With all the excitement of the wheeling and dealing of the NBA Draft and the number of big trades in the league for stars like Shaquille O'Neal and Vince Carter, the July 1 NBA Free Agent Period kicking of will be loaded with drama and more moves.
With the global economic downturn effecting every aspect of our society the basketball world has taken on a new look in the past year. Many teams have economic challenges and you have many sellers and only some buyers. The Toronto Raptors have some financial wiggle room and undoubtedly President & GM Bryan Colangelo will be working the phones feverishly to improve his club's chances of getting back to the playoffs.
With the Toronto Raptors trading for Reggie Evans and the drafting of youngster, DeMar DeRozan out of USC, I feel the Raptors have made two solid steps in the right direction changing the look and more importantly, the culture of the organization for the 2009-10 NBA Season.
Here are four issues for the Raps to deal with come July 1st.
1. CHRIS BOSH: A year from now, CB4 will opt-out of his deal and be an unrestricted free agent. The Raptors can offer him an extra year and higher percentage raises than anyone on the market or cut a sign-and-trade deal with him at that time if he wants to move on. He could potentially walk with no return compensation but the Raptors will have greater cap flexibilty at that time to jump into the fray duiring what promises to be a crazy summer next year.
The decision the Raptors have to make or table right now is what to do about Bosh. Let it ride and hope the improvesents you make will be good enough to make you an Eastern Conference contender this season will convince him to stay, trade him now or at trade deadline or deal with it all next July 1. Ultimately, Colangelo and his staff have to determine what CB4 is TRULY WORTH in terms of his value as a player and how much of an IMPACT he makes on WINNING and his LEADERSHIP qualities.
2. POINT GUARD SITUATION: Is the backup PG scenario good enough? I love Jose Calderon (when healthy) playing approximately 36 minutes a night, but do you feel comfortable enough with Roko Ukic and Marcus Banks to fill in the blanks and more importantly can they play MAJOR minutes if Jose gets banged up again this year?
What's the story with Quincy Douby--a combo guard? Lots of consideration has to occur here.
3. WING POSITIONS: As mentioned earlier, I like the DeRozan selection but let's be very patient here. He'll have his fine moments but he'll also struggle at times. Get him out there each night and let him grow yet let's be realistic and bring him along at a slow and steady pace. Manage hype and expectations firmly.
The other 3 spots you need guys who will be IMPACT players and be an upgrade over what we saw for 82 games this past season.
a. Shawn Marion - If the term and money are right--worth considering bringing back but only if it works both short and long term.
b. Carlos DelFino - Liked him when he played for the 41-41 Raptors 2 years ago. He's a decent defender, pretty tough and a capable offensive player both shooting-wise and slashing to the hoop. At the right term and money, he's worth bringing back.
c. Anthony Parker & Joey Graham - Would be surprised that Graham will be back and I love Parker but there'll be lots of interest in him from other teams as well as overseas. Has to be the right deal and role (reserve).
Might need to look to make a splash with the 4th wing spot if you keep Marion and bring back Delfino. These two spots last year were simply not productive or consistent enough if the Raptors plan on getting back to the playoffs.
4. CULTURE: The look ,vibe and grit/toughness of this team has to improve. I think the steps being taken so far reflect that emphasis. That must continue to get this team to be more competitive and deal with the ups and downs of a long season. You need determined, competitive, resilient and gritty guys to win in this league on a consistent basis. The road from 33 wins to a playoff spot and more importantly contending on a larger scale in the improved Eastern Conference is not an easy task. You gotta have tough/talented dudes.
The countdown is on and from July 1st on it promises to be a thrill a minute!