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To Boldly Go Where No Raptors’ GM Has Gone Before…

Franchise wonders just what direction Captain Colangelo is guiding this spaceship in...

Franchise wonders just what direction Captain Colangelo is guiding this spaceship in...

In the early hours this morning it was announced that the Toronto Raptors had signed Andrea Bargnani to an extension starting in 2010-2011 for five years at about $10 Million per year.

This, coupled with what should be the official signing of Hedo later today, means that Toronto now has what it views as two major pieces of its puzzle locked-up for the next half a decade alongside Jose Calderon. Should Bosh re-sign next summer, that would mean approximately $50 Million tied up in four players, a number that would remain consistent for at least the next four seasons before Jose Calderon’s salary came off the books.

That’s a lot of loot.

Our colleagues at Raptors Republic noted this morning that "the Spurs have $48 Million tied in 4 players next year, the Lakers have $52 Million tied in 3, the Magic $50 Million in 3 and the Cavaliers $55 million in 4." This means that Toronto will still have room financially to add other pieces to their core, however as the Arsenalist points out, it’s easy to argue that the aforementioned teams are getting a lot more bang for their buck.

And this is really now what it comes down to.

At the height of potential, should Andrea continue to improve at both ends, then suddenly $10 Million a year for a Dirk-clone seems like a steal.

However should he continue to be an off-and-on contributor who struggles defensively, then suddenly this contract could look a lot worse than that of Marcus Banks, the player apparently that BC is trying to include in the sign-and-trade deal with Dallas regarding Shawn Marion.

Essentially, Bryan Colangelo and his crew must feel that a core group of Bosh, Bargs, Jose and Hedo is good enough to remain very competitive in the East, and a few savvy additions will put them in contention with the Clevelands, Bostons, and Orlandos at the top of the ladder.

I’ve got my doubts.

First of all, I don’t think Toronto’s foursome is anywhere near as talented as those of the aforementioned clubs. I’m not even sure Toronto’s group is on par with a club like Philly, who if they can re-sign Andre Miller and re-acclimatize Elton Brand, could still be a very dangerous bunch.

The other piece of this is the depth issue.

$50 Million spent on four players is a lot of money and considering the salary cap just came in at $57.7 Million and the luxury tax at $69.92 Million (a drop from $58.68M and $71.15M respectively), that doesn’t leave a lot of room for change should this starting four not work out – especially when players like Marcus Banks and Reggie Evans are eating into about $8 Million of that room and are still on the books for a few more years.

Essentially the Legomaster is putting most of his eggs into one basket yet again.

Last year we saw the results of this and unless BC can find a taker for Banks and/or Hump, again this year there won’t be much of an upgrade to the bench group. In fact at present, the bench looks to be in worse shape than last year, a notion that is echoed by glancing at Toronto’s summer league roster, which at present accounts for most of the group.

That’s one reason Howland and I are particularly keen to see Toronto’s Vegas entry in action this weekend.

The Raptors have signed off on allowing us media access so we’ll have coverage of the first three games, games that may very well prove to be a good indication of what to expect this season from Roko, Jawai and co. Again, Summer League is hardly an indication of who is going to shine come the regular season, but it definitely will identify who still isn’t ready for the big time. Should the core of Ukic, Jawai, O’Bryant, Douby and DeRozan struggle, things could be ugly this season, especially if Toronto’s expected starters can’t stay healthy.

In fact remember in the original Star Trek series whenever Captain Kirk put an away team together, there were always those "security" guys in red shirts?

Isn’t that Toronto’s bench right now?

You KNEW those Red Shirt guys were going to get blasted as soon as they got down to the planet and if Roko and co. are expected to play major roles for the Raptors this year, it may be a similar situation when they come into a game.

Uh oh Roko, keep a tight grip on that phaser...

Uh oh Roko, keep a tight grip on that phaser...

Even the original Star Trek group had seven key personnel (Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scottie, Uhura, Sulu and Chekov) with one or two other minor players thrown into the mix. This team at present has four, which means a lot of "red shirts" trying not to get killed on the court come regular season.

Over the next few days hopefully we’ll see some additions to this lot, be they via the rumoured Shawn Marion sign-and-trade or perhaps even via some sort of other creative maneuvers. There aren’t a lot of free-agent options left in Toronto’s dollar range, especially at the 2 and 3 spots, so it’s going to be interesting to see just what Colangelo can do.

And while I’m not a big fan of cementing this current "core," there is one big positive about BC’s strategy from my point of view – he’s got this season as a test run.

As opposed to last year when Marion came in as the season was wrapping up, the Raptors this year have training camp and a full-season to see just what this roster can do. If it turns up being a disaster, Toronto can attempt to make some major changes next summer when Bosh’s contract comes off the books.

For those of us who aren’t fans of the direction this team is taking, we can take some solace in that I suppose, but for all intents and purposes this is your Toronto Raptors team for the next few years.

And while some may be applauding Bryan Colangelo’s moves, let’s just say I’m not ready to beam this group into the Eastern Conference Finals any time soon.