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CHALLENGE! The Blueprint

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INTRODUCTION:

One of the Raptorshq reader’s challenged the staff to look at today’s roster and play GM as a result of the article “An Off-Season of Addition by Subtraction”. We have accepted this challenge. No question some readers will question the following moves but, as we note in our “About Us” link, we are fans, not CBA experts, or elite basketball minds. With that waiver, let’s get it on because we have no qualms voicing our opinion on how the Raptors roster could be altered this off-season to help put a solid team on the floor this season while ensuring a bright future.

PRINCIPLES:

There are a few guiding principles behind the moves we are going to suggest. First and foremost, there will be no blockbuster trades that make no sense, like Bosh and Alston for Shaq and Wade. In fact, the trading of Bosh would be the only player on the roster that would merit the term “blockbuster”. We are not trading Bosh. Second, these moves have the future in mind. Does this team need to make the playoffs this year? You bet. This city supports this team but patience is wearing thin amongst those who buy the season seats and help keep MLSE revenues up. That being said, we will not sacrifice the future simply for making the second round of the playoffs. Third, we will stay in-line with the current philosophy of changing the atmosphere and make-up of this team for the better and creating a roster who will play the way Babcock and Mitchell want. Finally, there may be changes to the number of players allowed on the roster, but for now we will go with 12 active players and 3 on the IR.

BUY-OUTS:

Let’s end the team and Lamond’s misery. Buy him out. Fact of the matter is this team needs roster space and needs to get rid of guys that seem to bring down the moral of the team. Would we give him the full value of the last year of his contract? Absolutely not. But the franchise has shown it does have deep pockets with Zo’s buyout and this seems like a no-brainer.

We also recommend buying out Loren Woods as well. Luckily, it would be a lot less costly then Lamond. Loren will see few minutes this year and his value to the team, at this point, is limited. We realize it may seem steep to buy-out two players, in particular after the Alonzo fiasco but this team is on the right track and simple moves like this can help speed up the process.

MID-LEVEL:

Seems like everyone is sold that Matt Bonner and Pape Sow will split the mid level with the Red Rocket looking for around $3M. His long-lost twin Brian Scalabrine just got a big deal from the Celts for 5 years and $15M, and Bonner will likely ask for the same. The question that has to be asked is whether Bonner is worth such a deal and whether that $3M could be spent in “better” way. There is no question that the city loves this guy and he plays with heart. He can also shoot the lights out when open, but will his game develop any more than that? Unfortunately, Babcock will get killed in the press and by the fans if he doesn’t re-sign this guy, but we won’t. (We would love to have him back, and if he does come back great, but....) We overpaid for another fan favorite in JYD and we won’t let it happen again.

Instead, we would offer Juan Dixon a three year deal for $10M. A great energy guy off the bench that can score in bunches. While by no means a defensive stalwart due to his size, he would still be great to bring in behind Joey Graham at the two. It is hard to tell what the market will be for Dixon at this point but he will not demand the full-mid level as that amount is reserved for players with much more skill, i.e. Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Udonis Haslem.

Essentially, that leaves approximately $1.5M of the mid-level left for our favorite: Pape “Spiderman” Sow. He is playing in the summer league for us without a contract, appeared in front of the fans during the draft at the ACC, and is a work horse. This guys wants to play in Toronto and has all the athleticism in the world. He could develop into a beast. He challenges every shot. He may not become as good as Ben Wallace but, with his work ethic, he could be a great contributor to this team in the near future. Lock him up.

THE JALEN FACTOR:

There will be a new clause in the soon to be approved CBA that will help provide some relief to those teams who are over the salary cap and will likely have to pay the luxury tax. Players like Michael Finley, Allan Houston and others are likely to be introduced to this rule in a hurry. Essentially, the rule allows a team to release a player and not have that salary counted against the cap. However, the team is still responsible for paying that player's full salary.

The Raptors are over the cap and may be able to cut Jalen with this rule. There are rumours of this. But is a trade not possible? We think so and it should be no surprise where. NYC. We do not want to cut a player, still be responsible for paying him, and watch him play elsewhere.

