As we near the final couple of games on the schedule, the Raptors sit in a familiar position on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs. With record of 32-48, the Raptors will obviously finish below .500 yet again and miss the playoffs.
This is something that doesn't sit well with Raptors fans all over the country.
This season was supposed to be the season the Raptors pushed for a playoff spot. Instead, the Raptors blew their chance. They were close to the eighth spot, however, blowing fourth-quarter leads became a habit for the Raptors as they lost over 20 games that they actually led heading into the fourth quarter.
After making the trade for Rudy Gay, the Raptors managed to win a few games in the fourth quarter and have been a little better at holding leads, but the fact remains, the Raptors need more closers on their team.
They need quality veterans to help guide the young Raptors. Their entire starting lineup is all under the age of 28, with DeMar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson all 26 and under. The bench is filled with youngsters as well, with Terrence Ross, Landry Fields and Quincy Acy seeing floor time. All of them are under 25 years old.
The veterans the Raptors do have are not very serviceable and are merely 10th to 12th men on a basketball team. That's you Alan Anderson, Aaron Gray and John Lucas III.
Obviously, going forward, the Raptors will need to work on quality depth so there is not a significant drop-off from starters to bench.
Heading into the offseason, MLSE will have to look long and hard into whether they want GM Bryan Colangelo to stick around, and if he does, what will be done with coach Dwane Casey.
After they get that sorted out, the Raptors will move into forming a solid veteran bench that will help solidify the Raptors' young nucleus. Sitting without a first-round draft pick this year, the Raptors will likely need to get creative this offseason if they hope to achieve their goal.
The Raptors, first, will have to amnesty a player, whether that's Andrea Bargnani or Linas Kleiza, obviously one will have to go. More than likely, Kleiza will be the first one shown the door.
After that, the Raptors will likely bid farewell to Sebastian Telfair, Mickael Pietrus, Alan Anderson and possibly John Lucas III and Aaron Gray, who both own expiring contracts after next season.
With a bench rotation that will likely only include Terrence Ross, Landry Fields and Andrea Bargnani or Amir Johnson, the Raptors will likely need to add some veteran swingmen who can shoot the three, and they will need to add some veterans in the paint.
What that will do is not only lighten the workload for Johnson and the rookie Valanciunas, but it will also help get some mentors in to help them out.
The need for a few guys who can consistently knock down a three and provide capable NBA defence is another major need. DeMar DeRozan, unless he can knock down threes at a better than 25-percent clip and defend, may be trade bait this summer. However, he won't be moved unless the Raptors are blown away.
Kyle Lowry's contract expires at the end of next season, and unless he can provide a more consistent presence at the point guard position, the Raptors may just not re-sign him and opt for him to leave via free agency.
Many question marks remain for the Raptors, but here are five players the Raptors should target this offseason.
Note: They will not get all of these players, rather they would be good fits into what the Raptors represent.
SG/SF Mike Dunleavy Jr.
A competent defender and a marvelous shooter, Dunleavy Jr. would provide some much needed three-point shooting from the wings that the Raptors have lacked. At 6'9", Dunleavy's ability to handle the ball and pass could also be a valuable piece to the Raptors attack.
He is a free agent after this season and will likely be seeing money in the neighbourhood of the maximum mid-level exemption teams receive each offseason.
SG J.J. Redick
Another Milwaukee Buck hits the list for the Raptors. What makes Redick so intriguing is his ability to use screens, much like DeRozan, but his range is where he trumps DeRozan. At 6'4", Redick is likely not a starter on the Raptors, but a valuable sixth man who can absolutely get on fire from beyond the arc at a moment's notice.
Again, he's another free agent this offseason and will likely be seeking anywhere between $6 to $8 million per year this offseason. He may be too expensive for the Raptors, but it doesn't hurt to at least see if he's interested in what the Raptors are offering.
The Raptors have options though, as Kyle Korver is also an unrestricted free agent this offseason and may command a similar salary to that of Redick.
SF/PF Carl Landry
A solid post player and rebounder, Landry is a valuable veteran to add to the Raptors bench and easily trumps whatever the Raptors can throw out there in the post off the bench. Tough as nails and a solid veteran in the locker room, Landry's efficient floor game would be a sight for sore eyes for Raptors fans.
PG/SG Devin Harris
The free-agent-to-be Harris will likely see a decrease in his salary this offseason. Harris struggled the last couple of years with injuries, however, when healthy, he's a beast to deal with. At over 6'5", his size at the point guard position is something to fear. He can knock down shots and provide good veteran leadership from the point.
With Jeff Teague ready to be the main point guard in Atlanta, Harris' days as a starter there may be over.
Again, he's a free agent, and the Raptors may have to work out a sign-and-trade to acquire him, if they do intend on getting his services.
PF/C Carlos Boozer
Remember that Boozer trade near the trade deadline? I remember it vividly and still question why the Raptors did not pull the trigger on it. Boozer provides exactly what the Raptors need in the post, although it's at an enormous price tag. I expect the trade to again be explored in the offseason as the Bulls try and get out of tax territory.
C JaVale McGee
Coming off the bench in Denver, McGee has had his ups and downs with the Nuggets and, at times, has looked out of place, having his starting spot get taken over by Kosta Koufos. Playing only 18 minutes a night on average makes little sense to me for what he provides.
A lanky, tall and very athletic center, McGee often gets beat up by bigger centers in the West. However, his ability to alter shots and change shots makes him very valuable.
With Masai Ujiri's familiarity with the Raptors roster, it wouldn't surprise me to see them explore a Bargnani for McGee trade in the offseason.
PG/SG Jarrett Jack
A former Raptor player and one of my favorites, Jack is another solid veteran to have on your squad. He provides a solid presence when running the offense, but better yet, he's a solid defender and has some size at the point guard position. He can knock down shots at a very efficient pace, shooting field goals at 45 percent and three-point shots at nearly 41 percent.
I would love to see him back in a Raptors uniform, but the Warriors won't be so nice in letting him go so easily. He'll be wanted back in Golden State, and it wouldn't surprise me to see him re-signed there quickly.
PF/C Luis Scola
He makes a nice salary, and he really provides a similar game to that of Carl Landry. An underrated rebounder and solid defender, Scola's time with Phoenix may be up. With two years remaining on his contract, Scola would be a wonderful veteran to add to the Raptors attack, and he could be had for a few expiring deals.
In a perfect world, the Raptors could deal Kleiza and a pick for Scola, but obviously that won't happen.
The Raptors roster as it stands right now for next season is:
Kyle Lowry/John Lucas III
DeMar DeRozan/Terrence Ross
Rudy Gay/Landry Fields
Amir Johnson/Andrea Bargnani
Jonas Valanciunas/Aaron Gray
In my opinion, grabbing three of the eight names mentioned above seems attainable. Here's a look at what I think could happen.
Kyle Lowry/Devin Harris (free-agent add using amnestied Kleiza contract)/Lucas III
DeMar DeRozan/Terrence Ross
Rudy Gay/Mike Dunleavy Jr. (MLE add)/Fields
Carlos Boozer (Bargnani Trade)/Amir Johnson
Jonas Valanciunas/Ryan Hollins (LLE add)