On June 25, the NBA will hold its annual draft to bring college studs and international youngsters to the next level. It will be the time for the have-nots to add a piece that will turn them into a playoff teams or championship contenders.
It is also a time for the "haves" to re-work their rosters and add that final player that will take them over the top. Clubs that were successful in the past season often do this by taking advantage of those at the bottom.
The Toronto Raptors had high hopes going into the 2008-'09 season. They had made a giant acquisition by getting Jermaine O’Neal, who was supposed to team with All-Star Chris Bosh to form a great front line and make the squad a playoff team.
But that solid plan, well laid-out by general manager Bryan Colangelo, was abandoned right before the trade deadline when O’Neal was dealt to the Miami Heat for Shawn Marion. The Raptors ended up finishing well back in the race for the postseason, but for that, they have been rewarded with a lottery draft choice.
The Raptors will choose ninth on draft day. Over the past couple of seasons, this pick has produced some decent talent, but only one player that has changed a franchise. In 2008, D.J. Augustin went to the Bobcats at No. 9; in 2007, the Bulls chose Joakim Noah; and most importantly, in 2004 the Sixers chose Andre Iguodala.
In the 2009 draft, the ninth pick could come down to a roll of the dice between any of about ten players. Some mock drafts have the Raptors taking Jrue Holliday, guard from UCLA, while others have them taking Stephen Curry from Davidson or forward Earl Clark from Louisville.
I say look for a point guard to be the eventual choice, though which one is anybody’s guess.
But with such ambiguity, shouldn't a team's GM start thinking outside the box? He could start making some phone calls around the league to find out how he could improve his team through a trade, for example.
When trying to understand how Colangelo might go about this, we need to look at the needs of the Raptors:
- A backup point guard for Jose Calderon
- A shooting guard or swingman that can create his own shot and drive tothe basket
The swingman need could be addressed by re-signing Shawn Marion, which Colangelo would like to do. The team is also bringing back Carlos Delfino after a year's absence to cushion that spot.
The Raptors went through a couple of backup point guards last season, and it became evident that Roko Ukic is not the man for the job. Hence the likelihood of them addressing the one in the draft.
But before we get to the names of potential additions, let’s first examine who is available via trade from the Raptors:
- Chris Bosh: Raptors fans might not want to admit it, but Bosh is on the trading block because it is looking less likely that he will re-sign after the '09-'10 season. Although it is unlikely that Colangelo will move him at the draft, it is a possibility.
- Andrea Bargnani: The former No. 1 pick has started to develop into a bonafide NBA starter and has definite trade value.
- Jason Kapono: Although he hasn’t shot the ball with the regularity that made him a household name in Miami, he could still be a valuable piece for a contender looking for an outside threat. The downfall is his big contract.
- Roko Ukic: The current backup point guard still has some NBA future. It is likely he just needs a veteran to show him the ropes to turn him into that presence off the bench.
- Patrick O’Bryant/Nathan Jawai/Kris Humphries: All the big men could potentially be moved.
The obvious problem that the Raptors have when looking at who they can offer is that the contracts, except for Bosh's and Bargnani's, are relatively small. That means the player they can acquire will have to be a role player instead of an All-Star unless they are willing to deal one of the big guns.
So what are the moves I could see happening?
Bosh is sounding more and more like he wants to be dealt; he announced on Thursday that he would not be signing a contract extension with the Raptors this summer. The suitors for his service include Dallas (his hometown), Chicago, and Detroit (a team with lots of cap space). But unless Colangelo is willing to accept many pieces instead of a single individual who can replace some of Bosh’s stats, don’t expect CB4 to be changing uniforms before the start of the season.
That being said, here's a deal with one of those three that does add potential and athleticism to the Raptors roster:
- To Chicago Bulls: Chris Bosh and Jason Kapono
- To Toronto Raptors: Tyrus Thomas, Tim Thomas, and Kirk Hinrich
For the sake of trying, here's another potential trade. According to the ESPN Trade Machine, it would not affect the number of wins for the Raptors, but it seems it would make them better:
- To Golden State Warriors: Jason Kapono and Roko Ukic
- To Toronto Raptors: Mario Belinelli, Anthony Morrow and Ronny Turiaf
This swap adds a two up-and-coming young shooting guards in Belinelli and Morrow (both of whom come cheap) and a veteran center in Turiaf to teach Jawai and be an energy player off the bench.
Whatever the Raptors do on draft day, be it pick at No. 9, trade Bosh or Bargnani, or make a smaller move like trading Kapono, expect the team to continue to struggle in the competitive Eastern Conference and fight for the seventh or eight playoff spot next season.