Despite finishing 23-43 this season, there’s a lot to be happy with going into next season. The Raptors were incredibly inexperienced this season and were without their lottery pick, who decided to stay in Lithuania another year.
Toronto has the cap space to make a big move or two this summer, hopefully pursuing Steve Nash to sign north of the border.
The Raptors clearly had holes this year, but if they can fill them before next season, they should reach the playoffs in 2012-13.
If Valanciunas was the Raptors biggest addition this summer, that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. He has a decent shot at winning Rookie of the Year next year, as very few of the 2012 draftees are developed as he is.
At the very least, Valanciunas will make up for the Raptors rebounding deficiencies and will play solid defense at the center position.
There is no question DeRozan didn’t live up to the expectations Raptor fans had of him this year. However, he did show what he’s capable of at the end of the season. He had 18.5 points per game in February and 18.7 points per game in March while shooting a higher field goal percentage.
There is no question that DeRozan has the potential to be a great scorer in this league, but he just hasn’t reached it yet. I’m not sure if he will ever reach it, but he should still be a much better and more efficient scorer next year.
The Raptors have the money to go after any free agent they want. Whether it’s Steve Nash or Nicolas Batum, Toronto is capable of landing a big name this summer. In addition to signing a starter, the Raptors also have room to improve their bench.
After losing Leandro Barbosa to Indiana at the trade deadline, they lacked a quality bench scorer the rest of the year. The Raptors should go after Jason Terry, Ray Allen or Randy Foye to help fill the void.
Bargnani played very well for Toronto before getting injured in January. In ten games that month, he put up 24.2 points per game and 6.6 rebounds per game—he had people talking about him making the All-Star team.
He was not as dominant when he returned, as he did not fully recover from his injury before coming back. If Bargnani can put up numbers similar to what he did in January, the Raptors have a good chance of finally playing playoff basketball.
Whether Toronto trades the pick to add an All-Star caliber small forward like Rudy Gay or Andre Iguodala or keeps it and drafts Perry Jones III, the Raptors will finally fill one of their biggest holes. For years, the Raptors have been using different starting small forwards, and none of them turn out to be quality long-term options.
The Raptors can finally fix that this summer, which will help them in April when they’re battling for the eighth seed in the East.