Fans in Raptor land have already started debating whether or not Masai Ujiri will be able to right the ship for the Toronto Raptors, and to that question there is no easy answer.
The Raptors have a fringe playoff team core in place and with some more seasoning they can become regular playoff contenders, not championship contenders, but playoff contenders.
There are still some glaring weaknesses in our lineup, and sans a pick in this years draft the Raptors will need to look internally and to free agency and trades in order to improve for the 2013-2014 season.
Masai is not stepping into the same type of situation as he did in Denver where he had a top-ten player who wanted out and had a strong market. Instead, he has first overall disappointment Andrea Bargnani, whose market has been admittedly soft.
The Raptors do not have a floor general with the talent of Ty Lawson nor a top big man at the four like Kenneth Faried, who Masai drafted despite rival executives' reservations about his height.
Curing what ails the Raptors is going to take a multi-faceted approach that includes getting rid of bad contracts, establishing a clear cut identity on the court as well as an organizational philosophy that will help identify which players are fits for the system we intend to have in place as well as a focused drafting and trading strategy that puts the right players around the pieces currently on the roster that are considered core members.
What is Masai’s To-Do List?
Number one has to be taking a hard look at Linas Kleiza and deciding whether or not there is a trade market for him or whether an amnesty is in the team's best interests. Obviously, we would prefer a trade scenario here as Linas has an expiring contract of $4.6 million, which should prove to be a valuable trade chip.
Number two should be finding a taker for Andrea Bargnani. Amnesty should not be in the discussion here as there are a few teams that will give up something for Bargnani; perhaps the Bulls still want to do a Boozer-Bargnani swap. The Boozer deal suggestion may infuriate some, but consider a potential move a one-year rental with the 2014-2015 being his contract year and his bad contract will then turn into a massive trade chip. Detractors may point to the fact that Boozer would improve our team and hurt our chances of landing Andrew Wiggins. Regardless Bargnani must be moved for team morale and chemistry purposes.
Number three should be trying to find a way into the end of the first or the early second in order to land an upside point guard. Kyle Lowry has ton of upside, but has proven to be a player who pouts when things do not go his way. I love Lowry and his stat stuffing numbers, but I am someone who loved Jerryd Bayless, so maybe I just love any point guard not named Jose Calderon.
Number four should be kicking the tires on the international free agent market. This suggestion probably has more than a few of you up in arms, but there are more than a handful of NBA calibre players playing overseas who could potentially help the Raptors, similar to how Jorge Garbajosa did when healthy.
Number five should be identifying a strategy for the season, tank or playoffs. Our team as currently constructed should be able to sneak into 8th place if the 76ers don’t improve and the Bucks lose Brandon Jennings. The question here is, is one more year of the lottery just what the doctor ordered to cure the Raptors ails or do we want to remain a middle of the road potential playoff team with no real title aspirations?
There are many more items on Masai’s list, such as evaluating whether or not a lame duck coach is the best idea if you actually want to win this year and taking an objective view of Landry Fields and whether or not he fits on a non-contender.
The short of the matter is Masai has his work cut out for him and he will not have as easy a time as he did with the Denver Nuggets.