The Toronto Raptors missed out on the post-season for a fifth straight year and as a result, made a change at the top of their organization. The Raps plucked away Nuggets’ general manager, Masai Ujiri to assume that same role in Toronto. With quality pieces on the roster and zero cap flexibility, Ujiri has decisions to make about how to get this team back on track.
Toronto Raptors (34-48 last year)
2012-13 Season Summary:
The Toronto Raptors made a massively aggressive move during the season by trading for Rudy Gay and his monster contract in hopes of finding a go-to scoring option. That move combined with the acquisition of point guard Kyle Lowry during the off-season adding quality veterans in an attempt to accelerate their post-Chris Bosh rebuilding efforts. Gay was his typical productive self on the offensive and while Lowry didn’t wow anyone with his play, allowed Toronto to deal long-time Raptor Jose Calderon for Gay.
Jonas Valanciunas’ arrival was much anticipated and while he struggled with injury and the early transition to the NBA game, he played very well down the stretch to prove his potential is plentiful as the Raps’ big man of the future. His expected frontcourt mate, Andrea Bargnani once again battled the injury bug and when healthy, had his worst season in five years. His name popped up in trade rumors throughout the season and it is beginning to become more clear that his future is not as promising as it once was.
Fresh off his contract extension, DeMar DeRozan was the team’s top scorer until Gay arrived and the duo provides a lot of athleticism and scoring punch on the wing. Newly acquired Landry Fields didn’t make the impact that Toronto had hoped when they signed him away from the Knicks in the off-season but rookie Terrence Ross did show enough potential to reportedly make him “untouchable” in any trade scenarios.
With all of the moves Toronto has made and new pieces they have added in the past twelve months, there is going to be some time needed before the pieces all mesh together. It is now the job of Ujiri and Dwayne Casey (assuming he is retained as head coach) to get the new look roster out of their playoff drought.
2013-14 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Jonas Valanciunas/Aaron Gray
PF: Andrea Bargnani/Amir Johnson/Quincy Acy
SF: Rudy Gay/Landry Fields/Linas Kleiza
SG: DeMar DeRozan/Terrence Ross
PG: *Kyle Lowry/John Lucas III
NBA Free Agents:
*PG-Kyle Lowry (TO)
SF-Mickael Pietrus (UFA)
SG-Alan Anderson (UFA)
PG-Sebastian Telfair (UFA)
2013-14 Team Salary: approximately $70.6 million
1. Trade Bargnani: Bargnani is still on the books for $23 million for the next two seasons and while his trade value is at an all-time low, Ujiri might be willing to give him up for ten cents on the dollar if it will help create some cap space. On paper, Bargnani’s ability to stretch the floor with his outside shooting would be a terrific compliment inside to the bruising Valanciunas. Nevertheless, Ujiri would likely pull the trigger on a deal if it can help the team’s long-term salary situation. Amnestying Bargnani could be another option for the new GM if a trade is not possible.
2. Point Guard: Lowry has a $6.2 million team option on the final year of his contract that the Toronto Raptors would be moronic not to pick up. With that being said, Lowry had a bit of a roller coaster first season north of the border, battling injury, clashing with his head coach, and not playing as well as he did in Houston. The Raps could look to move Lowry this summer but even if he is back on the roster for 2013-14, finding another option outside John Lucas III at the point would be a smart move.
3. Hire George Karl: After Ujiri left Denver, Karl was surprisingly fired as head coach of the Nuggets. That pair obviously did good things together in Denver so why not let go of Casey and make a serious run at Karl who has helped mid-small market teams like the Nuggets and Bucks reach their potential. I’m not sure how enticing it would be for Karl to take the Raps head coaching job especially when there are better openings out there but with his experience in finding ways for a team to jell, why not make a serious run at reuniting in Toronto?
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David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft and the most accurate 2012 NBA Mock Draft on the internet (Yup, repeat champ… #humblebrag.)
You can follow him on Twitter at David_Kmiecik.Powered by Sidelines Follow paulmbanks