Toronto Raptors Constructing a Contender: Completion Date, Summer 2013

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Toronto Raptors Constructing a Contender: Completion Date, Summer 2013
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If you know me then you know that I really get a kick out of pretending to be the General Manager of the Toronto Raptors, while I come up with theory after theory about what the Raptors need to do in order to become contenders and ultimately a championship team.

If the Raptors aren’t trying to get to the point where they are the NBA champions then frankly they aren’t trying at all. 

One theory I've been pondering a lot lately is that many Raptors fans (myself included) are starting to fall in love with and settle on too many players that do not fit into our long-term plans and will only end up hurting us in the long run.

Don’t get me wrong, some of these guys have the potential to be excellent trade chips down the road, but in the meantime we must resist the urge to embrace them as great players since ultimately they will end up keeping us from bigger things.

I would argue that the Toronto Raptors must be a team under construction for the next two seasons in order to properly complete the rebuilding process and get this team on the right track. 

So put on your tool belts, grab your lunch boxes and don’t forget your hard hats because things might get rocky!

 

Claus Andersen/Getty Images

The Blueprint:

First and foremost the Raptors need to get rid of Bryan Colangelo.  The Colangelo era has come and failed.  It was worth a try, but now we’re through with BC. 

Colangelo had a couple good seasons with the Raptors but unfortunately he was never able to get this team out of the first round.  Nice to know you Bryan and a pleasure having you but like CB4 it is time for you to move on.

Secondly, it is time for an overhaul!

The Toronto Raptors need to be a team under construction for the next two years and here is why…

In the summer of 2013 two important things will happen…

 

1. DeMar DeRozan will be a restricted free agent, which means we risk losing him as we did Chris Bosh

2. Jose Calderon will be an unrestricted free agent, leaving a ton of cap room (approximately $9 million) to sign the final pieces in free agency that are necessary in order to become contenders.

It is crucial that the Raptors organization and Raptors fans stop selling themselves short.  They have two great young players in DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis that fit in well with the long-term development of this team and who should be embraced as their core moving on…

Marc Serota/Getty Images

On the other hand, we have some other good younger players, such as…

Andrea Bargnani, Jerryd Bayless, James Johnson, Amir Johnson, Sonny Weems and Linas Kleiza possibly even Solomon Alabi who are all 25 or under and still have a good five years left to either flourish into starters or accept the fact that they can be solid role players on a winning team.

Of the players I just listed, the majority either already excels at one aspect of their game or is very good at one aspect and has the potential to excel at it.

For example; Andrea Bargnani is an excellent offensive player who can score from just about anywhere on the court, James Johnson is a lockdown athletic defender, Sonny Weems is an athletic scorer who is well adept at driving to the basket and Linas Kleiza is a great spot up shooter.

Amir Johnson does not really fit the same mold as these other guys and he is certainly the most well rounded player of the group, nevertheless he is not starter material just yet.   

The point I am trying to make is that the seven guys I just named form a dynamic and above bench that any NBA team would be more than pleased with.  Throw in the likes of Jose Calderon, Reggie Evans and Leandro Barbosa and you really do have one heck of a group of players to choose from when it comes to forming your bench.

The problem is that myself and many other Raptors fans have grown quite fond of many. If not all of the 10 players I just mentioned (including Calderon, Evans and Barbosa) and as a result we have convinced ourselves that they are starting caliber players with whom the Raptors can have a successful future and eventually become contenders.

Al Bello/Getty Images

Unfortunately, this is not the case and the Raptors head office, coaching staff and fans alike should accept the fact that we can do much better without some of these 10 players–with some of them sticking around to come off the bench. 

Now don’t get me wrong, they’re great guys and I would hate to see many of them go (see what I mean, there I go falling in love with mediocrity again) but the best thing moving forward, for the team and the players, is to trade them to a team where they are a better fit and can really come into their own as a player, be it as a starter or a role player.  

 

What we have now…

 

Following this year’s draft we will have a core of DeMar DeRozan, Ed Davis and this year’s lottery pick.  This core is complemented by a solid group of role players that form an unbelievable second string.

