2011 NBA Offseason: Toronto Raptors

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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Toronto Raptors (Last Year: 22-60)

2011 NBA Draft Team Grade:

Patience is a virtue. Jonas Valanciunas won’t help the Raptors this season, but he gives them a potential franchise center down the road. Add him to Andrea Bargnani and Ed Davis, and Toronto has an athletic, young, promising frontcourt. In a weak draft, it could end up being worth the wait for Toronto. (Team Grade: Makes sense)

Live 2011 NBA Draft Grades:

5. Jonas Valanciunas, C, Lithuania
Isn�t it fitting that Toronto would take another foreign player? Valanciunas gives them a true, physical center that allows Andrea Bargnani to stick on the perimeter. Add in Ed Davis, and suddenly the Raptors have a talented, young frontcourt. (Pick Grade: LOVE IT!)

*** 2011 NBA Offseason Needs and Free Agents listed below this comment box. ***

2010-11 Season Summary:
Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo said it best at his end of the year press conference. “This is the painful part of rebuilding. You lose a lot of games.” True story.

When the Chris Bosh thing went down last offseason, Toronto knew it faced a re-building project that would take some time. The loss of Bosh thrust Andrea Bargnani into the alpha dog role which was asking a lot since he was unable to successfully serve as a second banana to Bosh. Injuries to Reggie Evans and rookie Ed Davis added to Toronto’s struggles in the paint as it left the Raptors thin and undersized inside.

DeMar DeRozan took a major step in his second season doubling his scoring average, which is incredibly encouraging for a player who is only 21 years old. Outside of DeRozan, the production on the wing was extremely erratic due to injuries to Leandro Barbosa and Linas Kleiza. That put Sonny Weems into a more prominent role and eventually led to the acquisition of James Johnson from Chicago.

The Raptors also acquired Jerryd Bayless from New Orleans, and the former Arizona Wildcat showed flashes, especially in the final month of the season, but lacked the consistency to permanently oust Jose Calderon from his starting spot. As for Calderon, he had the second best assist-to-turnover ratio in the NBA but saw a dip in his scoring and shooting percentage. He is still due more than $20 million over the next two seasons which is a heavy weight on a team trying to re-build.

Based off this past season, Toronto has a lot of work to do before they will be able to compete for a spot in the postseason. This offseason will play a crucial part in that re-building.

2011-12 Projected Depth Chart:

C: Andrea Bargnani/*Joey Dorsey/Solomon Alabi

PF: Ed Davis/Amir Johnson

SF: DeMar DeRozan/Linas Kleiza/#Julian Wright

SG: ^Leandro Barbosa

PG: Jose Calderon/Jerryd Bayless

NBA Free Agents:

PF-Reggie Evans (UFA)

F/C-Alexis Ajinca (UFA)

SG-Sonny Weems (UFA)

SG-Trey Johnson (UFA)

*F/C-Joey Dorsey (RFA)

#SF-Julian Wright (QO)

^SG-Leandro Barbosa (PO)

2010-11 Team Salary: Approximately $45.0 million

NBA Offseason Needs:

1. Center: Despite being seven-foot, Bargnani is not a true center by NBA standards. He is more a perimeter-based big who averaged 5.2 rebounds per game which is embarrassing for someone his size who played almost 36 minutes a night. Ed Davis has the length to be a decent shot blocker and rebounder in the league but lacks the toughness to play heavy minutes at the five. Add in the fact that Reggie Evans is a free agent, and it is clear that Toronto needs to bring in a big body who set shop in the paint. Since the class of free agent centers actually has some quality players available and have cap flexibility, they need to actively pursue a big who can allow Bargnani return to his more natural power forward position.

2. Threer-point shooter: The Raptors shot a league worst 31.6 percent from downtown which is especially troublesome since they lack a real inside presence. DeMar DeRozan is no threat from distance (he shot an abysmal 9.6 percent from three this past season) so that makes him fairly one dimensional. Leandro Barbosa is a capable outside shooter, but the Raps need more than that, even if he exercises the final year of his contract and returns next season. Adding a true threat from the outside will greatly help Toronto’s offensive efficiency.

3. Who’s the Boss?: Colangelo’s contract is up at the end of June and there are questions about whether or not he will retain his position as general manager. Colangelo’s future likely directly influences whether or not head coach Jay Triano returns for another season. The sooner the Raps’ powers that be figure out whether or not Colangelo and Triano will return, the quicker the team can forge ahead with their re-building project.

4. Spend Wisely: I am still baffled that Amir Johnson was able to get a 5-year, $28 million out of Colangelo last summer. BAFFLED. Toronto’s margin of error on bad contracts is so much smaller than other teams due to the fact that most marquee players do not want to play north of the border. Whoever ends up being the general manager needs to spend their cap space wisely or else the re-building efforts take another step backward.

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