It’s a happy off-season so far for Jose Calderon.
His Spanish counterparts took the EuroCup yesterday and he’s poised for what should be a big pay raise from the Raptors.
However while the pay for Jose should go up, this of course means that so should Toronto’s payroll. For a club already approaching luxury tax range, Bryan Colangelo may have to get very creative when looking to fill out the remaining roster spots on the team. One of our readers from Spain suggested that Colangelo may dip into the overseas market again for some help and that’s indeed possible. Some free agent camp invitees to fill out the last spots on the bench is also quite feasible.
BC will have to act fast however as some of those participated in last weekend’s camp are already being snatched up. John Lucas Jr. is reportedly signing with the Timberwolves for next season and we’ve already reported how others like Rod Benson will be participating with other clubs’ this summer in the Vegas League.
On top of this as we’ve recently discussed, there are still some major holes in the 8 to 10 spots on the bench, spots that could be very important if injuries arise.
Post-draft, I looked at breaking down the financial situation for the Raptors based on my best guestimates but Saturday in the Toronto Star, Doug Smith did an even more accurate job of looking at spending room for the 2008-09 season. His cap and luxury tax prediction and came in a bit higher than mine, but the space he predicted the Raptors will have to work with is about the same as what I worked out, meaning about $5 Million and change. Can Toronto keep Carlos Delfino and still add a back-up point guard and big man? Highly doubtful. Then what positions should they tackle first?
We’ve updated our poll question on the site and it deals with this very issue; what should Toronto’s priority be in terms of free agent spending?
I personally think the back-up point guard spot is tops on the list and that’s where the bulk of the money should go. However as this blurb from Newsday articulates, at first glance there aren’t a lot of options out there, be they free agent backups or not:
The most effective of the realistic second-tier options, ranked in order of their per-minute efficiency ratings devised by ESPN.com's John Hollinger, are: Jordan Farmar (Lakers), Kyle Lowry (Memphis), Raymond Felton (Charlotte), Chris Quinn (Miami), Roger Mason (Washington), Beno Udrih (Sacramento), Kirk Hinrich (Chicago), Anthony Carter (Denver), Jason Williams (Miami), Jamaal Tinsley (Indiana), Steve Blake (Portland), Janerro Pargo (New Orleans), Luke Ridnour (Seattle) and Marcus Williams (New Jersey).
Of those, only five had at least a 3-1 assist-to-turnover ratio per possession: Blake (3.64), Jason Williams (3.35), Quinn (3.22), Carter (3.12) and Ridnour (3.01).
From this list, the player that interests me the most is Kyle Lowry. Despite being undersized he’s a rugged defender, great at getting to the rim, and at under $2 Million per, is not exorbitantly priced. Prior to the draft, Howland and I were throwing around scenarios whereby Toronto could acquire Lowry, possibly by even taking on Brian Cardinal’s over-priced deal. However with Memphis’ draft-day dealings to Minnesota, things are a lot trickier.
Yes, Memphis now has an even bigger glut of point guard options (Conley Jr., Crittenton, Lowry and now Marko Jaric) but the Raptors don’t have much in terms of expiring contracts or prospects that a rebuilding Grizzlies squad would want.
And frankly, who the hell knows what Memphis would want!!
For a while this team looked to be cleaning house of contracts and starting from scratch. Yet late on draft night they ended up taking on the contracts of Greg Buckner, Antoine Walker and Jaric, three of the top 10 worst deals in the league! Yeah they have some nice pieces in Mayo, Gay, Conley Jr, and Arthur, but what gives?
Would Toronto get desperate enough to deal next year’s first round pick (which could be in the 20’s if the team meets expectations next year) to get Lowry? Perhaps Graham and the pick for Lowry? Or what about taking on a contract like that of Greg Buckner for Lowry? Toronto could possibly sign a free-agent that Memphis covets in order to agree to deal him and Graham for Lowry and Buckner. As it stands, that’s really the only option as Toronto doesn’t have much in terms of salaries that match on their current roster. And those match-able ones like Bargnani, I hardly think the Raptors want to move at this point in time.
So if not Lowry, then who? In fact, who in general would we like to see the Raptors make a run at in free agency.
