Well folks it is now officially summer. How do we know? The Raps have just completed their first week of work-outs and now we sit and wait for the second batch of draft prospects to make their way north of the border. That and it’s the first scorcher of a weekend in Toronto.
There is a great deal of anticipation and excitement this time of year. Not only are basketball fans in for what looks to be a historic NBA Finals, but the Draft is coming up and so is the free-agent period. The rumours are swirling and this is the only time of year when every fan is entitled to a sense of optimism.
There are some big names being bandied about in the press in terms of trades and free-agency including Jermaine O’Neal, Dwyane Wade, Kirk Hinrich, Corey Maggette, Baron Davis, Gilbert Arenas and Elton Brand just to name a few. Oh, and there is plenty of talk concerning the Toronto Raptors very own TJ Ford.
The only problem with this time of year is it’s impossible to decipher what is true and what isn’t and many people get crazy trade ideas in their head like "Let’s trade Bargnani and Parker for T-Mac and Yao!" As a fan, it’s easy to let one’s imagination run amok this time of year.
Over the past week I have tried to avoid the rumours and really think about where the Raps are as a team and what we can realistically expect over the next month. I’ve looked at the stats from the season past, carefully listened to Jim Kelly (his post-work out interviews can be found at raptors.com) and reflected on what the Legomaster said at the end of the season. With all that in mind here is my best guess on what happens over the next 30 days or so.
1. Calderon will be resigned. If anything since his time in Toronto, Bryan Colangelo has been a man of his word. BC has been adamant about the team’s commitment to re-signing the Spanish Fly and unless a team comes through with an absolutely ridiculous offer I fully expect Jose to be back.
2. TJ Ford is on his way out. Whether you think we should keep Ford or not I think fans need to be prepared to watch Colangelo trade the Little Engine. This is the direct result of item number 1. If Calderon is resigned for 8 million or so per year there is just no way Ford stays. To commit $16 million dollars a year to the PG position while there are much greater needs to be addressed just doesn’t make sense. Both the 2 and 3 spot need significant upgrades and so say the front court needs a shot in the arm would be an understatement. When you add in the fact that both players want to start it is clear that bringing the two of them back would be an untenable situation and not in the team’s best interest. Colangelo has never been afraid to deal PG’s in the past and this situation is no different.
3. The Raps will draft a big man. This is just a hunch but there are a lot of signs pointing in this direction. First off Rasho is in the last year of his contract and we all know what happens to expiring contracts at the deadline. It’s more likely than not that Rasho only plays one more year (or less) for this team and given the lack of development displayed by Andrea this past season the front court is looking pretty thin. In one of the post-workout interviews Jim Kelly talks about how unlike most drafts there are a lot of skilled 4s and 5s who will be around in the mid to late first round. He’s right. Players like Kosta Koufos, Roy Hibbert, Marreese Speights, Robin Lopez, Alexis Ajinca, JaVale McGee and Devon Hardin are all players who should be around when the Raps pick. It’s not often that teams in the mid to late rounds have so many talented young bigs to choose from. Yes each of them has some flaws (from lack of PT, to limited ceilings) but provided Rasho is around there is time for a young big to develop in the background. The reality is wing players are easier to find. Which leads us to…
4. TJ Ford (and other assets) will net the Raptors the wing player they are missing. If there is one thing Raps fans can agree on it’s that our wing play needs a serious upgrade. How many times since Vince Carter’s departure have we talked about this team needing someone who can create their own shot and can get to the rim? There are nice prospects in the draft but none of them will have an immediate impact. I have a feeling Colangelo wants the acquisition of an impact swingman to be his biggest move this offseason and in order to make such a big move Ford has to be part of the deal.
Of course these are all just hunches. What are yours?