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Maurizio Gherardini Says Changes Are Coming to the Toronto Raptors

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Maurizio Gherardini Says Changes Are Coming to the Toronto Raptors
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In what hardly qualifies as news, the Toronto Raptors will be adding some new players next season. At least the Raptors management are not avoiding the obvious.

Toronto Raptors Vice President, Maurizio Gherardini, released a brief interview to Sportando, before the Euroleague Final between Regal Barcelona and Olympiacos.

“Bosh? We hope he will stay with us. But now it is to early to talk about it. In June Raptors will know his final decision” said Gherardini. “My impression is that in Toronto Raptors we will have four or five new players for the next season.”

Sportando , May 10, 2010

But as always, this Raptors management team are playing their cards close to the vest.  Information that they don’t need to release won’t be. At least not until they see some benefit in doing so.

And knowing what Bosh’s situation is in “June” is virtually the same as saying, “We have no idea of what Bosh’s intentions are.” The Raptors might not know for sure until he starts visiting other teams in July.

The Toronto Raptors almost certainly will have four or five new players next season. And it should not shock anyone if that number goes as high as seven or more!

No one at MLSE was happy about the Raptors missing this year’s playoffs. It cost them at least $3 million in lost playoff revenues and probably more. You have to know that got the upper management boys attention.

The obvious changes on the table come in the form of the Raptors' free agents.

A list that includes:

  1. Chris Bosh, who holds a player’s option for next season
  2. Amir Johnson, an unrestricted free agent
  3. Antoine Wright, an unrestricted free agent
  4. Rasho Nesterovic, an unrestricted free agent
  5. Patrick O’Bryant, an unrestricted free agent
  6. Sonny Weems, the Raptors hold a team option on his services

So Gherardini’s four or five player changes are in the bag!

The only player who is a sure thing to return next season is Weems. The case for Sonny Weems is strong. And that team option for just $854,000 make this player’s return a virtual certainty. (Unless he is traded—say no.)

There is a chance Chris Bosh returns to the Raptors. He said as much himself during his exit interview in the end of season media session at the ACC and later on Twitter.

Bosh made the following telling statements at the presser:

  1. He wants to win games.
  2. He wants to be on a team that emulates teams that have had success.
  3. Teams competing for the finals have spent well over the luxury tax cap.
  4. Competitive teams have an All-Star level wing player on them. Someone who can create their own shot.
  5. Changes need to be made to the Raptors for him to consider staying.

Has Chris Bosh already left the Raptors? Well with this list of demands, it’s either big changes in Raptorland or Bosh’s foot is firmly out the door already.

Chock up at least one change on Chris Bosh’s account.

Amir Johnson, at just 23 years old, is an unrestricted free agent, and he's a free agent Bryan Colangelo has said he would like to bring back.

But just what is this free agent really worth? The case for Amir Johnson is not as strong as some would like to make out.

In his fifth NBA season, Johnson was a six points, five rebounds a game big man who averaged better than three fouls in under 18 minutes. Athletic and able to run the floor, Johnson was often overpowered in the post by bigger power forwards and centers. As good as he sometimes looked, more was expected.

If Johnson comes at a reasonable price, Colangelo will bring him back. This kid still has tons of potential. But if some team offers up the full MLE over five seasons, Johnson will likely be playing elsewhere next season.

Pencil in Johnson’s return as a definite maybe.

Antoine Wright came into Toronto and played as advertised: an inexpensive backup wing player who could start if needed and play an adequate level of defense. For a brief period Wright even looked like he had found his offensive game.

Wright was the poor man’s Bruce Bowen in Toronto and he might return to that role for a very modest salary next season. But one has to believe that the Raptors are hoping to upgrade at the backup small forward position and if so, Antoine Wright will be the odd man out.

Wright did nothing to be on the outs in Toronto, but if the team’s hopes come to fruition, Antoine Wright will not be returning for 2010-11.

Rasho Nesterovic filled in admirably as the Raptors' third-string center and most fans wouldn’t be upset if he returned to do it again.

But the likelihood of Rasho playing in Toronto or anywhere else next season isn’t high.  The 34-year-old center is nearing the end of a solid NBA career. It would be nice to see him return, but don’t count on it.

Patrick O’Bryant’s playing days in the NBA have also come to an end.  Maybe he can resurrect his career in Europe, assuming he still wants to play basketball?

There is at least one change that is not directly tied to the Raptors' free agents.

Last season, Jarrett Jack emerged as a viable starting point guard, at least while he was playing beside Hedo Turkoglu.

So once again the Raptors have two “starting” point guards who can’t switch to the off-guard position effectively and not enough minutes to go around.

And for all the comments made by Jose Calderon and Jarrett Jack about how they don’t care who starts or how many minutes they play, that clearly was not the case as the season progressed.

Someone has to be moved and the most likely candidate would be Calderon.

In my opinion, Calderon is the more skilled of the two guards, but Jack was the better fit with Turkoglu.

One thing is certain. There will be a change at the point guard spot next season.

Another area that could be a source of player change for the Raptors is trading players with expiring contracts. Make no mistake, with the NBA CBA up for re-negotiation at the end of the season, there will be teams willing to trade bona-fide talent for expiring deals.

And the Raptors have three players with expiring contracts:

  1. Reggie Evans, $5,080,000
  2. Marcus Banks, $4,752,000
  3. Marco Belinelli, $2,380,000

Those expiring deals total enough to attract some genuine interest from teams unwilling to risk the changes a 2011 CBA may contain. If MLSE and the Raptors are willing to take that risk, more changes to the Raptors roster will happen.

And with the way the Raptors finished the 2009-10 season, nearly every player on the team has to be available for the right deal.

If every change that is possible happens, the 2010-11 Raptors will head into next season with as many as nine new players, just like this past season. 

Fasten your seat-belts, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

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