With postmortem week coming to a close, we wanted to get a pulse on where all of our writers are at heading into what could be a long, eventful offseason. Part two looks ahead to some complicated scenarios for the summer.
The Raptors can go a number of different routes this offseason. There’s no right or wrong answer, really. What is your preference: Blow it up, bring everyone back, or somewhere in between?
William Lou: I’m fine with bringing everyone back without going into the luxury tax, but I’m beginning to talk myself into a rebuild if Lowry walks. To be clear this would be a massive loss and an unfortunate case of asset mismanagement, but taking a step back to reevaluate and to accumulate more young talent could be exciting. Plus you wouldn’t have the weight of Lowry’s contract hanging over your head for the next five years. This is borderline slander and I feel awful for suggesting it.
Anthony Doyle: I trust Masai whatever he decides, and I would be ok with either blowing it up or bringing everyone back. I think in this case everyone probably means everyone except Patterson, for luxury tax reasons, but that’s still preferable to me than the in-between, because taking a step back without a rebuild doesn’t help you short-term or long-term, it just keeps you afloat.
Matt Shantz: I go back and forth on this matter, but the one option I don’t feel open to is running everything back. If Ujiri decides to gives this team another opportunity as presently constructed, I at least look at changing Casey to see if a new system can impact the bottom line. At the moment, if I have to pick, I would blow it up. Let Lowry walk and hope for to acquire an asset or two in a sign-and-trade (repeat for Ibaka), and guage the value of DeMar around the league. It actually makes me emotional to consider trading DeRozan after the loyalty he has shown, but there is no reason to half-ass it and get stuck winning 32-ish games.
Tim Chisholm: I’m somewhere in between. I loathe the knee-jerk reaction to blow things up, it demonstrates such an ignorance for how hard it is to construct a competitive 50-win team. I think that there are significant areas of concern that the team must address, but that doesn’t mean you have to toss everything aside to address them. Yes, it’s hard work, and it may not play out exactly as people hope, but that’s the game behind the game, and I think doing the hard work (rather than blowing it up) is the smart way to go.
Alex Gres: I’ll just say I’m not jealous of Masai’s job this offseason. If I had to say, I’d let Ibaka, Patterson, Lowry (that one hurts) and Casey go, keep DeRozan (I believe he’s adaptable and can adjust to a different system if asked, and we need an All-Star Raptors lifer in the franchise) and resign Tucker. If possible, try to trade Joseph, Valanciunas and Carroll for younger guys/picks/cap room. Otherwise, run with the young guys and compete for a 7th/8th seed. Now while that sounds like a useless in-between, it keeps a competitive spirit within the team and essentially places the same ceiling on them as the last 4 years in the playoffs but without the weight of expectation. Also, there have been a number of franchise altering players selected in the 10-15 range in the draft (George, Leonard, Giannis) in the last decade, so a draft pick in that range can be just as valuable as a top 5 pick at times, coming without a high lottery pressure.
Cameron Dorett: Sadly, I’d like to see them blow it up. We accomplished all we could with this core, and it was a great ride. Yet as we saw with Milwaukee and are seeing with Washington and Boston, the Raptors’ opponents are only getting better. The NBA is unlike any other league in that the parity between good and great teams is larger than any other sport, it’s time for the Raptors to try and build a great team.
Vivek Jacob: Do NOT go in between. Either re-sign Lowry, Ibaka, and Tucker to keep trying, or re-sign none and trade DeRozan. Being in the middle is the worst option in my opinion. Losing Lowry and keeping DeRozan would make the Raptors much like the Hawks or Pacers, neither here nor there.
Louis Zatzman: Somewhere in between. Bringing everyone back is unrealistic due to the luxury tax bill, but so too is blowing it up. If you don’t trade DeMar DeRozan, you’re still too good to tank, so what’s the point? Furthermore, what are the optics of trading the first home-grown star who chose to stay with the team?
