Toronto Raptors’ fans have no reason to be upset with their team. While the Raptors lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers 4-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals, the season must be looked upon as a successful one.
Few people outside of Toronto, with the exception of true Raptors’ fans, had the team with the East’s second-best record winning a game in the series. The Raptors proved everyone wrong by taking two games over a Cavaliers’ team that was playing out of their minds in the NBA Playoffs. Now they have an offseason with a few question marks. The right moves could put the Raptors right back into the Eastern Conference Finals. The wrong ones will send them close to the draft lottery.
It is a certainty that Toronto Raptors have an offseason to-do list with improving the team in mind. Be advised, some regression is needed. Actually, it is expected.
— VICE Sports (@VICESports) May 28, 2016
That sounds strange and somewhat silly, but the Raptors must go slightly go backward in order to catch the Cleveland Cavaliers. Regression must be on the Raptors’ to-do list this offseason.
The Raptors Cannot Overpay For DeMar DeRozan and Bismack Biyombo.
Two of the Raptors main contributors will hit the free agent market in a month. Prior to the start of the NBA Playoffs, it was assumed that DeMar DeRozan was going to get a hefty payday. And he will. Who is the biggest revelation of the postseason so far? Bismack Biyombo!
Toronto can afford to keep both players. It helps that they own the Larry Bird-Rights for DeMar DeRozan, meaning they can go over the salary cap to sign him. Most of the NBA teams will have an influx of cap space after the huge television deals were signed a year ago. According to the Bleacher Report, the Raptors are not one of those teams.
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) May 28, 2016
Until the cap holds are dropped, the Raptors will have less than $2 million to work with. One of those holds is DeMar DeRozan’s $10.2 million option. Once he declines it, the money increases to $15.1 million, which will put Toronto over the cap. Even if they were to renounce the cap holds of Luis Scola and James Johnson, the Raptors will have less than $4 million to work with. That will take them out of the running to retain Bismack Biyombo unless they shed some salary.
Biyombo proved his worth in the NBA Playoffs. His combination of energy and defense has NBA executives believing he is a player who could make less than maximum money. The Sporting News suggested that he could get a contract similar to the four-year, $52 million deal the Phoenix Suns gave Tyson Chandler.
Toronto Must Alter Their Offensive Philosophy.
The guard duo of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry was good enough to help the Raptors advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. As a tandem, they became one of the NBA’s top backcourts, but their insistence to play isolation basketball has hurt them.
Isolation, drive, and kick are what the Toronto Raptors have done in the recent seasons. It will not work as well going forward. As evidenced in the Game 6 blowout loss, it did not work against Cleveland.
Until LeBron James retires, he is the player to beat. The defensive adjustments he made personally in the last two games negated what the Raptors did. Rarely did the Toronto guards get the ball to the post players, and it cost them. Center Jonas Valanciunas is a good inside presence. The Raptors must learn to establish him early and often.
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) May 28, 2016
Toronto Must Groom Their Lottery Pick.
The good news for the Toronto Raptors is that they have the ninth pick in the draft, thanks to a trade with the Denver Nuggets. Toronto could use a scoring power forward, an athletic wing defender, and a pure shooter.
It will not happen, but the most ideal scenario would be if Oklahoma Sooner guard Buddy Hield were to fall to the ninth pick. He is ideal for the Raptors as the best shooter in the NBA draft. Since Hield is likely going to be off the board by the time the Raptors choose, they have a few things to consider.
Toronto could keep the pick and draft a young player or package the pick for a veteran.
Report: Bulls, Raptors talked Taj Gibson for Patrick Patterson trade https://t.co/uU19BXjW0o
— Andrea Bargnani (@BargnaniNews) February 19, 2016
Would they consider rekindling their talks with the Chicago Bulls’ about Taj Gibson? A Taj Gibson for Cory Joseph trade makes sense with both teams swapping draft picks. Gibson and a second rounder for the ninth pick also works.
Gibson is the rugged frontcourt player who can score inside, run the floor, and can defend four positions. Adding Taj Gibson would also give the Raptors an ample replacement if and when Biyombo departs via free agency.
Another player to consider is Harrison Barnes. Barnes is a restricted free agent who will be pricey but is a perfect fit for what the Raptors want to do. They can get creative with a sign-and-trade to add Barnes.
Accept Temporary Regression.
There are other things on the Toronto Raptors to-do list, but what should be on there is a slight bit of regression.
Delon Wright, Lucas Nogueira, and Bruno Cabocio are all under the age of 25. Neither of them received meaningful playing time during the season. Nogueira played a hiccup of legitimate postseason minutes. It would be of great importance to give them some playing time in order for them to develop.
This will cost the Toronto Raptors some victories early on, but what if they can pan out and become solid NBA contributors? It would be even better if they have a similar impact of Biyombo, who in case anyone has a short memory, was an afterthought as recently as four months ago. If the Raptors develop their players, they could catch a Cleveland Cavaliers team that will be a year older. Who knows what can happen then.
The Toronto Raptors’ season is over, but they fared better than most expected. For that reason, everyone should have some solace. Now the Raptors have a to-do list which they must carefully fill out.
[Photo by Vaughn Riddley/Getty Images]