To tackle that question, RaptorsHQ brings you its team-by-team breakdown of who’s available and who might be a good fit for next year’s club:
Restricted: Josh Childress, Jeremy Richardson, Josh Smith, Salim Stoudamire, Mario West
Verdict: Smith is out of Toronto’s price-range and Childress probably is now too with the JO deal. The rest of the players aren’t worth taking a flyer on.
Restricted: Tony Allen
Unrestricted: P.J. Brown, Sam Cassell, Eddie House, Scot Pollard, James Posey
Limited Salary Protection: Leon Powe (no salary protection if waived on or before 7/15/08, thereafter full)
Verdict: For starters, Brown, Cassell and Pollard aren’t much interest, mostly because they all could retire next year. And I’m not sure Tony Allen is worth half of your mid-level exception, but he could be a nice defensive presence off the bench.
Leon Powe is the player I’d love to see in Raptor-red next year, but it sounds like both he and House will be retained by the C’s.
As for Posey, he’s someone I heard Sam Mitchell mention during the free-agent camp however with the recent Jermaine O’Neal trade, it’s highly unlikely Toronto will be able to afford him, even if they used their entire mid-level exception.
Restricted: Ryan Hollins, Emeka Okafor
Unrestricted: Derek Anderson, Earl Boykins, Othella Harrington (T)
Verdict: Okafor is no longer of need not to mention out of Toronto’s price-range. Early Boykins might make some sense of the Raptors get really desperate but they can probably find better options elsewhere. I liked Hollins coming out of college but right now he’s hardly the answer in free-agency.
Restricted: Luol Deng, Demetris Nichols, Ben Gordon
Unrestricted: Shannon Brown, Chris Duhon
Verdict: Not everyone is a fan but I still think Chris Duhon is the best free-agent back-up option for Toronto in terms of value. He’s a solid defender, pass-first point guard, and needs a change of scenery after the mess in Chicago.
Nichols is one of those sleeper picks who could come off the bench for the Raptors and give the team some scoring. He was stuck on the bench during his rookie year but might be worth a look.
Obviously Deng and Gordon are good players but the reality is that barring some financial miracle, neither will be options for the Raptors. As for Shannon Brown, he’s worth a summer-league invite but no more at this point.
Restricted: Daniel Gibson, Dwayne Jones, Delonte West
Unrestricted: Devin Brown
Verdict: Considering Cleveland’s point guard issues at present, barring a trade for an established 1, I’m not sure how they can let Gibson or West get away. On top of this, while both might be interesting back-ups to Jose as changes of pace, I’m not sure Toronto can afford either and still fill others spots.
Restricted: Jose Juan Barea
Unrestricted: Malik Allen, Devean George, Eddie Jones (P), Juwan Howard, Tyronn Lue, Jamaal Magloire, Antoine Wright
Limited Salary Protection: Brandon Bass (no salary protection if waived on or before 10/1/08, thereafter full)
Verdict: Now Barea is an interesting option. He’s not a great defender, and is perhaps too similar to Jose (pass-first, jump-shooting point guard), but he would definitely be able to run the team off the bench and be a cheaper option than most. As for the rest of the gaggle of expiring deals, perhaps Tyronn Lue is an option (although he’s definitely no favourite of Howland or I) and Antoine Wright could be a nice 8 or 9 man. (In fact signing him would mean that we’d have two of the top underachievers from the 2005 draft, Graham and Wright.) And is Toronto in that position yet where they could have Eddie Jones as a veteran presence off the bench?
The guy who really interests me on this list is Brandon Bass but there’s no way Dallas will let him go anywhere.
Restricted: Yakhouba Diawara, J.R. Smith
Unrestricted: Anthony Carter, Eduardo Najera
Limited Salary Protection: Bobby Jones (no salary protection if waived on or before 8/15/08, therafter full), Taurean Green (no salary protection if waived on or before 8/1/08, thereafter full)
Verdict: Denver is one of the most interesting clubs to me in terms of finding some missing pieces. First of all, a number of the names on the list above might be good fits in Toronto. Second, Denver is so cash-strapped right now that they recently sold their first-round pick and simply won’t be able to afford to keep all of the above.
