The Toronto Raptors are in a difficult situation. They have a good team, but are not good enough to win a championship. The 2017 playoffs were especially disappointing because you feel like management gave the team the right pieces to compete with the Cleveland Cavaliers in a playoff series. The Raptors acquired two good players in Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker at the trade deadline. The team dramatically improved its defense with those two acquisitions. Kyle Lowry was rounding into form and things were looking as good as ever for the Raptors heading into the playoffs.
However, the Raptors struggled again in the first round, barely beating a Milwaukee team with little experience. In the next round, the Raps were once again dominated by the Cavs. Ultimately, they showed the basketball world that they are nowhere near competing for a championship and there are some mental hurdles players like DeMar DeRozan and Lowry need to get over. It would help if their coaching staff put the team in a better situation, but I will save that for later in the article. Overall, this article will focus on eight moves the Raps should consider in the offseason and seven they should not.
15 Should - Trade DeMarre Carroll
Simply put, DeMarre Carroll has been a bust for the Raptors. Carroll has been the worst move during the Masai Ujiri era and it is not close. Carroll has not come close to performing at the level we saw him show in Atlanta. Carroll at the least was supposed to be a defensive stopper, but he has not even able to do that for the Raps. He has been super inconsistent with his three point shot as well, allowing opponents to leave him wide open and focus on Derozan and Lowry.
Some may argue that Carroll has not been 100% since signing with Toronto, but for me that excuse is no longer valid. How long does Carroll need to be "healthy"? Regardless, trading Carroll will be difficult and Ujiri will have to pull off some magic for this.
14 Should Not - Trade Delon Wright
The Raptors are deep at the point guard position, so they probably think they can afford to trade Delon Wright. Perhaps Wright is the sweetener in a deal for some team to take DeMarre Carroll.
Regardless, if I was the Raptors I would not trade Wright. Wright has shown signs that he can be a legitimate player in this league, perhaps even a starting point guard. He is crafty with the ball, can drive and dish, and perhaps most importantly, bothers other point guards on the defensive end. The main thing for Wright is to improve his jumpshot, and with time I am sure he will be able to do this. Also, Wright will be good insurance for Lowry, if he gets hurt (assuming he stays).
13 Should - Let Patrick Patterson Walk
If Patrick Patterson came at the league minimum, I would still let him walk. The man has no confidence with the basketball and he hurts the Raptors more than he helps them on the offensive end. Cleveland was leaving him wide open the entire series and there were still games where he did not even attempt a shot. How is that possible?? All this did was put more pressure on DeRozan and Lowry, because Patterson's man would just leave him to go to either guard. People want to blame Lowry and DeRozan for playoff struggles, but in my opinion it is more so on role players not being able to hit wide open shots, or at least make the defense guard them.
The crazy part about this is that Patterson used to be a clutch player for the Raptors. However, based on his snapchat he likes to party more than play basketball, so I guess that is where the fall off happened.
12 Should Not - Fire Masai Ujiri
I was shocked to read fans on Twitter suggesting that Masai Ujiri's job should be on the line. While he has not been perfect, Ujiri has been the best basketball executive Toronto has ever had. He has also made some great moves like getting rid of Andrea Bargnani and Rudy Gay, which is what gives me confidence he can do the same with DeMarre Carroll. Ujiri has also made Toronto an attractive destination for free ageants. Prior to Ujiri, is was rare to see players re-sign or want to come to Toronto.
Ujiri has also done a good job at blending in young talent with this team. The Raptors have some promising young players like Wright, Jakob Poeltl, and Pascal Siakia, which is something you do not see often on a playoff team. Keeping Ujiri is a no brainer.
11 Should - Sign/Acquire 3 Point Shooting
As I referenced when discussing Patrick Patterson, the Raptors desperately need three point shooting to open up space for DeRozan and Lowry. If this does happen, we will not be hearing the rumblings of Derozan and Lowry being playoff chokers, trust me. They need floor spacers that will keep the defense honest and allow them to play in more single coverage. If teams do continue to blitz, then the three point shooters will make them pay, something players on the current Raptors roster have been unable to do.
Just look back to Game 3 against the Cavaliers. The Raps shot 2/18 from the three point line with 17 of those shots being uncontested. If the Raps even hit seven or eight of those shots, the game is completely different. Ujiri is a smart man and will figure this out. The picture in this section will show a player that perhaps they can target.
10 Should Not - Trade Jonas Valancunias
The Raptors should not trade Jonas Valancunias. While he is flawed defensively, especially as a show man on the pick and roll, JV has the potential to be one of the best centers in the league. The problem is that the current Raptors coaching staff does not know how to use his strengths.
All you have to do to see this flaw is look back to the Cleveland series. When Tristan Thompson was on, JV should have been on. This was a great match up for him defensively and offensively and quite frankly, no one on the Cavs could stop JV when he had the ball.
The Raptors coaching staff also made the mistake of leaving JV on the court when Channing Frye came into the game, which is inexcusable. It was obvious JV could not go to the 3 point line to cover him, yet he stayed in the game. By the time Casey finally realized this is in Game 4, it was too late.
9 Should - Re-sign P.J. Tucker
P.J. Tucker is exactly the type of player that the Raptors need on their team. He is a good motivator for his teammates, can shoot the corner three, and is one of the best defensive wings in the game.
The problem with Tucker is that, similar to JV, the coaching staff did not use him properly, at least until it was too late. Why the Raptors waited until Game 4 to start Tucker is beyond me. Wasn't the major reason for bringing Tucker in to guard LeBron? It is a lot tougher to do this when you come into the game midway through the first quarter and LeBron is already in a great rhythm. When the Raps finally did start Tucker, LeBron had still had a great game, but he had to work way harder for his opportunities and LeBron acknowledged this in the post game. You might see where I am getting with the coaching staff..
