Bryan Colangelo's Raptors: What Is There To Work With In Toronto?

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Bryan Colangelo's Raptors: What Is There To Work With In Toronto?
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In June, when NBA teams start evaluating draft picks and trying to determine what their team needs are, there is another not so subtle analysis going on. What assets and skills does the team have, and what is it missing?

A large part of that analysis revolves around who will be on the team next season, who is leaving, and who is trade bait?

The Raptors have continuously stressed the importance of retaining their young core, even though at least one piece of that core is at risk of not being there.

Looking at the roster the Raptors had at the end of last season, one can attempt to predict the future by:

  1. Analyzing the recent hints that Bryan Colangelo has dropped,
  2. Looking at the Raptors contract situation,  and
  3. Taking into consideration the events surrounding those situations.

The Raptors roster after the summer of 2010 could look like this:

  1. Chris Bosh, gone to free agency.
  2. Hedo Turkoglu, traded due to excessive pouting.
  3. Jose Calderon, the next skilled point traded away.
  4. Andrea Bargnani, the new main man in Raptorland.
  5. Reggie Evans, an expiring contract turned into something else.
  6. Jarrett Jack, the Raptors starting point guard again.
  7. Marcus Banks, an expiring contract turned into something else.
  8. Amir Johnson, a free agent the Raptors tried to sign.
  9. DeMar DeRozan, Sonny Weems back-up.
  10. Antoine Wright, gone to free agency.
  11. Rasho Nesterovic, gone to free agency/retired.
  12. Patrick O’Bryant, just gone, finally.
  13. Marco Belinelli, still coming off the Raptors bench.
  14. Sonny Weems, the Raptors starting shooting guard.
  15. And drafted thirteenth overall by the Toronto Raptors?

That’s a potential ten new faces on the Toronto Raptors at the start of next season.

At this point, it could assumed the returning Raptors may be down to:  Bargnani; Jack; DeRozan; Belinelli; and, Weems.

Get the “team hasn’t gelled yet" excuses ready to go!

If the Raptors end up with just five returning playing, what Bryan Colangelo will be going after through free agency, trades, and the draft will be everything except a shooting guard.

But things are rarely as complicated or as simple as they may seem.  The Raptors big decisions will be in large part influenced by what certain players decide to do come July 1st.

Chris Bosh

Most everyone assumes Chris Bosh is gone and it’s probably true, yet Bosh continues to insist that he’ll give the Raptors a shot at resigning him. If Colangelo can pull off a trade that brings a significant player to Toronto, we just might see CB4 back in the t-dot.  It’s not impossible.

The safe assumption is Colangelo assists Bosh with a sign and trade deal that returns a significant player and/or draft picks to Toronto.

Bryan Colangelo is almost frozen in his decision-making until he knows how the Chris Bosh situation will be resolved.  Which makes one wonder why this wasn’t resolved at the trade deadline?

Hedo Turkoglu

Turkoglu managed to create a minor tempest with his “I’m unhappy in Toronto rant” and a trade seems like the inevitable outcome. But players have gone on tirades before and managed to patch things up by the time the season started.

And Turkoglu’s 11.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and .74 steals per game don’t look that bad in hindsight. Especially when one factors in Hedo’s bizarre injuries and personal problems during the season.

Turkoglu may be traded to a team that needs his play-making skills for an expiring deal and a pick or another veteran.  But it is just as likely he returns to Toronto.

Either way, the Raptors probably are not any worse off.

Jose Calderon

The Spanish point guard started out as a fan favorite but has become the Raptors whipping boy for bad defense. Of course it would be interesting to see how any point guard would have defended last season with the defensively timid DeRozan starting beside them.  (Jack struggled as well.)

Calderon is still one of my favorite Raptors. A highly skilled guard with a dead-eye shot and an over-willingness to share the ball. Calderon would make a lot of teams in the NBA better. One only has to imagine him playing with Paul Gasol of the Spanish national team in LA.

But this is one player who has to be on the very-likely-to-be-traded list. It seems Bryan Colangelo likes to rotate point guards into the starting rotation and then out of Toronto.

Expect a typical over-paid NBA veteran with acceptable skills to be coming back in return.

Reggie Evans and Marcus Banks

If the Raptors are to make a significant jump in talent, Bryan Colangelo has to move his two biggest expiring deals for some team’s expensive long-term deal.

Every year in the NBA, there are teams that are looking to dump contracts in order to save future dollars.  This is best way for teams willing to pay the luxury tax to improve their roster.

Next year, the NBA will be renegotiating the CBA with the players and if one thing is certain, the salary cap and luxury tax line will be coming down.  There will be teams looking to make deals this summer to reduce their long-term financial risks.

What $10 million in expiring contracts can bring back to the Raptors is uncertain.  But it is probably as much as what Hedo Turkolgu will fetch and possibly a lot more.

This will be an unusual summer when it comes to what teams value in trade.

Amir Johnson

Colangelo has made no secret of the fact that he wants Amir Johnson back in Toronto next summer.  Perhaps the only thing wrong with such an aggressive stance is Toronto may up over-paying for the still uncertain potential of this 23-year-old, 5-year NBA veteran.

Last season Johnson averaged 6.2 points, 4.8 boards, and 3.1 fouls in 17.7 minutes.  Sometimes looking great, like in the last two games of the season, but frequently looking invisible against bigger skilled defenders.

And at 1.5 rebounds per foul, Johnson was his own worst enemy when it came to staying on the floor.

The odds of Johnson returning to Toronto are high.  It is unlikely he will get a better offer anywhere else.  Raptors fans will have to hope that the end of the season games were a trend if Johnson is to have the anticipated positive impact next season.

Antoine Wright

The Raptors defensive specialist showed promise in the middle part of the season when the team was playing well, but he also showed his limitations at other times.

The main attractive feature about Wright is that he’ll be cheap to re-sign.  But we should also give him credit for being a reliable reserve who can equally provide spot starts and stints on the third string.

Wright is like the poker chip you hold in your back pocket in case you need it.  Given a choice, the Raptors would be better off  signing a Matt Barnes to fill that role.

The 2010 Draft

The Raptors hold the thirteenth pick of the 2010 draft.  But if the trade possibilities work out as expected, the Raptors could hold another draft pick anywhere from second on and the possibilities are almost endless at that point.

Picks taken in the middle of the first round or later are not expected to make a significant impact on an NBA team in their first year.  A lot of those picks are even suspect as to how long they’ll survive in the league.

But if the Raptors can acquire an early pick, the Raptors rebuilding process could move into full swing with veterans being cleared out to acquire younger players.

And this possibility shouldn’t be discounted.  This will be a summer of unusual activity.

Bryan Colangelo is once again standing the edge of determining the Raptors immediate future. And so far it seems that he has let one player hold him hostage in the process.

If Bosh stays, reloading the team with veteran talent to take a run at going deep into the playoffs seems the obvious move.

Trading Calderon, Evans, and Banks for a solid rotation players.  Even trading the Raptors draft pick would be on the table.

But if Bosh goes, everything hinges on what Colangelo gets in return.  All ten of the possible moving pieces will come into play and next years Raptors could barely resemble the 2009-10 team when it is all over.

It’s no wonder the Raptors have worked out potential draft picks that are not projected to go until later in the draft or could even be available as free agents after the draft.

At least when one looks at the assets Bryan Colangelo has to work with, the hope is that either:

next year’s Raptors will be significantly improved; or,

the team has acquired players that improve the future outlook.

July seems very far away.

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