As a result, trade Jalen to the Knicks for Penny Hardaway whose deal expires at the end of this season as opposed to next. This was rumoured a few times last year and many fans questioned the move. It was rumoured during the season, when fans still had hope that the team could contend in a weak Atlantic. That is all water under the bridge now. Make the deal. Is there a huge loss in production? Absolutely. That being said there is conflict between Jalen and other members of the Raps whose deals are longer and equally as difficult to deal. Further, if you have watched Jalen the past two years you may have noticed that he does not like to pass the ball to the younger guys. Well, that is a problem considering this Raps roster is full of young guys now. We love Jalen, love his antics, and love how he posts up younger players and makes them look foolish. We would love a championship ball team more. Hardaway has worn out his welcome in NY and we can deal with him for one year if it helps us, cap-wise.

TRADES:

This may be the hardest part. It is hard to figure out what other teams will and will not do. That being said we have one deal that does make sense both player wise, team needs wise, and cap wise.

To Toronto: Desmond Mason
To Milwaukee: Eric Williams, Aaron Williams

For Toronto, this accomplishes two things: (1) It moves two disgruntled players. (2) It provides the team with a hard nosed, Mitchell-like player, that gets to the free-throw line like it is nobody’s business (He was 17th in the NBA in FTA, and 15th in FTM). Mason is a solid player with a good offensive repertoire. He is also a physical specimen who can play quality D. By picking up Mason, the production lost from moving Rose is made up and the team continues to assemble athletic players.

From Milwaukee’s stand-point the deal also makes sense. Having just signed Bobby Simmons to a 5-year $47M contract to play SF and WAY TOO MUCH to re-sign Redd, Mason is relegated back to the bench, unlikely to be a move he takes lightly. The Bucks, much like the Raptors are also a young team and by adding a veteran like Eric Williams to the line-up they get a hard-nosed defender with decent offensive game. Williams could easily go back to his 12ppg ways once he goes back to the US and could be a really nice fit. Regardless of the selection of Bogut with the first pick, this team continues to have front-court issues with only Bogut, Joe Smith and Calvin Booth under contract (For the record that should only count for two roster spots). By adding Aaron Williams they can help fill their front -court need in the short term. By acquiring Aaron Williams and his expiring contract it alleviates some of the pressure to re-sign Dan Gadzuric and/or Zaza Pachulia and reduces the likelihood of overspending to do so.

OTHER MOVES:

There are two guys in particular that we here are Raptorshq would like to see. The first is the signing of Omar Cook. We are trying not to get too high on him based on his solid performances late last year, but even with tempered enthusiasm it is clear that this guy is growing as a player. Sam Mitchell has definitely taken note. The team seems dedicated to keeping three PG’s on the roster and so are we.

Second, sign Kevin Willis. We know he is old. We know he may have little left in the tank. We also know this team needs an experienced big man to show all these young guys how to play the C and/or PF position. This team need a front-court mentor. He will likely only want a one or two year deal for the veterans minimum. We would make him this offer. It is really too bad Alonzo did not want to play this role. We will take Willis instead, because these guys don’t need to be taught how the flex.

FINAL PRODUCT
:

So what does that leave us with?

PG: Rafer Alston, Roko-Leni Ukic, Omar Cook
SG: Joey Graham, Juan Dixon, Alvin Williams
SF: Desmon Mason, Morris Peterson, Penny Hardaway
PF: Chris Bosh, Charlie Villanueva
C: Pape Sow, Kevin Willis, Rafael Araujo

This is fourteen guys. It leaves one spot, maybe for a summer league guy that impresses (Uros Slokar??), or maybe for later on in the year but this is a solid opening day roster. Playoffs? We think it is a definite possibility. Who is the competition in the Atlantic?

Boston: This team is going crazy young, and may even move Paul Pierce. If they do there is no reason why we can’t have more wins then them, at least this year.

New Jersey: If the season started today, they would be our pick to win this division. The Antoine Wright selection in the draft is a little baffling but they have three All-stars and Krstic who is becoming a player. If Shareef signs here as rumoured they will be a tough team.

New York: This team is a mess, and will continue to be a mess. There are no excuses not to be ahead of them at the end of the year. Nate Robinson may be their only bright spot and their front court doesn’t even spark fear in Hoffa. They would have Jalen in our scenario which would be tough to see, but again there is no way they go .500.

Philadelphia: The wild card. It is very difficult to predict what sort of season they are in for considering Korver, Dalembert, and Green are all restricted free-agents and Chris Webber will be one year closer to Freedom 55. Iverson will continue to amaze, and Iguodala will be that much better, but the roster above would give them a run for their money.

Will this team win championships? Not right away, but it would definitely be the best looking Raptors team in years and, with a few years together, could develop into a force, in particular with a possible addition with cap space next year.