In his RaptorsHQ debut, Scott Campsall looks at the dilemma facing Bryan Colangelo both this shortened off-season and next...
When the offseason finally begins December 9th Bryan Colangelo, Ed Stafanski and company are going to have their work cut out for them.
The Raptors currently have 10 players under contract for the 2011-2012 season, which leaves at least three roster spots to fill. The Raptors will also have to replace forward Linas Kleiza who will most likely be injured for the bulk of the upcoming season.
According to reports, the salary cap for this season will be set at $58 million. The Raptors should have a total team salary, including cap holds, of about $50.6 million, leaving them just over $7 million in salary cap space with which to pursue free agents and trade possibilities. This number could be higher depending on the type of cap relief the Raptors receive from the league for the injured Kleiza.
This may seem as though the Raptors are in a good position to make some improvements, however the Dinos have a number of troubled positions which will make finding the right moves to make a little more challenging.
At the small forward position the Raptors have some definite questions marks. As mentioned above, Mr. Kleiza is likely out for the year, however he is still under contract until the 2013-2014 season, unless the Raptors choose to use the amnesty clause on him. Sonny Weems is another player that could further cloud the Raptors long term picture at this position. Sonny will be unable to play in the NBA for the upcoming season because he does not have an NBA out clause in his contract with Zalgiris Kuanas, but may still be in the club's future plans. If the Raptors decide that one, or both of these players are in their long term plans, than acquiring a player with a long term contract at that spot is extremely unlikely.
Similarly, at center, the Raptors have Jonas Valanciunas stashed away in Europe this season. If BC believes that Jonas is as good as he has been telling us he is, I can't see the Raptors making a significant offer to free agent centers like Marc Gasol or Tyson Chandler. However, the center position is a glaring hole for the team, and acquiring a defensive anchor is a necessity at this point. This is where we will see exactly how creative Colangelo can be, and if he can bring in a defensive presence on a short term contract.
The Raps seem to be set at shooting guard and power forward, with Demar DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani holding down the starting spots, regardless of how you may feel about these options, and Leandro Barbosa, Amir Johnson and Ed Davis emerging as key contributors off the bench. Even in the event that the Raptors choose to move Bargnani, Davis seems poised to fill in that starting power forward spot where he will bring defense and rebounding, both of which the team desperately needs. Amir Johnson is another interesting player at this position. When the Raptors bring over JV there may not be sufficient minutes for all of those bigs. Sooner or later this situation will need to be addressed, and in all likelihood it will end with one of those power forwards being moved.
Finally, the point guard spot is, and has always been a troubled position for the Raps. Bayless showed promise as a starter late last season, and proved to be a defensive upgrade over Jose Calderon; however, Calderon is making far too much money for a backup and has proved he can be a competent starter on the offensive end of the floor. Although Calderon is an amnesty candidate, I would hazard to guess that BC believes he could get some value out of Jose in a trade, especially to a contending club like the Heat, looking for help at the 1, and isn't willing to simply cut him loose. Eventually, a decision is going to have to be made to solve the point guard problem; in the meantime however, I fear that Raptor fans may be in for another season of point guard by committee.
If Colangelo chooses to plug up the remaining roster spots with short term contracts and save his flexibility for next season, where there will be even more cap space and an even better free agent crop, he will be effectively sacrificing success this season for a better draft pick and possible long term success in the future. On the other hand, if he chooses to go after a big name or two, and uses up that flexibility in the process, he could be sacrificing the future of the team for a few extra wins this season.
Building a winning team from the ground up is not an easy task. This is something Colangelo can attest to; although he has shown the ability to quickly improve the fortunes of his teams, he has been unable to build a sustainable winner and seems to always be looking for a quick fix.
No matter what moves the Raptors' brain trust chooses to make, it is clear that they have some big long term decisions awaiting them. The next few moves they make could go a long way in determining both the future of this team, and the future of Bryan Colangelo.