Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan - teammates soon?

It’s official and the newest Raptor says:

“It took a minute, but I was able to secure a contract for four years. I’m looking forward to playing with Chris (Bosh) again. It will be like our freshman year (at Georgia Tech) all over again.”

Now, I’m sure some of you have been thinking Man, wouldn’t Earl Watson have been a cheaper option than Jarrett Jack and allowed us to spend that $5M MLE on a big or somebody like Kleiza. The thing to remember is that Jarrett Jack is only 25 years old, can play two positions and can be a staple off the bench for years to come. Earl Watson is 30 and cannot play the SG, not even for a minute. As for Jack’s salary, in a world where Jamario Moon stands to make 3.2M, is 5M really too much for him? The depth at SG without Jack is DeMar DeRozan and Antoine Wright. It is no doubt a position that needed to be addressed and Colangelo’s gone about it the right way, by mixing youth (DeRozan) with a veteran (Jack) and adding a decent third stringer (Wright). So yeah, Earl Watson is a nice little player but we went the smarter route.

The backup center is still an issue and will be addressed, I trust Colangelo to recognize this glaring hole and take action. The Pistons signed Chris Wilcox which means Drew Gooden, Baby Davis and Rasho Nesterovic are still available. The Raptors are unlikely to sign Davis to an offersheet since the total we can spend on other teams’ free agents is very little (LLE + MLE – Jack’s contract = approximately 2.9M) and the Celtics will have no trouble matching. Drew Gooden’s latest salary was $1.4M and he’s an unrestricted free agent so technically we could offer him a raise and as for Rasho, well, the door’s always open for him. There’s also Pops who the Raptors are reluctant to overpay and are basically waiting for a team to make an offer before sealing him up. Since we have the right to match offers for him we can bide our time and look at him as Plan B if things don’t work out with any of the players mentioned above; his qualifying offer was 1M. I do feel that even if we manage to sure up Rasho, Pops is the guy who I’d rather give a roster spot to instead of O’Bryant as long as we can afford it. Pops will be heading out to the England national team camp in August and will compete in the European Championships in September, I’m sure he’ll like to have an NBA job sealed up before that.

Here’s the current depth chart without players that are likely to make zero contribution:

PG: Calderon/Jack/Douby
SG: DeRozan/Jack/Wright
C: Bargnani
PF: Bosh/Evans
SF: Turkoglu/Wright

That’s 9 spots accounted for, once you figure in the guaranteed contracts of Ukic, Banks, George and O’Bryant it takes us to 13 players leaving room for a big man and a wing or two big men. Colangelo could buyout O’Bryant but with the big situation as it is he’s likely to retain his roster spot. Marcus Banks is the player that doesn’t figure into any of our plans and is destined to be a constant healthy scratch. If we didn’t have that guy hogging up 5M of our cap we’d be in much better shape going into the next couple weeks. Unfortunately, buying him out will be expensive and the sum would count against the cap so it doesn’t make basketball or financial sense to do that unless we’re really hurting for a roster spot.

The Raptors have been the most active team in the Eastern conference this summer but what does that mean in terms of how they’ll fare in the increasingly competitive East, a conference where Cleveland and Boston appeared to have already sealed up the first two spots and Orlando is poised for another great regular season. Once you get past those three teams it comes down to the likes of Atlanta, Miami, Philadelphia and perhaps Detroit trying to snatch that final home-court spot. That’s the group the Raptors fall in and the one they hope to top next year. I’ve always said that you have to crawl before you can walk and before the Raptors make a serious dent in the playoffs they’ll have to go through a couple years of heartbreakers in the second or third round, next year is setup to be just that.

Last year’s fourth seed – Atlanta – had 47 wins and if the Raptors were to match that and get home-court advantage it would mean a 14 game improvement and a 9 spot jump from the previous year. That in itself would qualify the season as a success in the eyes of management regardless of what happens in the playoffs. And realistically speaking, that’s the best-case scenario for next season. Rarely has a team that was assembled over the summer made a deep and meaningful playoff run, it even took Orlando two years of seasoning before making an impact in the post-season. Last year was supposed to be the year Portland made a mark but despite having budding stars in Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, a great rookie in Rudy Fernandez and a solid supporting cast, they couldn’t muster much. We already know how the tweaks in New Orleans and Philadelphia worked out.

All I’m saying is that we should brace ourselves for a playoff performance that will fall short of the expectations set by the regular season. The improvements we’ve made on the roster will allow us to beat the bad teams much more consistently and will beef up our seasonal record. But as we learned in 2007, chalking up regular season wins doesn’t mean much if you don’t have guns that can fire in the post-season and as of this moment the only proven playoff performer on the team is Hedo Turkoglu. The good news is that our roster is in the process of gaining such experience with Bargnani, Bosh and Calderon all going 0-2 so far, the latter two coming up very short in defining situations.

Jamario Moon signed an offersheet with the Cleveland Cavaliers, it’s a two-year deal which Miami is unlikely to match not because of the salary, but because they’re very reluctant to add a contract past the summer of 2010. See that’s when they’ll try to add Bosh which is going to be a little difficult with a cap around 50M because after all you still need role players to fill out a roster. Since Moon’s going to be replacing Sasha Pavlovic who was downright brutal for them he should be an improvement, Cleveland’s looking for size at the wings and Moon brings that for them. Paying him $3.2 million a year seems a bit much, though.

Also, did you know that if you do a Google image search for Katie Price tits, Raptors Republic is the first site that shows up. Chew on that and wonder what other Raptors site offers that kind of service. Do tune in tomorrow as I’ll be talking to Ryan Wolstat of the Courtside blog about Katie Price and other such things.

@raptorsrepublic