I underestimated the impact that Chris Bosh had on the Toronto Raptors. With Bosh the Raptors made the playoffs twice in his six years in Canada and since he left, the Raptors have a record of 45-103. But there is some reason for optimism in Toronto. Head coach Dwane Casey had one of the best defensive teams in the NBA (94 pa; 9th in the NBA), but their offense was anemic (90.7 ppg; 28th in the NBA). They will have a good draft pick in the June draft. So let’s see what they can do to improve their team. Andrea Bargnani‘s health is the number one key for the Raptors. They paid him a lot of money and he has had trouble staying healthy. He has never played a full 82-game season and only played 31 games this past season. Right now, he is looking like a waste of money, but when he has been healthy, he has performed pretty well. He is averaging 15.4 ppg for his career, but let’s remember that he was the #1 overall pick in the 2006 NBA draft. He and point guard Jose Calderon will make $10 million next season, and Calderon is a 30-year old point guard who will be entering the last year of his contract. I don’t like Calderon’s contract along with Amir Johnson‘s contract. Johnson is a backup power forward making $6 million a season and averages 7 ppg and 6 rpg. Those three players (Bargnani, Calderon, and Johnson) earned a combined $26,561,983 (58.7% of team’s salary for next season). For the rest of their contract situation, you can click here.
If backup point guard Jerryd Bayless is offered and accepts his $4,164,882 qualifying offer, the Raptors will have $45,190,161 under contract for next season. Like I mentioned earlier, Calderon is entering the last year of his contract so the Raptors might look for a point guard in the draft. Keep in mind, they drafted Jonas Valanciunas last season and he told the Raptors that he would be coming to America next season. Valanciunas will probably start at center, Bargnani at power forward, DeRozan at shooting guard, and Calderon at point guard. That leaves the small forward spot up for grabs. James Johnson showed some positive signs that he might be worth something. After not getting a chance to play for the Chicago Bulls after he was drafted #16 overall by the Bulls in 2009, Johnson has averaged 9.1 ppg the last two seasons and he led the Raptors in both steals and blocks last season.
But they still need help and that’s where the draft comes into play. The Raptors have one first round and two second round picks. Their first round pick will, more than likely, be in the top 10 and I have them slotted to pick 8th. I noted earlier that they might look to draft a point guard because of Calderon’s situation and I know I have the New Orléans Hornets selecting North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall with the 10th pick and I think picking Marshall 8th would be a stretch for the Raptors. The Raptors love to pick players who never did much in college, but have a lot of potential. That’s why I think the Raptors will select Baylor’s Perry Jones III. Jones III could have been the #1 pick last season, but decided to stay another year. However, his sophomore season was a disappointment. At times, his mind seemed to be on things other than basketball. He played pretty well in the BIG XII tournament, but didn’t play at the level Baylor needed him to play at in the NCAA tournament. Despite all of that, Jones III has size (6’11) and athleticism. I think he will come off the bench in his first season and backup Bargnani, but if Bargnani gets hurt, then Jones III could step-in at the 4-spot. He is still very raw, but has as much potential as any player in this draft. With their two second round picks, the Raptors should look to add depth at the two-guard spot. Missouri’s Kim English is a player I really like. The Raptors will have an early second round pick and I think English will be left when their turn comes. I think they will trade their other second round pick for cash.
After the draft comes free agency and the Raptors will have some money to spend. They need to look at the point guard spot and there should be some decent point guard options this season. Some possible targets for the Raptors are: Goran Dragic (PG), Delonte West (PG/SG), Courtney Lee (SG; restricted free agent), Mo Williams (PG), Michael Beasley (SF), and Shannon Brown (SG). That’s a variety of players that I could see the Raptors targeting this offseason.
When next year starts, the Raptors’ roster will look like this: Bargnani (PF), Calderon (PG), DeRozan (SG), A. Johnson (PF), J. Johnson (SF), Jones III (SF/PF), Gary Forbes (SG), Ed Davis (PF/C), Linas Kleiza (SF), English (SG), Valanciunas (C) and two free agents, maybe even the ones I mentioned.
Coach Casey preached defense this season and this team responded. But you can’t have a point-differential of -1.3 and expect to make it to the playoffs.
If they stay healthy, pull off a big draft day trade, or get a lot of production from their rookies and bench, I think the Raptors can become relevant again.
- Why the Toronto Raptors Should Trade Andrea Bargnani This Offseason (bleacherreport.com)
- 2012 NBA Mock Draft: Damian Lillard Goes To Hornets In SB Nation Projection (denver.sbnation.com)