Could the Rudy Gay acquisition have hurt the Raptors?
One of the best and most exciting parts about the Toronto Raptors having a terrible year is thinking about what the offseason holds and wondering what reinforcements will come along and help out the ailing squad.
Well, Raptors fans need to pause before committing all of their brain power toward who would fit in best with the team.
Instead, it might be even better to look at what mistakes are holding Toronto back from being able to bring in anybody of value.
Yes, anybody of value.
It's all too easy to fault risk-takers. Sometimes the only way to succeed is to do something that nobody else saw working out.
At the same time, though, there are still good risks and bad risks. The offseason hasn't even started, but it looks as though Toronto has taken their fair share of bad ones.
The same ones that will prevent them from succeeding when the basketball is put on the rack for a couple of months.
Here's a look at why reinforcements are not arriving for Toronto this offseason.
Can't Find Much Cap Space in Here
Let's start with the basics. Bringing in Rudy Gay and his $16.4 million contract all but eliminates the Raptors from having enough spending money to go out and grab any player with the ability to immediately help this team.
The NBA set the 2012-13 salary cap at $58.044 million with the luxury tax level at $70.307 million. The luxury tax level means that a team will have to pay $1 for every dollar that exceeds the luxury tax level.
Toronto's cap space is at $67.2 million for the 2012-13 season, then jumps to almost $73 million for next year.
There is a reason the luxury tax is in place. It's a system that fines owners from spending ridiculous amounts of money, leading most of them to stay well within the range of the salary cap.
Staying around the salary cap means the Raptors shouldn't spend too much time looking at free-agents because they simply don't have the money to bring anybody good in.
Andrea Bargnani, Anybody?
In a perfect world, the Raptors would have seen that Bargnani wasn't in their future plans. They would have sensed that his play was going to take a serious nosedive and that other NBA organizations wouldn't want anything to do with him after.
Just goes to show you that this is anything but a perfect world.
After failing to hire somebody that can read the future, Toronto is left with one of the most overpaid players in the league. Other teams aren't knocking on their door to grab a player that is injury prone and doesn't play hard.
There isn't much of a chance that people will be willing to give Toronto anything of value for Bargnani, and that leaves the Raptors looking at other options.
Should they keep him on the roster and hope that he magically changes his ways? Or should they bite the bullet and amnesty him to cut all ties with his contract?
Either way they go, neither decision results in somebody good coming to the team.
It's a sad fact that they'll have to face.
Where Did All the Draft Picks Go?
There were times when Kyle Lowry felt like the only member of the Raptors who had any fire. Any burning desire to play the game with a competitive nature.
Lowry's addition was one of the more helpful ones all year.
It was also one of the most costly.
Small cap room means that a franchise must rely on succeeding in the NBA draft. Everybody comes in with a set contract depending on where they get drafted at, and it allows the organization a couple years of breathing room with that particular player.
The issue is that you need to have picks to be able to rely on this logic.
According to hoopsworld.com, the Raptors have particular conditions about what pick will end up going to the Rockets. It's all based on how the pick is "protected." Here's a look at how it breaks down:
2013 – Owe first-rounder (top-three and 15-30 protected through 2013, top-two and 15-30 protected through 2015, top-one and 15-30 protected through 2017, unprotected in 2018) to Houston Rockets (Kyle Lowry).
2013 – Owe second-rounder (protections TBD) to Memphis Grizzlies (Rudy Gay).
In this case, the word "protected" means that the Raptors hold onto the pick if they end up drafting in the top-three, or in picks 15-30 of the 2013 NBA draft. If one of those happens, then the conditions change for the 2014 draft and so on.
Toronto would need to make the playoffs in order to select in the 15-30 range so we know that's not happening. That means the Raptors must get a top-three pick in the lottery or else their draft pick will be going to Houston.
If you were looking closely, then you would have also seen that Toronto owes two more second-round picks in the future. Not the most important thing in the world, but they are still of value.
So what's the moral of the story?
It's that potentially not having a first-round draft pick is going to end up biting Toronto in a painful area.
North of the Border
Where city would you most want to play in?
Do you like warm weather, beautiful beaches and attractive women? Then hop on a plane to look at signing with the Miami Heat. If that's not your style, then maybe you're more about big cities and a newspaper that is constantly criticizing or complimenting your game? If so, then may I suggest the Los Angeles Lakers or New York Knicks?
Big cities that have some kind of location-type of pull are where the majority of high-caliber players sign to.
The absence of a much cap space and no truly valuable players to offer up in a trade limits what Toronto is forced to do.
Add in the fact that Toronto's average temperature in December (the middle of the NBA season) is only 30 degrees Fahrenheit or that it's more of a hassle to visit immediate family for the majority of these players with customs and such, and you start to see why Toronto isn't exactly the go-to spot for free agents.
Struggling to acquire reinforcements over the offseason isn't a death sentence to the impending season, but it certainly puts you behind the ball. (No pun intended.)
Without that as much of an option, the Raptors will have to do a lot of in-house development if they want to be a successful team next year.