So who tops my list? Talent-wise, it would have to be Smith, an athletic slasher who can fill it up with the best of them in the league. The problem is, he knows this and may want a lot more than what Toronto can offer, both in terms of salary and minutes. Najera is probably a bit pricey as well. However Diawara and Jones are both solid defenders who probably could be had for cheap and Taurean Green might be an interesting point-guard project. He’s no back-up yet for Jose, but as a third-stringer, he’s more talented than many of the recent players Toronto had at free-agent camp.
Restricted: Alex Acker, Walter Herrmann
Unrestricted: Juan Dixon, Jarvis Hayes, Lindsey Hunter, Theo Ratliff
Verdict: Obviously we want Juan Dixon back.
Actually, the player who I think would make a ton of sense from Detroit is not Dixon, but Walter Herrmann. Hermann made just under $2 Million last year and is probably itching for a chance to just get on the court. He can shoot it from inside and out, is a tough, hard-nosed type, and provided he doesn’t receive a more lucrative offer from overseas, would be one of my top choices come Tuesday if I was BC.
As for the rest? Well Ratliff’s shot-blocking ability would be intriguing however his health is always even more questionable than O’Neal’s. And for a guy who was supposed to come off the bench and shoot 3’s, Jarvis Hayes didn’t do a great job in the playoffs and barely played. I’ll pass on Hayes and the rest but a one year-tender to Ratliff (he made under $200,000 last year so might be available for relatively cheap), and a 2-year deal to Herrmann at about $2 Million per could fill things out for the Raps without breaking the bank.
Golden State Warriors
Restricted: Kelenna Azubuike, Andris Biedrins, Monta Ellis
Unrestricted: Matt Barnes, Austin Croshere, Baron Davis (ETO), Patrick O'Bryant, Mickael Pietrus
Limited Salary Protection: C.J. Watson (no salary protection if waived on or before 7/25/08, thereafter will increase to $100,000)
Verdict: Now this is THE team for Colangelo to look at in my opinion. Unless Baron Davis goes elsewhere, there’s no way Chris Mullin and co. can pay all of these guys. Ellis and Biedrins will both command top dollar so Barnes, Pietrus, and Azubuike may have to ply their trades elsewhere. Each of these three would give Toronto a nice boost of athleticism off the bench and provide the grit and toughness the club has lacked in recent years.
Of the three, Pietrus will probably be the most expensive considering he made almost $3.5 Million last year. He’ll probably be looking for a similar amount which would use up most of Toronto’s mid-level exception. Barnes made $3 Million so is a better possibility financially and Azubuike tops them all having made less than $700,000. He’s due for a nice raise but even as a restricted agent if the Raptors could get him at around $2 Million, I think it would be a great value.
Also of perhaps some interest, shot-blocking center Patrick O’Bryant who’s been nothing but a bust since he was drafted. BC may at least want to get a closer look at him this summer in Vegas.
Restricted: Carl Landry, Steve Novak (T)
Unrestricted: Dikembe Mutombo
Verdict: Nothing here as Landry will no doubt be retained after his breakthrough year last season, and Mount Mutombo will probably stay in Houston if he doesn’t retire.
Just say no to Novak.
Restricted: David Harrison, Andre Owens
Unrestricted: Flip Murray, Kareem Rush
Verdict: No thanks here either. Rush and Murray might be worth a look if Toronto gets really desperate for a back-up to Jose. Both can play the 1 a bit as combo-guards but neither have me doing back-flips exactly.
Los Angeles Clippers
Restricted: Paul Davis, Nick Fazekas, Shaun Livingston, Marcus Williams
Unrestricted: Elton Brand (ETO), Dan Dickau, Corey Maggette (ETO), Smush Parker, Quinton Ross
Verdict: Anything of interest here? Well besides guys we can’t afford if they do leave (Maggette, Brand), the rest should probably be out of the league next year with the exception of Ross and Livingston. I mentioned Livingston yesterday as an idea but I think LA will probably try and keep him for cheap, even after letting him become an unrestricted free agent.
