When looking at the Raptors, everyone sees the same basic issues that need to be addressed this off-season. Picking players to fill them however is another story as everyone seems to take a different "kick at the can."
As mentioned, we entered this "playing GM competition," seeing major holes at point guard and center, a lack of defense and toughness, and some depth issues. To address them we made the following hypothetical moves:
We were prepared to deal the top pick to the New Orleans Hornets for the 12th and 15th picks. (We counted on the Hornets taking LaMarcus Aldridge or local sensation Tyrus Thomas with the top pick, pairing one of them with Chris Paul to build a solid, young foundation.) We would then have used the 12th pick on a big such as Patrick O'Bryant, Shelden Williams or even Cedric Simmons.
Following this move, we were prepared to deal the 15th pick and Eric Williams to Seattle for Earl Watson. It works cap wise, gives Seattle another pick to continue their youth movement and more cap flexibility when Rashard Lewis opts out. Watson would be a nice fit for our squad giving us a serious defensive upgrade at the 1 not to mention a pass-first experienced leader who would also be a nice contrast to backup Jose Calderon.
In the second round of the draft we were looking at players like Bobby Jones, Daniel Gibson, James White, Denham Brown, Leon Powe and Solomon Jones.
However the free agency part of the contest is where things got interesting.
Draft day trades addressed our point guard and centre needs to a certain extent however we still wanted some veteran help to lend experience and aid in our young coreâ€™s development. Bosh's extension wouldn't kick in until the following season and therefore we figured we were playing with approximately $16M for free-agency. So who should we target?
It should be noted that at the time, the Detroit Pistons were a game 6 loss away to the Miami Heat from having their entire roster minus Tayshaun Prince questioned and at the center of these questions, litteraly, was Ben Wallace.
Wallace really is the identity of the Pistons, an overachieving player due to his work ethic and determination, who seemed only weeks before, to be a lock to finish his career with Detroit. However with the impending early exodus of the Pistons from the NBA playoffs and the usually super-human Wallace looking quite "peasant-like," during these same playoffs, it no longer seemed a foregone conclusion.
Could it be that the Pistons would allow Wallace to walk this summer? They are seemingly caught between a rock and a hard place as Wallace (with new uber-agent Arn Tellem in tow) will probably be requesting a max offer in the $50-$60 million range over at least five years and while the Pistons can afford that, it's a steep price to pay for a 32 year-old undersized center with no offensive skills. No, Detroit will probably be looking to offer something in the $25 to $30 million range over three years but with teams like the Bulls, Hawks, Bobcats and yes, the Raptors (sounds weird doesn't it?) having enough cap space to make larger offers, will Wallace bolt?
We thought he might and therefore made him our top option in free-agency in our fantasy GM proposal. His signing would eat up most of Toronto's cap space but would address needs in terms of toughness, experience and leadership not to mention giving the Raptors the interior presence this franchise has never had.
His signing and the other moves we detailed would give us a roster looking somewhat like following assuming that we bring Uros Slokar over, do not re-sign Loren Woods or Andre Barrett, Alvin Williams still can not play and we bring Darrick Martin back in a similar role as last season:
PG: Earl Watson
SG: Morris Peterson
SF: Charlie Villanueva
PF: Chris Bosh
C: Ben Wallace
PG: Jose Calderon/Darrick Martin
SG: Bobby Jones(D)
SF: Joey Graham/ Matt Bonner
PF: Pape Sow/Uros Slokar(D)
C : Patrick Oâ€™Bryant, Rafael Araujo
D = Possible D League players
(Also, it sounds like Roko may want to come and join the party.)
Obviously with this line-up we will have improved Toronto's defence, interior presence, toughness and athleticism. We will have shored up the point guard and center spots without breaking the bank and would have created a team that could play in both half and full-court settings.
But would the Wallace signing be sacrificing the team's long-term plan for a quick short-term solution? As long as we could draft a big with upside like Patrick O'Bryant to grow under Wallace, we didn't feel this would be the case. Wallace would be a perfect role model for such a player and hopefully by the time O'Bryant was ready for the spotlight on his own, Wallace's contract would almost be up or at least be more tradeable.
Of course by now though readers are probably shouting "hold on, really the bottom line here is would Ben Wallace even want to play in Toronto?" Good question.
As mentioned the only other teams with the cap room to acquire Wallace are Chicago, Atlanta and Charlotte. Of the three, Wallace would probably want to play in Chicago more than the others based on their record and upside. But the Bulls have Tyson Chandler already, a younger taller version of Ben. In addition, they soon will have to re-up on several of the contracts of their young prospects, something they'll need significant cap space to do. Taking on Wallace at $50 or $60 million effectively kills that.
Atlanta desperately needs a center and some toughness and rebounding but would Wallace even consider playing for the Hawks? Sure money talks but we all know how difficult it's been for the Hawks to lure even mid-level free-agents to Atlanta...so why would Wallace at 32 decide he's had enough of playoff basketball?
The same is true for Charlotte who is probably still a few years away from being a good basketball club and with Emeka Okafor, a great defensive player in his own right and much better and younger offensive threat, it's doubtful that Charlotte would even consider making a run at Wallace.
So the Raps suddenly don't seem to be such a bad option. Teamed with Bosh, Peterson, Villanueva and some other young talent from this year's draft, Wallace would be back in the playoffs and would seemingly be a great fit with Sam Mitchell. The ball then really is in Detroit GM Joe Dumars' court to see what he decides to do. Rumours of sign-and-trades for Charlie Villanueva have been bandied about but it's highly unlikely Toronto would do this and unless Dumars plans on blowing up the Pistons, I'm not sure how CV Smooth fits on a team that already has Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess.
Now here's our question to you. Would you make a play for Ben Wallace this offseason considering his reliance on athletic ability at 32? And if so, what sort of money would you throw his way?
Here at the HQ we'd definitely consider Big Ben...but in all likelyhood it'll be Big Ben that has the final say in whether he'd even consider Toronto.