2014 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: 48-34)

2013-14 Season Summary:
The Toronto Raptors finished the season with their best record in franchise history, but they still didn’t advance past the first round of the playoffs. Even after the early-season trade of Rudy Gay, Toronto exceeded expectations by finishing with the third seed in the Eastern Conference. The team relied on a balanced attack, but the improved play of point guard Kyle Lowry was really the driving force behind the team’s rise up the standings. Lowry is a free agent though, and his future with the team will the topic of conversation north of the border.

2014-15 Projected Depth Chart:

C: Jonas Valanciunas/Tyler Hansbrough

PF: Amir Johnson/*Patrick Patterson/Chuck Hayes

SF: Terrence Ross/Steve Novak/Landry Fields

SG: DeMar DeRozan/John Salmons

PG: *Greivis Vasquez/Dwight Buycks

NBA Free Agents:

PG-Kyle Lowry (UFA)

PG-Nando de Colo (UFA)

*PG-Greivis Vasquez (RFA)

*PF-Patrick Patterson (RFA)

2014-15 Team Salary: Approximately $55.4 million

NBA Offseason Team Needs:

1. Point Guard: In his contract year, Kyle Lowry conveniently had his best NBA season. Now a free agent, he should be highly coveted this summer and will probably be itching to get out of Toronto if the right opportunity arises (Miami?). For the Raptors to keep Lowry, they will probably have to open their wallets quite a bit, which might not be something they are open to doing. Then again, Lowry was the pivotal piece to the team’s success this past season.

What ends up happening with Lowry directly affects Greivis Vasquez’s future with the team. Vasquez is a restricted free agent this summer and due for a pay raise from his rookie contract. If the Raptors can keep Vasquez at a reasonable rate and feel he is capable of being their starting point guard, that seems like a more viable option for Toronto rather than overpaying to keep Lowry. It is highly unlikely that both guys return, so either way, another point guard needs to be added which is why the the club will probably target a floor general with its first-round pick.

2. Scoring Wing: The DeMar DeRozan/Terrence Ross tandem can score the basketball, but Toronto doesn’t really have a lot of offensive firepower behind them. John Salmons is on the downside of his career; Steve Novak is nothing more than a spot-up shooter; and Landry Fields is a waste of a roster spot. Without a ton of cap flexibility, the Raptors need to find a capable offensive threat to come off the bench behind DeRozan and Ross.

3. Dangle Expiring Contracts: The Raptors are in a great situation moving forward with their cap space since they have several contracts expiring after the 2014-15 season. John Salmons, Amir Johnson, Chuck Hayes, Landry Fields, and Tyler Hansbrough are all free agents after next season, so Toronto could dangle their contracts for a team looking to dump some salary. Since Canada is not a hot-spot destination for free agents, general manager Masai Ujiri needs to work his magic via trades to try and improve the roster.

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