As Thursday's NBA Draft approaches, the level of interest and intrigue over how the Toronto Raptors will carry out their plans to get the organization back on the winning track will continue to grow. With the Raptors trading Jason Kapono to Philadelphia for Reggie Evans, it's now necessary for Bryan Colangelo and his staff to focus their attention on improving the holes that still exist with the team. By the way, I like the Kapono trade for both teams because the Raptors increase the toughness and grit level of their team in the front court and Philly gets the shooter they need.
It's important to note that the Draft is just ONE way that the Raptors are going to re-tool this off-season with the others being free agency and the trade route. The draft process will kick off this makeover and I'm sure momentum will be built with it leading into the July free agency period.
The Raptors have the 9th pick in the draft, their only pick in the two rounds at this point yet multiple needs have to be filled. The classic case for the Raptors is to do the right thing, which I know they will, and that is take the best rated guy on their board, regardless of position and then go from there as it impacts free agency and trade scenarios.
Here are a few issues that Bryan Colangelo and his staff are dealing with as they enter the Draft.
1. Wing Positions: With Kapono gone to Philly and Joey Graham, Anthony Parker and Shawn Marion all testing the free agent waters come July 1st, the Raptors are in the driver's seat to upgrade the 2 & 3 spots that so often this year was a major challenge for them. If they have a 2/3 wing player on the top of their list when the time comes on Thursday night, that's step one of a good process for them. They need a player(s) that can create his own offence off the bounce, shoot it, be an effective team player and hold up his end defensively.
2. Another Pick: Even though this isn't a stellar draft class, there are still good bargains in the class that can upgrade your roster at a reasonable economic investment. In this day and age of the salary cap, the pending drop of it and the challenging economic times that teams are facing, it makes sense to have good young players that come at a fair market value. If the opportunity is there to acquire another pick, it would shock me to see this happen.
3. Chris Bosh: July 1, 2010 is not that far off. I'm sure by now the Raptors have a gut feel for their chances of keeping Bosh in a Raptors uniform after this date. The decisions made Thursday night and during the summer with free agents and trades will be a very telling indication of the Raptors' plan of configuring their team for this upcoming season and more importantly the seasons that follow. The Raptors still have Bosh's rights for one more season and hold the upper hand over competitors for being able to offer an additional year and greater % raises when the time comes to do a new deal. The big question the organization must ask is with regard to Bosh's value to the team and his true impact on winning as it relates to his desire to get max years and $$. Value judgments are a critical factor here.
4. Point Guard: The Raptors have brought in some prospects that play this position as well, causing many to speculate about the direction being looked at for this spot. With Jose Calderon, Roko Ukic and Marcus Banks all under contract and the possibility of Quincy Douby (a combo guard) being around, the Raps have a glut of players competing here. Are the backups beyond Calderon good enough to play solid secondary minutes and can they fill in if Calderon deals with injuries again this year??
5. Depth: An NBA season is long and filled with injuries, illness and fatigue. The Raptors had some challenges this past season keeping it together when they faced this adversity. You're only as strong as your weakest link. Make sure the depth is adequate and capable of holding the fort for you on those challenging nights.
The good thing for the Raptors is the fact that when you look at the Eastern Conference, beyond the Cavs, Celtics and Magic, nobody scares me too much. Yet, I don't see any teams in the East getting dramatically worse from where they were this past season. The next few weeks/months will play a critical role in determining the future of Chris Bosh as a Raptor and more importantly whether the Raptors can get back to their winning ways of a few years ago. Each decision impacts the next and others and is a true test of philosophy of proper team building. Should be fun to watch!!