Bismack Biyombo’s story is an interesting one. And one of the more curious developments within it is that at just 22 years old, Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Hornets gave up on him.
Of course, they had their reasons. Young as he was, Biyombo was an absolute liability on offence; bounce passes might as well have been literally on fire when headed his way. But bad as his hands were, and still in large part are, Biyombo has always flexed a near limitless defensive ceiling. Undersized, but with arms like a pterodactyl, he’s quick on his feet, as strong as a brick shithouse, a loud signal caller and, most importantly, a proud, willing defender. He had the tools, and so it was exciting when Masai somehow flipped Tyler Hansbrough for him. Even if Biyombo didn’t pan out, getting rid of Psycho T was a positive. Of course, we know now that both happened, and after a stunning series of games in the playoffs, Bismack Biyombo is ready for his pay day.
The problem is, it likely won’t be from Toronto.
If you’re not familiar with how the NBA’s salary caps work, this might seem insane. Especially if you’re a Raptors fan. But with the NBA’s cap about to skyrocket, Bismack Biyombo is likely to see an astronomical raise, jumping up as much as ten to 15 million dollars per year. He can technically opt for a guaranteed stay in Toronto by exercising his Player Option, but the chances of that are slim to none. Why cap yourself and risk an injury, or worse, for $3 million next year, when you can lock yourself into a deal worth exponentially more. Don’t get it twisted — Biz is young, and clearly loves being here, but he’s not stupid.
So what does Toronto do? They’ll have a little bit of cap room, thanks to a hold to resign DeMar DeRozan, should that be a priority (and it likely will be given the last few games). But they also have Jonas Valanciunas, who’s the same age as Biz and, whether Raptors fans blinded by the last few games realize it or not, a much, much, much better player. Before he went down, Jonas was keeping Toronto in games. While the trash brothers were lobbing bombs at the back rim and swirling free throws in and out, Jonas was singlehandedly dinging Hassan Whiteside’s next contract and straight up feasting in the paint.
With both Toronto big men peaking in the playoffs, you have to ask yourself whether JV and Biyombo can play together. And if your answer here is yes, stop reading, because you’re wrong.
Because neither can pass, dribble, or shoot outside of five feet, Valanciunas and Biz cannot play more than spot minutes together, which brings about another, more pressing question. Does Toronto pay near-max money for a bench player? Do we give Bismack Biyombo more than Kyle Lowry and, in all likelihood Jonas Valanciunas, to play 14 minutes off the bench?
Thus far, the playoffs have been Bismack Biyombo’s coming out party. The memes, the celebrations and the 26 rebound games have been incredible. He’s been incredible. He’s also been auditioning. This has been his call for teams like the Lakers, Celtics and Pelicans to get out their chequebooks. That he’s defending LeBron in spurts is only helping that. During Game 4, you could almost hear Bill Simmons’ erection throbbing over Twitter.
Some would say to let DeMar DeRozan walk, and independent of Bismack’s situation, that might not be the wrong choice. Maybe Toronto pulls off a sign and trade, giving DD his bird rights salary bump while flipping him for another asset. Maybe they do that with Bismack. Letting DeRozan walk to make room for Bismack, however, is the wrong move. It’s worse than trading Vince Carter for a sack of potatoes.
Yes, it will appease the basketball fans who hopped on the bandwagon in March, and no, there’s nothing wrong with them, but as basketball moves go, it’s the wrong one.
Bismack Biyombo has by almost any metric asserted himself as a starter in this league. That, more than anything, means he’s likely in another uniform next season. Raptors fans will be sad, but it will get over it. After all, life after Amir Johnson hasn’t been so bad, eh?