5 Players That Could Help the Toronto Raptors Recover from Last Season

Tom Firme@TFirmeAnalyst IIJune 18, 2012

5 Players That Could Help the Toronto Raptors Recover from Last Season

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    The Toronto Raptors had little reason to be pleased with their 2011-12 season. The Raptors suffered their fourth straight losing season and 12th overall. They were 28th in scoring average, 23rd in field-goal-percentage and 21st in turnovers per game.

    Already, the Raptors have made it clear that they'll be major players in trying to acquire players this offseason. Toronto is targeting big-name players, including Rudy Gay, although Memphis Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley told The Commercial Appeal that the team isn't looking to deal him.

    Despite being denied by one team with whom they could make a deal, the Raptors have plenty of players whom they could grab (and one who's committed to arrive) who could help them turn things around.

    Following is a look at five players from whom the struggling franchise could receive help.

Steve Nash

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    The Raptors will see if Steve Nash is willing to show his pride for home country by signing with the only Canadian team in the NBA. According to ESPN, the Raptors are interested in signing the two-time MVP.

    Nash would be a significant upgrade for the Raptors at point guard. Jose Calderon is a nice player. He's decent distributor and a solid shooter. His 57 percent true shooting percentage is impeccable.

    However, he hasn't had complete health the last few years. The Spaniard missed 13 games this season and 14 each of the previous three seasons.

    Nash has managed to miss no more than eight in his seven seasons played past the age of 30. This season, he missed only four games.

    Even at age 38, Nash has continued to play at a high level. He's led the league in assist percentage and assists the last three seasons. He still runs one of the fastest offenses in the league.

    With only $41 million committed to eight players for the 2012-13 season, the Raptors have plenty of money to pursue Nash.

    They'll be able to use money and the flavor of his home country to persuade him.

Andre Iguodala

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    Short of acquiring Rudy Gay, the Raptors could grab Andre Iguodala to shape things up. According to ESPN, the Raptors are interested in trading for Iguodala, and they'd be willing to part with Jose Calderon and their No. 8 pick to make it happen.

    This dynamic guard/forward who has played his entire career with the Philadephia 76ers could do various things to help the Raptors. Iguodala will score for a team that needs him to score, as he did when the Philadelphia 76ers were thin in that department a few years ago.

    He's a terrific passer who's averaged at least 5.5 assists per game the last three seasons. He rebounds well, pulling down 6.1 rebounds per game this season and 5.8 per game for his career.

    The eight-year pro is an outstanding defender. He had a defensive rating of 98 points per 100 possessions this season, which was ninth best in the NBA. He placed in the top 10 in steals for the fifth time this season, averaging 1.7 per game. Also, the Arizona product was seventh in defensive win shares with 4.2.

    Iguodala's terrific defensive play would help improve the pedestrian defense of Toronto. The Raptors were 14th in points allowed per 100 possessions (104.5), 26th in opponent turnover percentage (turnovers forced in 12.8 percent of opponents' possessions).

    Iguodala will make $14.7 million in 2012-13. To make the salaries match up, the Raptors could send Calderon ($10.56 million), Gary Forbes ($1.5 million) and their No. 8 pick for Iguodala.

Kyle Lowry

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    Kyle Lowry is hoping to get traded out of Houston, as he told the Houston Chronicle. Lowry said he wasn't sure if he could stay around with Kevin McHale as head coach.

    The Raptors could be on Lowry's trail. The Raptors have expressed that they like Lowry. Raptors head coach Dwayne Casey told the Toronto Sun, "He's a hell of a competitor. He's their heart and soul and spirit of their team and I love the way he plays."

    The six-year pro would add another dimension to the Raptors offense. Lowry has emerged as a solid point guard who can pass and score in the last two years. He averaged 14.9 points and 6.6 assists per game this season while shooting 40.9 percent from the field.

    Before suffering a foot infection, the Philadelphia native averaged 16 points and 7.2 assists per game while shooting 41.8 percent from the field.

    Having Lowry and Jose Calderon in the same backcourt could create a duel point guard look. That's not ideal for a team that's already strong, but it can work fine for a struggling team like the Raptors. Lowry would both help facilitate the offense and provide much-needed perimeter scoring.

    The Raptors have an edge in the race for Lowry in that Raptors scout Alvin Williams is a mentor of Lowry's, as the aforementioned Toronto Sun article notes.

    The Raptors could trade Ed Davis, James Johnson and the No. 8 pick to get Lowry.

Tyreke Evans

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    Tyreke Evans hasn't turned the corner the way the Sacramento Kings would have hoped. His scoring average, assists per game and rebounds per game have dropped the last two seasons. That's why Evans likely won't get an extension, according to the Sacramento Bee.

    Perhaps a change of scenery would do the third-year guard some good.

    The Raptors are inclined to find out if that's the case. According to Hoopsworld, the Raptors have discussed trade possibilities involving Evans.

    The Raptors could put Evans in a shooting guard role if they were to acquire him. Evans averaged 14.3 field-goal attempts per game this season, third most for the Kings. The Memphis product scored 16.3 points per game on 45.3 percent shooting.

    The Kings are also considering trading down from the No. 5 spot, according to the Sacramento Bee. This would enhance trade possibilities for the Raptors in trying to get Evans.

    A good scenario would involve the Raptors sending Linas Kleiza and the No. 8 pick to the Kings for Evans and the No. 5 pick. Kleiza had a down season, averaging 9.7 points per game while shooting 40.2 percent from the field.

Jonas Valanciunas

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    The Raptors could see their No. 5 pick from last year go to work for them in the 2012-13 season. According to NBA.com, Jonas Valanciunas has started buyout talks with his Lithuanian team, Lietuvos Rytas, so that he'll be able to join the Raptors next season.

    As long as all goes well for him in negotiations, Valanciunas would shape up a squad that floundered in offensive rebounding this season. The Raptors were 23rd in offensive rebounds per game and 22nd in offensive rebounding percentage (25.9 percent).

    According to DraftExpress.com, the Lithuanian is a terrific offensive rebounder. The evaluation of the 20-year-old also describes him as an efficient scorer who can hit shots from midrange and is steadily improving.

    His scoring capability would also be a big boost for this poor scoring team.