However Ross is someone I’d like to see Colangelo take a look at. He made under $1 Million last year, can play the 2 and 3 a bit, and is a terrific perimeter defender. Send him out with Jamario on the second unit and we may be able to get away with Bargnani floating around at the 4 or 5 spot…
Los Angeles Lakers
Restricted: DJ Mbenga, Ronny Turiaf, Sasha Vujacic
Unrestricted: Ira Newble
Verdict: Nothing here either. Mbenga might be a desperation heave in terms of a back-up for O’Neal but Turiaf and Vujacic will no doubt be re-signed after playing key parts in LA’s playoff run. In fact, the more I read about our second round pick Jawai, the more I hope he becomes a Ronny Turiaf type banger and defender down low. We shall see…
Restricted: Andre Brown, Juan Carlos Navarro
Unrestricted: Kwame Brown, Casey Jacobsen
Verdict: How quickly can you say "next team please." Kwame might provide good value for his size considering it might be his last contract ever…but he’d probably also drive Sam Mitchell off the deep end. The only guy on this team worth a hard look is Lowry as we already discussed, and he’s not a free agent.
Restricted: Blake Ahearn, Chris Quinn, Kasib Powell, Dorell Wright
Unrestricted: Earl Barron, Ricky Davis, Shawn Marion (ETO), Alonzo Mourning, Jason Williams
Limited Salary Protection: Joel Anthony (no salary protection if waived on or before 7/25/08, thereafter full), Stephane Lasme (salary protection of $100,000 will increase to $300,000 if not waived on or before 7/22/08, to $400,000 if not waived on or before 9/16/08 and to full if not waived on or before 10/26/08)
Verdict: Interestingly, Anthony was at Harbour Sports Grille during our NBA Draft bash and commented on my K State Beasley jersey. Think I should have put in the word for Bryan Colangelo then?
Jokes aside, Anthony, an uber-athletic big-man who could help Toronto off the bench for cheap. It sounds like the Heat will keep him around and so besides Dorell Wright, who will probably be too expensive at about $3 Million plus next year, the rest aren’t worth a second look. Yes, that includes Ricky Davis, Alonzo Mourning and Jason Williams.
And PLEASE, no Chris Quinn!
Restricted: Ersan Ilyasova, Awvee Storey (T)
Unrestricted: Royal Ivey, Michael Ruffin, Jake Voskuhl
Limited Salary Protection: Ramon Sessions (no salary protection if waived on or before 7/1/08, thereafter full)
Verdict: I like Sessions, but I’m not sure I’m ready to turn the reigns over to him as our back-up point guard. He could use some more seasoning, not to mention a jump shot, and the rest of these guys will probably be out of the league next year. Next!
Restricted: Ryan Gomes, Craig Smith, Chris Richard, Kirk Snyder, Sebastian Telfair
Unrestricted: Michael Doleac
Verdict: The T-Wolves seem to have half their team in "free agent" status and admittedly, there are a few guys here worth a look. Ryan Gomes made under $1 Million last year yet is the type of do-it-all hustle player that might be a nice option as an 8th or 9th guy off the bench for Toronto. There’s a good chance Minny keeps him around but if not, he’s someone I’d take a look at if I were in BC’s shoes.
Craig Smith is another underutilized talent and while he’s not starting material, he’s an upgrade over Kris Humphries behind Bosh. He however is another candidate to be kept around by McHale and co. As for the rest…well we already have Kirk Snyder 2.0 in Joey Graham, and Telfair, Richard and Doleac have little to offer.
New Jersey Nets
Restricted: Nenad Krstic
Unrestricted: Darrell Armstrong, DeSagana Diop, Bostjan Nachbar, Stromile Swift (P)
Limited Salary Protection: Keith Van Horn (no salary protection)
Verdict: The Nets have on particular player I’d love to see Toronto make a run at in Desagana Diop. He made a little over $2 Million last year and is probably due for a slight raise but I can’t help but think of how he’d be the perfect back-up at the 5 for the Raps. He’s no offensive juggernaut, but as a great shot-blocker, rebounder and defender, is good enough that even if O’Neal was lost for the year he could step in and start next to CB4.
The problem is that it sounds like he’s already strongly considering a return to the Mavericks next season. However if BC can someone persuade him that the grass is greener up North, I can’t think of a better insurance policy off the bench for the Raps.
Moving on through the list, Stromile Swift’s athleticism would be an asset but he’d probably suffer a horrible death at the hands of Sam Mitchell before Toronto got through their first practice.
And Nachbar, and Armstrong don’t do much for me either.
