The Toronto Raptors go into this off-season for the first time in years with great anticipation. There is a great deal of cap space, a high pick and a young and talented nucleous. So if the HQ were to be GM here's the plan. In the words of Bill Walton, weâ€™ll attempt to show â€œmental clarityâ€ as we outline the moves we would make in the 2006 off-season.
In the off-season you have to address team needs. Weâ€™ve got a proven low-post scorer at the power-forward position in Chris Bosh. His public declaration of his intent to sign an extension as soon as the free-agent signing period begins is a load off our shoulders once the ink dries. We have an underrated SG in Morris Peterson who is our best defender. We currently have First Rookie team member Charlie Villanueva at the small forward. We will continue to evaluate if he can excel at this position as he has shown promise. This leaves us with needs at both center and point guard and, with the leagues second worst defense, we need some defensive-minded players. One thing is for sure, we want a team that can run. Here's how we'll address our needs.
We still wonâ€™t know where weâ€™ll be picking in the draft until the lottery the week after next but as it stands weâ€™re in a dilemma. We simply donâ€™t feel that thereâ€™s a player available in the top five picks who really addresses our needs. Weâ€™ll be looking to trade our pick (see below) even if we do land a top three spot. If we canâ€™t work out a deal, the two players who interest us the most are Brandon Roy and Rudy Gay as they are likely to be the "best available players." Roy could be a solid back-up for Morris Peterson and is maybe the draftâ€™s best individual defender. Gay is more of an â€œupside pickâ€ as an athletic swingman who can create his own shot. There have however been questions concerning his drive. Regardless, we try to move the pick.
Shot-blocking center Solomon Jones, fiery point guard Terrell Everett, scorer Daniel Gibson, stopper Bobby Jones and athletic scorers Leon Powe and Hassan Adams will be the players weâ€™ll be targeting in the second round of the draft with our 35th and 56th picks. All would possibly fill various needs. Local sensation and UConn grad Denham Brown will also get a look in the second round.
At #35: Terrell Everett
At #58: Solomon Jones
Our draft should give us some additional depthâ€¦but we still need to fill those starting center and point guard positions. Bosh will still be playing under his rookie contract next season, so weâ€™ll have ($14-16 million) to use on the free agent market. There arenâ€™t a ton of players who pique our interest but we want to address the PG and C issues through the free agent market.
Mike James had a great year for us but we expect his contract demands to be too high for our liking. We would offer him 3-years at 15 million. If he turns it down (likely considering he wants between $6-$8M per) then welcome to Toronto Marcus Banks. Banks has decent size, has improved his shot, and would be a ying to backup Jose Calderon's yang. Banks says he is looking for a 5 year $29 million, but would settle for a 4 year $17 million. We start negotiations with the latter. He would be a nice fit in our run and gun style, could play some 2, and is a better defensive option than most other players available.
At center, our top target would be Nene. If our medical team deems his recovering knee ok to go, then we would make an attempt to sign Nene as our center of the future. Even with Melo campaigning for his return, now that Kiki is out there is a smaller chance of him re-signing. Provided our doctors give the green light, we would anti-up. Nene would command a salary in the $8M-$10M range. Everyone knows you pay big or bigs. Just ask the Knicks, 76ers and Bulls.
If we miss out our second target is Michael Olowokandi. Though much dogged for his lack of fire he won't demand much loot and would have a chance at rebuilding his career with a player friendly coach in Sam Mitchell.
Because the free-agent market is slim these are the only two guys who we would focus on. We will not spend money on guys just to spend money and next season's free-agent class is much more intriguing.
As mentioned above we want to move our pick. The target? Corey Maggette. As reported the Clips are looking to move him for a high pick and some cap relief. We have both to offer in the high pick and Eric Williams who has one year left (an option he will exercise). It's a simple deal, works cap wise and is almost too easy:
G/SF: Corey Maggette
A #1 pick 2006 draft
SF: Eric Williams
The Clips would like to move the contract in order to help re-sign Cassell and Rad-man. Injury problems are a concern but Maggette would be a nice fit at the 3 enabling us to use Villanueva off the bench in a sixth man role. When we go big he could play the 3 or if we want a smaller lineup he could be used at the 4 or even 5 in a Boris Diaw-style pivot role. Villanueva at 6-11 is one of our best passers which gives us a great deal of options. Maggette's scoring, athleticsm, intensity and defense would be a welcome addition at the small forward position.
Bringing Roko Leni-Ukic and Uros Slokar (the Raps second-rounders last year) over for summer league play is a must. Ukic has been solid in Euroleague play but won't be brought over for good until next season when he can opt out of his contract with Tau Ceramica. We would however find a spot for Uros in the D league where he can get more consistent minutes and develop his game in the North American setting. If he played well we would bring him up.
The Rafael Araujo experiment has been a disaster. We would shop him heavily and would consider anything in return but if necessary we would buy him out to create roster space.
The 06-07 Raptors starting lineup would therefore look like this:
PG: Jose Calderon, Everett
SG: Joey Graham
SF: Charlie Villanueva
PF: Matt Bonner
C : Pape Sow, Salomon Jones
D-League: Uros Slokar
If you look at this team it is filled with athletes who can play multiple positions. We will have improved our defence, and brought in some good young players with experience be it from reputable college programs or overseas exposure. This team could play any type of ball, from grind it out to run-and-gun and could easily compete for a play-off spot in the East.
It would also allow us to play players such as Matt Bonner in the roles they should be playing (seventh or eigth man off the bench) while continuing to develop our younger talent. Obviously from our roster moves we'd be bidding adieu to Loren Woods and Andre Barrett and going with the 12 active players above. And with Terrell Everett being groomed, Darrick Martin would no longer be playing the third point guard role. We would however offer him a position with the coaching staff due to the success of his rapport with the other players last season. The last three inactive roster spots would be used for D League players that we were bringing up and down and Alvin Williams, who will once again be a "wait and see" situation. The hope would be that he could play a Darrick Martin type "spot minutes" role for the club but we drafted Everett given the possibility that Alvin may never play again. In fact we may decide to waive Alvin as a player and keep him in a visible community-type role given his history with the franchise. This will be dependant on training camp and early season evaluations, both medical and on-court and Alvin's own decision as to whether he wishes to keep persuing his playing career with another club if waived.
And finally, Sam Mitchell. With the additions we've made, we would expect this club to compete for not just a playoff spot, but barring any unforseen injuries, this team should be able to push for a fourth or fifth place finish in the "dreaded" Eastern Conference. Therefore if the team stumbles out of the gate, we will be very quick to re-evaluate our head coaching position. One of the key factors in a decision to replace Mitchell will be on the defensive end. We're not asking for the Detroit Pistons, but if the team is still regularly allowing opponents to shoot almost 50 per cent from the field, changes will be forthcoming. Among those coaches we will be keeping an eye on; Rick Adelman and Eric Musselman.
The HQ Team