With the NBA regular season enters its final weeks, teams are continuing to jostle for the postseason and higher playoff seed.
However, for those lottery-bound teams not expected to qualify for the playoffs, they are using the remainder of the season to evaluate young talent and undoubtedly making plans for the upcoming 2012 draft and subsequent free-agency period.
The Toronto Raptors, who are in the midst of rebuilding under first-year head coach Dwane Casey, may have an edge this offseason compared to the other lottery-bound teams.
After losing leading scorer Andrea Bargnani for 26 games to a calf injury and struggling much of the year offensively, the Raptors are hoping that Lithuanian phenom Jonas Valanciunas, the No. 5 overall pick in 2011, will be able to pick up the slack next season.
The mere debut as well as the potential of what will happen with Valanciunas in Toronto could make or break Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo.
Colangelo has already been preparing for next season by trading veteran Leandro Barbosa to the Indiana Pacers for a second-round pick, and opening another roster spot with the release of Anthony Carter.
Colangelo has been using the open roster spots to bring in younger players in hopes of finding a diamond in the rough.
First came the signing of guard/forward Alan Anderson, who has bounced around the league in his short tenure. Then came the 10-day contract of guard Ben Uzoh, who could soon be replaced by Justin Dentmon of the D-League (who did spend a quick stint with the San Antonio Spurs).
No matter how many moves Colangelo makes prior to next season, it appears that his future in Toronto hinges on the progress and production of Valanciunas in the NBA. The Raptors are a team in need of a spark to change their fortune, and the 2012-13 season could be huge one in that regard.