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Toronto Raptors: Buyers or Sellers in 2010?

Stephen Brotherston@@ProBballNBAAnalyst IDecember 31, 2009

MACAU, CHINA - AUGUST 01: Chris Bosh #12 of the USA Basketball mens senior national team reacts during the USA Basketball International challenge between USA and Lithuania at The Venetian Hotel, on August 1, 2008  in Macau, China.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Stu Forster/Getty Images

The New Orleans Hornets are making news, a.k.a. speculation, again as they lost on the road to Toronto, Chicago, and Houston over the past week and are now 3.5 games out of a playoff spot.

Being behind Oklahoma City, Memphis, and Sacramento and 12th in the standings is not where the Hornets thought they would be at this point in the season.

A small market team that is unexpectedly weak, about $6 million over the luxury tax line, and facing declining attendance will begin to attract attention from the media.

And there will likely be others in a position that may suggest change is coming soon as well.  Detroit, Chicago, Washington come to mind.

But this type of speculation raises questions that Toronto Raptors fans and media should be asking as well.

In the year of Chris Bosh’s impending free agency, are the Toronto Raptors buyers or sellers in what should be a distressed market for teams trying to off load talent with long-term contracts?

Will MLSE permit Bryan Colangelo to take a financial risk to substantially upgrade the talent on the Raptors?

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The Toronto Raptors as presently constructed have a chance at a 47 win season. Some of us believe that it is a good chance, but that still likely means a first round playoff exit and no legitimate hope for anything better.

The Raptors are a very young team with 10 players 26 years old or younger. If the Raptors can hang on to their 25-year-old all-star Chris Bosh, there is a good argument that this team will improve each year without changes.

But teams contending for a place in the NBA finals often take advantage of financial situations in an attempt to achieve their goals. The Lakers acquiring Pau Gasol for a future prospect. The Magic acquiring Vince Carter for a rookie. The Celtics trading their youth for Garnett and Allen.

Building solely through the draft and by developing young talent takes longer and is not guaranteed to achieve the same level of success. But picking up someone else's solid starter or past all-star can make a huge difference to your team’s future success immediately.

The speculation is the Hornets may be willing to deal two-time all-star David West and/or their perennial double-double center Emeka Okafor for expiring contracts and luxury tax relief. They would like to attach or deal Morris Peterson and/or James Posey as well.

If the Raptors could add either of these players and keep their starters, this would represent a significant upgrade in talent. Maybe, possibly even enough to challenge for 4th in the East and a legitimate second round playoff appearance.

But it would almost certainly guarantee the Raptors would be a luxury tax paying team.

Will MLSE permit Bryan Colangelo to enter luxury tax paying status?

This resolve will almost certainly be tested when it comes time to offer Chris Bosh a new contract this summer.

The only way max contract players have left their current teams under this CBA is when those teams were not willing to offer maximum dollars. And there should no doubt in anyone’s mind that if MLSE will not offer Bosh a max deal, someone else will.

A new maximum dollar contract for Chris Bosh will, over the next couple of seasons, push the Raptors into tax paying status. And without the addition of new star talent, the Raptors may still be first round fodder for teams that are willing to spend.

So the Raptors could be making financially motivated moves as well.

But from a fans perspective, and possibly from a young all-stars perspective as well, the Raptors should be the ones taking advantage of other teams financial decisions and staking their claim to the next opportunity to boost their teams fortunes.

A couple of playoff rounds would generate the millions of dollars MLSE would want to pay the cost of acquiring another star player.

Plus acquiring another star player along side Bosh would almost certainly generate more buzz than any professional sports franchise has had in Toronto in some time.

Filling the ACC for NBA games this season would instantly become a lot easier.

What the Raptors do this season in the face of opportunity will speak volumes about the commitment of MLSE to bring a winner to Toronto.

Will the Toronto Raptors be buyers, sellers, or bystanders?

Anyone who wants to contend says, “Buy, buy, buy!”

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