Last week on the the Fan 590 Bryan Colangelo confirmed that his preference would be to spend the off-season plugging minor holes rather than blowing this team up and that he would like to start next season with Bargnani, Bosh, Marion, and Calderon as 4 of his 5 starters. I think it is also pretty safe to assume that Triano will return as the team’s head coach. For those of you who read my columns on even an occasional basis, you know that these are not ideas that I am the biggest supporter of. However, without digressing into a discussion of should we trade Bosh or Bargnani, or how do we unload Banks and Humphries, or who should be the next coach, lets pretend that Colangelo is actually telling the truth. The question on every fan’s mind now is how to fix this team without blowing it all up?
Well, lets begin with what we already know about the team and its current assets.
Bosh, Bargnani and Marion are a top-notch front court comparable with any team in the league. If you watch Bargnani, Marion and Bosh play together, it becomes obvious that the Raptors have a combination of size, speed, and athleticism in their front court that meshes very well and has the ability to trade off in defensive assignments depending on the opposing teams matchups. Even without accounting for their recent win streak, there has been a nice level of productivity from the three in team play as Marion has proven to be a nice addition to this team. He is hands down better than Graham, Ariza, or any of the other “lower-cost” replacements that fans have talked about buying in the open market. When you consider the fact that he looks to take a 7-9 million dollar pay-cut and still be happy, Marion appears to be a perfect side dish to a main order of Bosh and Bargnani.
And for those fans who are still upset about the cost to get him here, think about it this way: if in 2007, Marion (before he was traded from a 65 win Suns teams where he was considered a core piece) was traded for a then injured TJ Ford (with Calderon being talked about as a possible all-star choice at the time), Nesterovic, Moon, and 2 first round draft picks – would you have been upset? Maybe, but I would have been okay with it then and I am still okay with it now (Ed’s note: I’m not).
When he is healthy Calderon has shown why he is an excellent sidekick to Bosh and Bargnani. Sure, there are some obvious holes in Calderon’s game (like his perimeter defense which has looked sketchy all season and his need to play in a half court set). However, when he takes his defender off the dribble and sticks his jumper like he has been able to do with real consistency over the last 3 weeks, then he punishes defences who try to cheat either above or below the screen when we run the high screen with Bosh – and this makes guarding Bosh very difficult. For Calderon to be really successful, this team needs to add a secondary ball handler. Someone who can control the offense for 10-15 minutes a night to relieve some of the pressure off of Calderon’s legs. Earlier I had argued for drafting a top-notch point guard in the draft, like Ty Lawson who should be available at 8 or 9 when the Raptors select. Now, I’m thinking that the Raptors could solve two problems with one Answer by using their cash this summer to sign a starting SG who can also play the point.
I think Allen Iverson would be the ideal candidate. Not only could he run the offense when Calderon is on the bench, but he could play the off guard on offense when Calderon is in the game. In fact, Iverson is precisely the kind of “slasher” this team needs at the 2, since he is a deadly scorer who has the ability to collapse the defence and get to the free throw line. He is tough as nails, and demands toughness from his mates as well. The two big issues with Iverson are his defence and why he would pick Toronto? Iverson wants to start, and there are not too many teams out there willing to give him that chance. Toronto could offer Iverson 40 minutes a night, where he starts at the 2 beside Calderon (and they switch up on defence, so that Iverson guards the quicker, smaller guards and Jose guards the taller, SGs – thus eliminating both players’ defensive weaknesses) and then plays the point for 10 minutes a night when Calderon rests. When you couple that with the fact that after making 21 million last season, Iverson looks to be lucky to get an offer close to the mid level, and that getting a player like Ben Gordon looks to cost in the 10 million dollar range, why wouldn’t you sign Iverson for roughly 7 million and draft a shooting guard with huge upside, like DeRozan to grow into the position? Iverson may actually welcome the opportunity to come to Toronto to prove his many critics wrong, especially since he stands to make more money and get more minutes than he would anywhere else.
So, assuming that Marion and Iverson can each be retained for slightly more than the mid-level exemption (which was $5.5 million for the 08-09 Season), then the starting 5 players for the Raptors next season would account for roughly 45 million dollars of cap space.
|1.||Bargnani||C- 6, 527, 490|
|2.||Bosh||PF- 15, 779, 912|
|3.||Marion||SF- Approx 7, 000, 000|
|4.||Iverson||SG- Approx 7, 000, 000|
|5.||Calderon||PG- 8 ,219, 009|
This leaves roughly 15 million to deal with your bench. However, as we all know, championship caliber teams require a bench that has depth but also some skilled players including including a scoring 6th man. 15 million is not a lot of money to spend on the bench, especially once you consider that it’s already taken up by the contracts of Kapono, Humphries, Ukic and on retaining Jawai, Pops, and Voshkul, in addition to the #1 pick this spring. However, if we finally use some of our assets the right way, this team has the ability to fill most of its current holes. For example, if Humphries and Kapono can find a consistent productive role under Triano, it would solve a lot of issues.
For the Raptors, Delfino could potentially be that 6th man and could return to the NBA for a contract in the 3 million dollar range. If Delfino doesn’t work out, then the Raps would do well to renounce his rights and use the money to try and attract a player like a Bobby Jackson from Sacramento for roughly the same number.
|Sixth Man||Delfino or Jackson||G- Approx 3, 000, 000|
|First big off the bench-||Pops||F -Approx 850, 000|
|3 pt specialist||Kapono||? 6, 212, 960|
|Serviceable back up||Humphries||F 3, 000, 000|
|Serviceable back up||Ukic||G 1, 350, 000|
|Serviceable back up||Voshkul||Bench 875, 409|
|2009 draft pick||Cap hold for #8 pick||Aprrox 1,900, 000|
|Press Box||Jawai||736, 420|
|Press Box||Banks||4, 464,000|
As for Kapono, if you are not trading Bosh or Bargnani, it will be very tough to unload Kapono’s contract. So any fix to this team will require finding better production from Kapono. I admit, I was wrong about Kapono, I really thought that a large part of the problem was the way Mitchell used him (or didn’t) but Kapono has been unable to find his game under Triano and that suggests that the Raptors can’t use him as anything more than a 3 point specialist. He cannot start and he is not the answer to “sixth man” issue. Having said that, all championship teams need a 3 point specialist.
So this would account to roughly 23 million on the bench, which would place the Raptors over the cap with a total team salary in 65-68 million dollar range. But, this would still leave them just slightly under the luxury tax threshold and below the 70 million dollars a year they committed to the team in 08-09.
This is not the only way to fix this team, but given Colangelo’s expressed desire to keep the core of this team intact and give it a go again next year, it appears to be a plausible solution that should have the Raptors contending again in the East in 2009-10.
Just as a quick side-note, lots has been made about Triano and his likely return next season . If so, look for two of the names on the list of potential replacements for
Triano to occupy the seats next to him on the bench as lead assistants. Rumours have both Marc Iavaroni (former D’Antoni assistant in Phoenix and Grizzlies Head coach) and Ettore Messina (the most successful non-NBA coach ever) being hired as Triano’s right hand men for next season. It sure puts Triano in a bit of an awkward position because he would feel them breathing down his neck after every loss but if it adds a strategy to this team, why not?
As always, standing in the key, I’m the Dr. I’ve got my feet planted and I’m planning on taking a charge!