8 Should Not - Pay Kyle Lowry the Max
Kyle Lowry should return to Toronto and this will be touched on in greater detail later in the article. However, this does not mean I would give him a $200 million contract. There are a few reasons I would avoid this if I was Masai and the Raps management.
First of all, Lowry is 31 years old. Do you really want to have that much invested into a player on the wrong side of 30? Especially, when many people say the prime of a basketball player is 27-30? In addition, Lowry has not shown he can stay healthy on a consistent basis. He has battled injuries year after year, including this year's playoffs. While he does have a tremendous amount of heart, this can sometimes be a weakness. His all out hustle play after play may mean his body will break down sooner than later. Buyer beware.
7 Should - Re-sign Serge Ibaka
While Serge Ibaka is not the same player he once was, especially on the defensive end, he is a good third piece for the Raptors. One thing people are overlooking with the Ibaka addition is just how much time he had to get acclimated into the Raps system. He was only with the team for about one third of the season, and did not have very much time to play with Lowry, who was injured until the final few games of the season. This lack of chemistry showed with Lowry, but if they have training camp together, it will undoubtedly be better.
Overall, Ibaka can still protect the rim at times, and also fits the bill of a stretch four with his three point shooting ability. Ibaka, like Tucker provides a toughness to the Raptors that they have been missing for a long time. I would like to see Ibaka improve his post defense, but it may be too late in his career for that.
6 Should Not - Trade Cory Joseph
If the Raptors re-sign their key free agents, they may have to move players on their roster for salary cap reasons. One of the players that should not be moved is Cory Joseph. Sure move Carroll, and even attach a first round pick if you have to, but do not trade Joseph.
Joseph is one of the best back up point guards in the league and does an exceptional job as a starter when Lowry is hurt. Joseph is also a very good perimeter defender and has improved his offensive game dramatically. He is able to consistently hit pull up jumpers, as well as the occasional three pointer, something he was unable to do early in his career. Overall, Joseph has a ton of heart and you could tell he was one of the few Raptors giving it his all when they were down 3-0 to Cleveland.
5 Should - Fire Dwane Casey
Dwane Casey has been a huge reason for the Raptors turnaround as a franchise and deserves to be a head coach. However, I think Casey has taken this team as far as he can. Casey just makes too many questionable decisions in the playoffs, some of which have been discussed in this article already (JV and Tucker). Casey is not able to make great playoff adjustments and often leaves his star players in tough situations.
If you watch Raptors games, the same thing happens over and over. Lowry and DeRozan are at the top of the three point line in a pick and roll. Teams blitz them and force someone else to shoot, or Lowry and DeRozan have to take a tough shot. Casey could have tried to move DeRozan and Lowry around to different spots on the court where it is difficult to trap them. It just has not happened the last three years in the playoffs. Honestly, I do not see this move happening though, because Casey is still owed $12 million.
4 Should Not - Trade DeMar DeRozan
All of these analysts talking about trading DeRozan are silly. The man comes back year after year with an improved game. Do not be surprised if he comes back with a much improved three point shot next season. DeRozan also was fifth in league scoring this year by averaging 27 points per game. DeRozan also carried the Raptors when Lowry was out for a big stretch this year. The man loves playing in Toronto, which has been rare for All-Star level players.
I understand the concern about his inconsistency in the playoffs, but his teammates/coaching staff have not helped. What do you expect the guy to do when he is double teamed at the top of the three point line and his teammates miss wide open shots? Teams can lock down on him and obviously, most players would be inconsistent in this situation.
3 Should - Hire Jerry Stackhouse
The Raptors should hire Jerry Stackhouse as their head coach while they have the chance. There have been many reports about how Stackhouse is well on his way to becoming a head coach in the NBA and teams are now starting to give him consideration for a job. So far, Stackhouse has been an assistant coach for the Raptors, and also their D-League head coach. In fact he just led the Raptors 905, to a championship.
Overall, I think Stackhouse will be able to make better in game adjustments, and help Lowry and DeRozan play better in the playoffs by putting them in better positions on the floor. Stackhouse is not that far removed from his playing days and will have a great understanding of how the game is played today. Give it a shot, Toronto.
2 Should Not - Blow it Up
This point is sort of a summary of what the Raptors should not do and that is blow the team up. The Raptors certainly are not legitimate championship contenders, but that is not enough to convince me the team should be blown up. By trading everyone away, the Raptors will once again become the laughing stock of the NBA. They will lose fans that they have worked hard to gain the last three years, and most importantly, tanking is no sure thing.
Just look at the Philadelphia 76ers. They blew up their team and have been rebuilding for what seems like ages. Sure, they have some promising young players, but that does not mean they are ever going to get back to a playoff level team. The Raptors should continue to try and add some good pieces around Lowry and DeRozan and see if they can somehow dethrone the King.
1 Should - Re-sign Kyle Lowry
Lowry has been the heartbeat of the Raptors for the last several years. When healthy, he is an All-Star and no one on the Raptors plays as hard as him. Lowry has done a tremendous job in improving his game. Whether it is playmaking, three point shooting, there is not much missing from Lowry's game. I know people will comment on playoff performances, but I suggest you to read what I said about DeRozan, because the same applies here.
However, I did also say that the Raptors should not give Lowry the max and I stand by that. I would try very hard to re-sign him to a contract of four years around $100 million. If he does not accept that, I would move it up to $110 million. Anything more than that, I might try and do a sign and trade. I'm sorry, but 31 years old and $200 million just does not make sense.
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