free throw line.
Unfortunately, Bayless still turned the ball over in 13.4% of his possessions last season while his assist rate (percentage of possessions that end with an assist) plummeted from a career-high of 26.6% in 2009-2010 to a career-low 16.7 in 2010-2011.
In spite of all of this, and a propensity toward dumb fouls, Bayless continues to impress Colangelo, who envisions a much different player than we’ve seen up until now.
“Jerryd obviously is more of a scoring point guard, or a scoring guard that is still learning certain aspects of point guard play and decision-making and I think sometimes you might even see him play a little bit tentative because he’s trying to feel both out,” Colangelo told HOOPSWORLD. “There’s no doubt that he can go in and score very quickly and put points up on the board, but he’s being asked to make better decisions and be more of a point guard and he kind of finds himself in between sometimes. I love his talent, love his work ethic, love his focus, love his athleticism, his strength, love his ability to defend the ball, so he’s got a chance. He’s got a chance to be that guy for us in the future, and it’s nice to kind of have a coach who can relate to him and talk to him everyday and continue to motivate him and continue to talk to him about that evolution.”
Bayless is a lottery pick, so Colangelo isn’t the first executive to show him support. However, this far into his career, Bayless appreciates that he’s still getting that vote of confidence. And Bayless isn’t taking that endorsement for granted. He’s openly working to become that traditional point guard that the Raptors need.
To do that, he’s spending less time working out and more time playing. In the past, Bayless proved his work ethic by packing himself into the gym. But now, as he continues to learn the nuances of the game, he appreciates the fact that nothing replaces running an offense in terms of preparation.
“The biggest thing to help you get better is playing,” Bayless said. “When I was younger I use to workout and I didn’t play as much as I should of. My main thing was always working out with Frank Johnson in Phoenix and I think that helped me a little bit more when I was younger, but playing as much as possible and putting yourself in different situations is the best way to work on passing.
“It’s the same thing for me every year,” he continued. “I’m just trying to get better all around. I think I’m far from a complete player and I’m just trying to find things to work on whether it’s ball handling or shooting. My main focus this summer was to get better at everything and I feel like I did that.”
The added preparation gives Bayless a chance to succeed in a way he didn’t have when he arrived in Toronto last season. And the way he sees it, Bayless isn’t the only Raptors player on the verge of a breakthrough. This is a team Bayless wants to stay with because, like Colangelo, he’s envisioning a bright future.
“I think there are guys on this team that are future All Stars and I’m happy to be a part of this organization and hopefully I’m a Raptor for a long time,” Bayless said. “We’re a very young team but I like the team and I think we have a lot of potential and hopefully we show everybody that we’re capable of winning.
“I think Andrea (Bargnani) has a legitimate shot to be an All Star,” Bayless continued. “I think he’s going to have a great year this year. DeMar (DeRozan) obviously is going to have a great year this year and I hope they both get to that level. They’re two very good players and I know they both worked really hard this summer so hopefully they end up doing it and proving me right.”
Bayless has been effective if not spectacular in limited action over the first four games. Perhaps his best performance came in a losing effort against the Pacers when he sank five of nine shots in 18 minutes while making both 3-pointers he attempted. He’s still working on being a distributor, but it’s important to remember he’s still young. Colangelo’s faith doesn’t have to be rewarded this season, but if it is, this Raptors team is going to be much tougher to beat.
Yeah, Miami Looks Good
It’s no shock to see just how good the Miami HEAT have been playing, but some of the statistics are nonetheless a bit unexpected.
Nobody knew Norris Cole would average 12 PPG over the first five games or throw up nine assists as he did in Sunday’s win over the Bobcats.
And in a broader sense, Miami’s offensive and defensive balance has been an early surprise. Not only are the HEAT the fifth most-efficient defensive team in the NBA (94.5 points allowed per 100 defensive possessions), but they’re also the NBA’s leader in terms of offensive efficiency (107.4 points scored per 100 offensive possessions).
The only thing that Miami fans should be worried about is the early rebounding numbers. So far the HEAT have rebounded 50.9% of missed shots, and that’s only good enough for 13th in the league. Maybe that’s not a big deal now but against a team like Chicago, who has rebounded 54.5% of missed shots in its games, that disadvantage could be devastating. Miami should be able to improve in that area given their roster, but it will be something to pay attention to over the next few weeks.
Check Out: Thunder at Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks are the defending champs, but everyone has seemingly put Oklahoma City ahead of them in the Western Conference pecking order. The two teams tip-off from Dallas at 8:30 in what should be the best game of the evening in the NBA.
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