Role players…

PG: Jose Calderon: Pure point guard, able to make his teammates better with his playmaking abilities.

Claus Andersen/Getty Images

SG: Sonny Weems: Athletic scoring guard who can provide a spark off the bench.

SF:  James Johnson: Lockdown defender with great athleticism.

PF:  Amir Johnson:  Well rounded player who does just about everything well, athletic, good defender and strong rebounder.

C:  Andrea Bargnani:  Pure scorer from anywhere on the court, can create his own shot, instant offense off the bench.

 

Reserves:

SG/PG: Leandro Barbosa

PF/C: Reggie Evans

PG/SG: Jerryd Bayless

SF: Linas Kleiza

C/PF: Solomon Alabi

The Raptors are set in regards to their bench, now they just need to get some starters.

Will DeMar Derozan ever be an all-star?

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What they will have…

Come the summer of 2013, if we do not re-sign any players when their contracts expire (and simply fill out the rest of the roster by buying low and signing players to contracts that expire in 2013), here is what this bench would look like as the Raptors try to re-sign DeMar DeRozan and James Johnson, and as Calderon’s contract comes off the books in summer 2013.

Keep in mind that the starting rotation will consist of DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis as well as our lottery picks from this year, 2012 and 2013.

Therefore, if everything works out in the drafts, the Toronto Raptors would have a starting rotation of five former lottery picks anchored by a fully developed DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis.

At this point, you can expect DeMar DeRozan to be averaging All-Star caliber numbers, (and I mean the real thing not just the dunk contest!) over 25 points per game to go along with improved defense and three-point shooting and for Ed Davis you can expect a little over a double-double per game with solid defense and one and a half to two blocks per game.

Starting Rotation:

PG: Lottery pick (Austin Rivers 2012)

SG: DeMar DeRozan, __________

Elsa/Getty Images

SF:  Lottery Pick (Derrick Williams or Terrence Jones 2011), James Johnson, Linas Kleiza

PF:  Ed Davis, Amir Johnson

C:  Lottery Pick (Andre Drummond 2013, Andrea Bargnani

*** You can fill in the Lottery picks with whoever you want provided the PG, SF and C positions are filled.  (2013 seems to be a good year for Centers by the way, so I expect that to be the final piece we add.)

 

The finishing Touch…

Now, I mentioned that this is what the team would look like had we not re-signed anyone with an expiring contract, but now is where I breakdown what needed to be done with each of the players come the expiration of their contracts…

Summer 2011:

  • Reggie Evans (Unrestricted): Re-sign if he agrees to stay for cheap ($2.5 million per year)

 

  • Leandro Barbosa (player option): Hope he accepts the player option, trade him in February 2012 at or around the deadline to a contending team for a first round pick

 

  • Sonny Weems (Restricted): Re-sign but not for the same kind of money as Amir Johnson, ($3 million per year for three years)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

 

  • Julian Wright (Restricted): Let his contract expire

 

  • Joey Dorsey (Restricted): Let his contract expire 

 

  • Alexis Ajinca (Unrestricted): Sign him for two years to fill out the roster until the summer of 2013

Summer 2012:

 

  • Jerryd Bayless (Restricted): Trade him for a draft pick before his contract expires


Summer 2013:

 

  • Solomon Alabi (team option): If he improves dramatically in the D-league then re-sign him for $1 million or less, if not let his contract expire

 

  • James Johnson (Restricted): Re-sign as the backup SF

 

  • Jose Calderon (Unrestricted): Let his contract expire and sign the final pieces needed to make this a contending team

 

  • DeMar DeRozan (Restricted): Re-sign and reap the benefits!

 

Harry How/Getty Images

Free agents available in the offseason:  

  • Josh Smith, PF/SF
  • Serge Ibaka, PF/C
  • Ty Lawson, PG
  • Lou Williams, PG
  • Gerald Wallace, SF/PF
  • Al Jefferson, PF/C
  • Paul Millsap, PF

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed my latest take on what the Raptors should do in order to become contenders and eventually champions.

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