Unfortunately, the lockout is preventing NBA fans from enjoying the fun that is the free-agent frenzy in early July. That being said, there is still some hope we will not lose the entire upcoming season, meaning at some point the free-agent frenzy will be upon us.
Nevertheless, Raptors fans should not concern themselves too much since in my opinion acquiring a big name free should the last thing on the mind of Raptors fans.
The Raptors are currently, and still will be, in a good financial situation whenever the lockout ends, yet they still have quite a bit of work to do
Next year’s draft should be the nearest big day on Toronto’s radar, not free agency. Next year’s draft class is a big improvement over this year’s and Toronto will look to either fill their void at small forward or look for an improvement at point guard—depending how Jerryd Bayless fares in his first season as a starter.
Aside from the draft, the Raptors head office will focus on locking up their core young players, namely DeMar DeRozan (restricted free agent in summer 2013) and Bayless (restricted free agent in summer 2012). In the case of Bayless, it will once again depend on how he performs as a starter next season—however short it may be.
If Jonas Valanciunas comes over next summer, the Raptors re-sign Jerryd Bayless and the Raps make good on their pick, then the 2013 depth chart should read as follows:
PG: Jerryd Bayless, Jose Calderon (he will have an expiring contract)
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Leandro Barbosa
SF: (Draft Pick), James Johnson, Linus Kleiza
PF: Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Ed Davis, Solomon Alabi
Jonas Valanciunas: He will need a season or two to adapt to the NBA, so do not expect him to dominate the NBA the same way he dominated the under 19 FIBA tournament in his rookie season—as a matter fact I doubt he will ever dominate the NBA like he did in that tournament. Nevertheless, in a year or two, if things stay the same, the Raptors will have a very decent and deep frontcourt.
Jose Calderon: Calderon becomes an unrestricted free agent in summer 2013 and his $10 million contract will come off the books. This does not necessarily mean the Raps have to get rid of him—he is still a good role player and veteran—but what they can do is re-sign him for a far more realistic price.
The Draft: As mentioned earlier, next year’s draft will be crucial for the Raptors. If they plan to hold off on big-name or expensive free-agent signings and then end up bombing on their pick, then fan and team morale would take a big hit as the Raptors would be forced to endure three consecutive rebuilding seasons and they would then run the risk of losing DeMar DeRozan to free agency.
If the Raptors choose to not take the free agency route then their future will be heavily dependant on both Jonas Valanciunas and whoever they draft next year. Will it pay off? Will it get them further then signing a big-name free agent would? Only time will tell.