This is probably the most important offseason ever for the Toronto Raptors.
We are about to enter the much hyped “Summer of 2010.” The most anticipated free-agency period in the history of the league. If the Raptors hope to retain the services of All-Star forward Chris Bosh then Bryan Colangelo has a lot of work to do.
In the Raptors 15 year history the team has had four marquee type players, Damon Stoudamire, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, and Chris Bosh. Toronto never stood a chance of re-signing Stoudamire or McGrady since neither were happy playing in Toronto and wanted to play closer to home. McGrady was also unhappy about being overshadowed by Carter during his time with the Raptors.
Vince on the other hand, signed a six-year, $94 million extension with the Raptors in the summer of 2001. This showed the rest of the NBA that Toronto wasn’t an outpost. It also showed that if the player had the talent, it wasn’t necessary to play in the United States to be a star in the league.
However, during the summer of 2004 Carter made it clear that he no longer wanted to be a part of the Raptors organization and forced then-General Manager Rob Babcock to trade him to the New Jersey Nets.
This brings us to Bosh, he signed a five-year extension with the Raptors at the end his rookie contract, however it included a clause allowing him to opt out after the third year and become a free agent. Chris has said he does not know where he will play next year, but wherever it is he wants to win.
If he is to stay in Toronto, Bosh wants to see that ownership is committed to winning a championship by (1) bringing in an all-star caliber swingman and (2) Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment must be willing to pay the luxury tax to put a winner on the floor.
Therefore, the first thing Colangelo must do this summer is look for an upgrade at shooting guard. Both Sonny Weems and Demar Derozan showed flashes this past season, but neither one is ready to be the starter on a championship caliber team. Marco Belinelli proved to be a great shooter off the bench and might turn out to be a rotation player on a good team, but he isn’t the answer.
Finally, Antoine Wright’s contract expires this year and it is unlikely the Raptors will retain his services.
There are a number of great slashers in the league, such as Joe Johnson and Dwayne Wade, however it is unlikely the Raptors have the necessary assets to acquire such a player. As a result, Colangelo should focus on the next tier of players.
Maggette is my top choice for the Raptors. He is currently recovering from a hand injury but I think he would fit perfectly with the team. Maggette drives to the basket and gets to the free throw line (7.9 attempts a game this past season). The Warriors are building for the future with Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis and don’t seem to want to keep Maggette on the current roster. His contract is considered untradeable, with three years and roughly $30 million remaining after this season.
However, Toronto could offer either Jose Calderon in a straight up exchange, or what would be more enticing to Golden State the expiring contracts of Marcus Banks and Reggie Evans. This would allow the Warriors to save $20 million and either buy out the contracts or keep them as trade assets for the 2011 trade deadline.
Crawford always had a bad reputation, since he put up great numbers on bad teams and never made the playoffs. That should change this year with the Atlanta Hawks, as he is the front-runner to win the league’s Sixth Man of the Year award. Crawford has been fantastic coming off the bench for the Hawks, a team that looks very dangerous as we enter the playoffs, but he is still capable of starting for a good team.
Atlanta may be hesitant to move him since Joe Johnson’s contract expires this summer and there is no guarantee that he will resign. However, if the Raptors were able to work out a trade Crawford could be had, at least contract-wise, for the same package mentioned above (either Calderon or Banks and Evans).
If the Hawks didn’t like either of those deals Jarrett Jack could replace Banks or Evans to send more talent back to Atlanta, not just expiring contracts. The best thing about Crawford is that his contract expires after next season so if for some reason he doesn’t fit with Toronto it isn’t a long-term commitment.
Jackson has really helped the Charlotte Bobcats this season. He was acquired from the Warriors nine games into the season and has propelled the Bobcats to the franchise’s first playoff berth. The Bobcats would be unlikely to want to move Jackson since Coach Larry Brown is known to like veterans and so any cap-space or draft picks the Raptors can offer would not interest him much.
However, Jose Calderon is an intriguing possibility for Charlotte, since Raymond Felton is a free agent this summer and Brown doesn’t seem sold on D.J. Augustin as his point guard of the future.
Salmons almost became a member of the Raptors in July, 2006. However he wasn’t sure about coming to Toronto and ended up signing with Sacramento instead. This left Colangelo to go out sign Fred Jones, who lasted one season before being traded to Portland. Salmons isn’t a high-profile player but he put up solid numbers last year when he was traded from the Kings to the Bulls and played very well in their first-round series with the Celtics.
Also, since being traded to the Bucks this year Salmons has excelled and if not for Andrew Bogut’s injuries Milwaukee would be a dangerous first-round opponent. Salmons has a player-option in his contract and can become a free agent this summer so the Raptors could try to sign him for the mid-level exception, this likely would not be enough money, or work out a sign-and-trade with the Bucks.
Other Notable Players
Those are the four slasher-type players that I believe the Raptors should take a look at this summer in an attempt to improve their roster and try and persuade Chris Bosh to resign.
There are, of course, other moves which also must be made. Toronto should be looking to resign Amir Johnson, who had a good season in his first year with the Raptors, but he really stepped up his game at the end of the year when Bosh went down with injury.
Another player I would look to invite to play in the summer league is Joe Alexander. He was the No. 8 draft pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. He has suffered from a few injuries in his short career and as a result the Bucks did not pick up the third-year option on his contract.
However, Alexander was described as the best athlete in the 2008 draft. Finally, according to The Toronto Star Colangelo will likely move either Calderon or Jack this summer and therefore the Raptors need a backup point guard.
I would look at Shaun Livingston. He was widely considered to be the next great point guard when he was drafted in 2004, however a devastating injury has slowed his career. Livingston has spent the last two seasons trying to regain his form and has looked great since taking over the starting spot for the Washington Wizards over the last few weeks of the season.
In the end, I hope that Bryan Colangelo can make enough improvements to the roster so that Chris Bosh will resign with the Raptors.