Top 5 Issues the Toronto Raptors Need to Address During the Offseason
The Toronto Raptors had an entertaining season which saw them exceed expectations as they won the Atlantic Division.
Despite a strong season, Masai Ujiri and Tim Leiweke won’t be taking this summer off. In fact, they have a lot on their plates between free agency, the NBA draft and making sure the team is poised for long-term success.
Here’s a look at five issues the Raptors need to address this summer.
5. Add a Vocal Leader
Last season, the Toronto Raptors benefited from having a veteran like Chuck Hayes acting like another coach on the bench or the court. But the team is still lacking players with loud voices willing to lead with their words.
Kyle Lowry has made big strides but he may leave via free agency.
DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson are respected by their teammates, but they haven’t shown a willingness to chew out a teammate when the occasion calls for it.
Toronto needs to get another player or two on its relatively young roster that is willing to chirp at teammates when needed while still providing a calming veteran presence.
Someone like Vince Carter may be the ideal target.
4. Make an Effort to Obtain Kevin Love
Yeah, I know it’s a long shot getting Kevin Love to play for the Toronto Raptors, but why not swing for the fences?
It’s not like Toronto can’t trump the lame offers the Los Angeles Lakers or New York Knicks are able to offer.
It would be tough to see a package of Amir Johnson, Terrence Ross and a first round-pick being enough to beat the package that the Golden State Warriors could assemble. If the Warriors are willing to part with David Lee, Klay Thompson and a first-round draft pick, the Raptors likely won't stand a chance.
But it’s worth getting into the mix and seeing if they can provide an enticing package to Minnesota while still having a core of Jonas Valanciunas, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry for Love to play alongside.
Obtaining Love is a long shot, but even entering into talks to obtain one of the top players in the NBA is something that will impress the players currently on the roster.
3. Lay the Groundwork for Going After Kevin Durant in 2016
Finding a way to lure Kevin Durant away from Oklahoma City is an even crazier idea than trading for Kevin Love, but why not try?
Durant made headlines in Toronto when he claimed his favorite team growing up was the Raptors.
This month, Greivis Vasquez—a former high school teammate of Durant’s—made headlines when he went on TSN 1050 in Toronto and boasted that Durant should sign with the Raptors when he becomes a free agent in 2016.
A big part of those remarks was just Vasquez being overly excited, but if there’s any chance Toronto can sign Durant, now is the time to start keeping an eye on its cap space for 2016.
2. Decide What to Do with All of Their Free Agents
As things currently stand, Kyle Lowry, Nando De Colo and Julyan Stone will become free agents on July 1, 2014.
The Raptors also have team options on John Salmons (they will likely pay him $1 million to make him a free agent and not have to pay him $7 million next season) and Amir Johnson (it will be shocking if they don't pick up his $7 million option for next season).
Dwight Buycks has a team option for $816,482 and it will be interesting to see if the team picks that up or if they elect to sign another player for the minimum. Personally, I think the team will let Buycks become a free agent and try to save some money by signing someone who stands out during the NBA Summer League.
The Raptors also need to figure out if they will give qualifying offers to Patrick Patterson ($4.3 million) and Greivis Vasquez ($3.2 million). Both Patterson and Vasquez were key players for Toronto during the playoffs and it seems like a given that both players will be given qualifying offers. However, picking up the options on both players would cut into what could be considerable cap room for Toronto this summer.
1. Add a Gritty, Veteran Defender
One of the biggest needs for Toronto this season was a gritty wing defender. This was highlighted during the first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets when Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams took turns lighting up Toronto.
This summer, Thabo Sefolosha is poised to become a free agent and he is just what Toronto needs. He has earned a spot in Oklahoma City’s starting five due to his defense. Oklahoma City would prefer to keep Sefolosha, but even before they offer him a contract, they will be sitting at $67 million in salaries.
Because Oklahoma City has historically refused to go into the luxury tax, Sefolosha may prove to be too pricey to retain.