However Nenad Krstic might be an interesting idea. Considering that New Jersey went big in the draft and already have Josh Boone and Sean Williams up front, maybe they don’t match an offer by Toronto.
New Orleans Hornets
Unrestricted: Chris Andersen, Ryan Bowen, Melvin Ely (P), Jannero Pargo, Bonzi Wells
Verdict: I’ll pass on all except Andersen who’s size and athletic ability off the bench would be a major asset. The "Birdman" would probably come quite cheap too and his off-court hobbies would fit nicely with the Queen West scene here in Toronto!
New York Knicks
Restricted: Randolph Morris
Unrestricted: Fred Jones
Restricted: James Augustine
Unrestricted: Carlos Arroyo, Keith Bogans (P), Keyon Dooling, Maurice Evans, Adonal Foyle, Pat Garrity
Limited Salary Protection: Marcin Gortat (salary protection for $177,879 will increase to full if not waived on or before 7/31/08)
Verdict: Orlando is another intriguing club along the lines of Denver and G State. Here we have another nearly maxed out team to take advantage of starting with Keyon Dooling. Dooling is a solid defender and scorer in the combo-guard mould and would represent an interesting change of pace from Jose. The problem is that he made nearly $5 Million last year so is most likely out of the Raptors’ price-range.
Carlos Arroyo would be a cheaper option but considering his erratic style of play, probably isn’t the answer for the Raps backing up the 1.
However outside of the point guard position, both Keith Bogans and Maurice Evans are interesting. Both are solid defenders, especially Evans, hard workers, can hit the long range shot, and neither made more than $2.5 Million last year. That means the Raptors could afford one of them to fill that eight or ninth man role and still have money to work with for "bigs" and point guards.
Restricted: Louis Amundson, Herbert Hill, Andre Iguodala, Shavlik Randolph, Louis Williams
Unrestricted: Kevin Ollie
Verdict: Check out this motley crew. Kevin Ollie anyone? Obviously Andre Iguoldala and Louis Williams are staying put so is there anyone else here of interest?
I’m going to say no…and that’s coming from a Blue Devil fan who thought Shavlik Randolph got a raw deal at Duke.
Unrestricted: Gordan Giricek, Linton Johnson, Sean Marks, Eric Piatkowski, Brian Skinner
Limited Salary Protection: D.J. Strawberry (no salary protection, but will increase to $200,000 if not waived on or before 10/31/08)
Verdict: Once again, not much here. I like Strawberry as a third-stringer, and Skinner might make some sense if Toronto didn’t have and the new Aussie…but other than that, it’s slim pickins’.
Portland Trail Blazers
Restricted: Von Wafer
Unrestricted: James Jones
Verdict: Portland has little in the way of free agents to offer this year but that just means all their talent is going to come due at once. Good thing they have an owner willing to spend, spend, spend.
Some people are high on James Jones but considering his potential price tag and the fact that he does what Toronto already has in bushels, not sure going after him makes much sense.
Unrestricted: Ron Artest (ETO), Kenny Thomas (ETO), Beno Udrih, Anthony Johnson, Lorenzen Wright
Verdict: Who knows what Ron Ron’s thinking this off-season and there’s no way in hell Thomas opts out of his deal early. That leaves Urih, Johnson and Wright. I can’t see any being a real option for Toronto as even though Udrih on paper makes some sense, he’ll probably be too expensive for the Raptors.
San Antonio Spurs
Unrestricted: Brent Barry (P), Michael Finley, Robert Horry, DerMarr Johnson, Damon Stoudamire, Kurt Thomas, Jacque Vaughn (P)
Verdict: Empty out the retirement home! Are you kidding me? Look at these names! I didn’t even know they had the rights to DerMarr Johnson last year!
I think SA will probably keep Barry, Horry and Thomas around and possibly Jacque Vaughn as well. If not, he might be a cheap option as a good on-court leader and defender. Damon looked terribly old when he did play last year so it’s probably a good thing the Raptors didn’t end up acquiring him last season.
But what about Michael Finley? Fin still has some game left in him and if San Antonio is looking for younger legs, may let him walk. Like Eddie Jones, could Finley’s veteran presence off the bench be had at a reasonable price? And would he actually venture up North?
