With the NBA free agency period beginning on July 1, there are lots of decisions on the horizon for Raptors President/GM Bryan Colangelo that will shape not only the chances for success for the 2010-11 season -- but more importantly -- the Raptors organization as they head into years 16, 17, 18 and beyond. The vision and execution of the plan in the near future will help define the legacy of Colangelo in Toronto.
This is a key period of time if you are a Raptors fan. With some good moves, the organization is back on track. With some misses, the organization faces a tough road ahead. We're at a fork in the road, and the Raptors must choose the right path, which is easier said than done. Here are the four areas that Colangelo and his staff have to address appropriately to turn the team around.
1. Chris Bosh: We're all worn out by this whole July 1 saga with the stars of the game holding the emotions of their fan bases hostage, as we wait for their decisions. Well, it will all be over soon enough. Needless to say, with all due respect to CB4, he's not the top free agent on the market but he's a very good one. He's the one waiting in line for the two major dominos (LeBron & D-Wade) to drop before he decides what he's going to do. Bosh absolutely needs to have a dynamic perimeter presence to truly be an upper tier player who can help a team win. He hasn't had that presence in Toronto (Vince Carter had checked out already compared to his earlier Raptors days). I'm not sure if he's a good investment if he doesn't have that other type player with him. I hope he stays, but it's got to work for both sides. If he moves on in a sign-and-trade scenario, I expect that the Raptors will try to extract some good to very good pieces from a trade partner(s) that will attempt to fill the void he would leave. It's a devastating time for any franchise when it loses a 'franchise-type' player. All Raptors fans need to remember is the Vince Carter trade to the New Jersey Nets for very little. This is the No. 1 Raptors domino that will shape the future. in free agency
2. Hedo Turkoglu: After year one, it's obvious to all that this marriage has failed to this point. Is it fixable? Does either side want to even consider that? Only time will tell. The biggest question for the Raptors is: do you move this player for the sake of unloading the headaches he has caused you? You have 29 other teams making offers to you that are 50-60 cents on the dollar, which is a tough spot for Colangelo to be in. Turkoglu put the team there. Does Turkoglu have value? Yes, he's a good player, and I think he'll play well next season for whichever team gets him. Many don't want anything to do with his contract unless they can unload some 'issues' back on you. The Raptors need to sift through the challenges here and come up with a deal that makes sense economically and on the court.
3. Point guard situation: Marcus Banks is in the final year of his deal. Does someone out there want an expiring pact of cap purposes? Do you want him around or do you release him? I doubt we'll see him in a Raptors uniform. More importantly, Jose Calderon and Jarrett Jack are good guys who say all the right things, but deep down they're competitive men who have pride and egos and want/expect to be the lead guard for 35-plus minutes every game. Both have value and are well-regarded in varying degrees, yet both have significant money on their deals, which could make it difficult to deal them. Which guard does Colangelo trade? Does he sit tight on both, move one, or trade both and start over? My bet is that at least one of them will go, and they'll live with the other and try to draft a second point guard and/or pick up one on the cheap in a trade, etc. Resolution is needed in this area. Who is your guy? Decide and live/grow with him.
4. Draft night: The Raptors have the 13th pick. It's no fun coming up short of the playoffs the past two years with 33 and 40 wins and picking in an area where you hope a guy develops into a good player while being up against the cap on other fronts. With so many moving parts in play this year, I expect the Raptors to stay true to their draft board and pick the highest-ranked player when their turn comes, despite position. They've got multiple needs in many areas. If they acquire assets, good things will develop down the line. It wouldn't surprise me to see them try to acquire another first-round pick. Picking low-cost players with potential is not a bad way to go right now. There is no doubt that they would put this pick in play as well if it could improve a package with the other three above options. It should be interesting to watch the Raptors assemble this jig-saw puzzle.
It's most important to consider that it's unlikely to expect the Raptors to be playing in the NBA Finals next season. The Eastern Conference Finals aren't likely either. Who knows if they'll even be good enough to compete for a playoff spot. Lets be realistic. This is about building a sustainable championship-caliber organization and the next few moves will decide whether the proper pieces are in place to build that type organization. In my opinion, they should make moves that make sense in 2012, 2013 and beyond. I'd rather wait and make sharp under-the-radar moves that make sense in building a team (EX: Detroit Pistons 2001-08). Build a team that is around for the long haul and is successful rather than trying to hit a home run and risk striking out with names that might wow you rather than get you wins. The Raptors should just use good Ol' fashioned common sense and do what's right instead of what's popular. Long term thinking is key.