Restricted: Mickael Gelabale, Robert Swift
Unrestricted: Ronald Dupree, Francisco Elson
Limited Salary Protection: Adrian Griffin
Verdict: I think I hear more crickets. Swift and Elson are both bigs that could be bench fodder for the Raptors but I doubt there’s much interest from BC and co. Of this list, Gelabale is probably the only one worth taking a flyer on. He’s still learning the NBA game and might become a decent scorer off the bench for a club.
Restricted: C.J. Miles, Paul Millsap (T)
Verdict: I think we’ll skip over this one quickly too as overtures have already been made by the Jazz to both Miles and Millsap.
Unrestricted: Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison, Roger Mason
Verdict: Some big names in this one but the only realistic option for the Raptors is Roger Mason Jr. Mason is not the most skilled player in the league, nor is he a true point guard, but you could do worse given the price it would probably take to acquire him. On top of this, he’s a solid defender and someone who is already familiar with Toronto.
So after all of that, what conclusions can we draw?
On my side of the fence, the list really shows that there’s not a lot out there for Toronto in terms of talent and of course many teams will be vying for these same players’ services.
For me then, it comes down to targeting certain key players who Colangelo and co. think are obtainable and going after them full force. That’s what BC did in his previous two seasons winning out on Kapono and various others.
Who are these players?
Well let’s take one more look at the projected roster (assuming a re-signed Jose and that Jawai and Ukic come over this fall) first before we start filling in the cracks.
PG: Calderon, Ukic
SG: Parker, Graham
SF: Kapono, Moon
PF: Bosh, Humphries, Jawai
C: O’Neal, Bargnani
The positions aren’t necessarily exact but you get the idea.
With 11 spots now filled, Toronto probably needs about three more solid acquisitions considering that Jawai, Graham and Ukic won’t see much action in all likelyhood.
Assuming we’ve got about $5 Million to work with, I think you’ve got three main options if you’re BC:
1) Get Your Backup. You spend the bulk of your cash on your point guard position by grabbing someone like Chris Duhon or Keyon Dooling. Then you use the remaining amount to fill in the rest of the missing pieces including grabbing a cheaper big man like Chris Anderson.
2) Go Big! You spend the bulk of your cash on the back-up center position as you’re worried about Jermaine O’Neal’s health. Therefore you throw about $4 Million or more at Diop and hope that he’s not that fixated on Dallas. Then you sign a cheaper point guard like Barea and fill out the rest of your roster from there.
3) Mix and Match. You try to split things up evenly between spots. Therefore maybe you can spend about $1 Million and a half for a back-up point guard like Roger Mason Jr, about that much for a back-up center like Michael Doleac, and grab a solid wing such as Walter Hermann or Maurice Evans to complete the deal.
Of note, you'll notice that Carlos Delfino isn't discussed as an option. I'd gladly take Count Chocula back but considering the salary he'll probably command, it just doesn't look financially feasible at this point in time. His position isn't of the most immediate need to be filled either so if it were me, I think I’d lean towards option 1 here. Having a solid back-up point guard is the most important task now for BC in my opinion, even moreso than a back-up big man. If O’Neal gets hurt, Bosh or Andrea can always play the 5 spot. It’s not ideal, but it’s not nearly as drastic a fall-off as Jose to…well...as of now, no one.
So in my ideal situation, I’d try and grab Duhon, Anderson and Azubuike. Like I mentioned earlier, I'd love to get Diop and build from there up I just don't think he'll stay in the East or take a potential pay cut to join TO. The first scenario would probably take up the majority of my $5 Million and would give Toronto the following roster heading into the 2008-09 season.
Calderon, Parker, Kapono, Bosh, and O’Neal.
Bench (in order of appearance.):
Bargnani, Duhon, Moon, Azubuike, Anderson, Humphries, Graham, Ukic, Jawai.
That’s not a bad little mix and one that would give Sam Mitchell plenty of options.
In addition, that would leave one open roster spot for any free-agent camp signees or Summer League success stories. (Tomorrow we’ll get into some of players who weren’t drafted last week who could very well fit this last mould.)
The hope of course is that Toronto never needs to use this sort of depth much next season but who knows considering O’Neal’s history of health.
If he comes to camp stronger than ever and makes it through the season, great stuff.
If not, we better have a Birdman or two stashed away on the bench.