Shyam Baskaran: Not to be boring, but I’ll take the easy way out and say something in-between. It just makes the most sense to me. Tearing this apart has some potential long-term advantages, but in the short-term it squashes a lot of what has been achieved and puts this team on a trajectory that I don’t think a lot of fans want to see right now. Bringing everyone back would be clearly be a mistake given what we saw to end the season. So I think bringing the true core pieces back is something Masai will aim to do, but in the process he’ll take a long, hard look at all of the supporting cast members since there are so many question marks around them.
Katie Heindl: Don’t blow it up. The logic of blowing up what you already worked so hard to establish to what, suck for years and maybe rely on a once-in-a-lifetime draft pick? We’re already up to our necks in rookies—god bless ‘em. I’d rather have a team who wins and wants to win and is fun to watch play together than an organization in flames just bailing water ‘til the next break comes along. Here’s who I want to stay: Lowry, Tucker, every rookie.
Spencer Redmond: Somewhere in between probably. If the Raptors shed some cap space, promote some of their younger pieces from “developing” to “role players”, and bring some of their notable free agents back, they could have a really strong core entering next season. The Raptors have a lot of directions they could go, retooling some of their roster, but keeping the core probably makes them a better team. I really trust the current front office to make the correct decisions, and if something like a rebuild were to happen I’m pretty confident in their ability to execute a roster makeover correctly.
True or False: Kyle Lowry will be a Raptor in 2017-18. True or False: Kyle Lowry should be a Raptors in 2017-18.
William Lou: True. True. If he wants to stay on a four-year deal, you keep him.
Anthony Doyle: To both statements, true. I think it really is up in the air, but it’s something like 60/40 in favor of him being a Raptor right now. To the second question, if the team isn’t completely blowing it up, you have to bring him back. He’s been simply too essential to the team’s success to think you can find the same level of winning without him, regardless of the late-season performances where he was hurt.
Matt Shantz: False, and false. This really does suck, but I’m currently of the opinion that a change in direction is needed. With that said, I’d be happy to have Lowry back and will miss him if he leaves. I’m guessing he ends up in returning to Houston to play alongside Harden, and to run the team when he sits. Feels like a good fit and the Rockets could open up the space needed with relative ease. Once again, this sucks and is hard to consider.
Tim Chisholm: He might be, but I honestly don’t know if he should be. Lowry has been maybe the best Raptor ever, but I don’t know if he and DeMar are compatible players. The fact that they are both ball-stoppers and questionable defenders puts a lot of pressure on other parts of the roster, and his age is worrisome, as is his injury history. However, he’s still really good, and not easily replaceable. I can see Ujiri keeping him and dealing with the longterm later, but the emotional part of me might be ready to move on.
Alex Gres: Will be: False. Should be: True. As a floor general and catalyst for the recent surge of the franchise, Kyle Lowry will forever hold an honourable place among the greatest Raptors. And so, it would be nice to reward his achievements with another big contract. Yet, it’s probably not the right thing to do. This issue has been beaten to death, but the fact remains – he hasn’t had a KLOE playoffs performance in any of the four postseasons in TO, and the likelihood of him having one wanes with every year that passes. A four year maximum for the Philly product would force the franchise to relive this season again and again like some 1408-inspired horror film. The first time is great, the second time is alright, the third? Well, you know.
Cameron Dorett: True. False. Lowry has already expressed interest in heading West, but at the age of 31 how do you turn down the (inevitable?) contract the Raptors give him?
Vivek Jacob: Kyle Lowry will be a Raptor. I’d like to think the extra money the Raptors can offer will make the difference. He should be a Raptor in 2017/18. Taking two consecutive beat downs from Cleveland and calling it quits doesn’t sit well with me. Keep fighting and try to get closer.
Louis Zatzman: Kyle Lowry should be a Raptor in 2017-18. If you re-sign a player over 30, you are paying for a few bad years at the end of the contract, but Lowry will offer enough value in the first few contract years to offset that cost. What’s the alternative? Becoming an 8th seed and adding more talented-but-not-star-level youth to the 905? Whether he will be a Raptor, I have no clue.
Shyam Baskaran: True and true. I believe in Masai, and I believe he won’t let recency bias influence even 1% of a decision he makes. 8 months ago, we all wanted Lowry back no matter what it cost. And a couple of untimely injuries, (luckily nothing career-threatening) isn’t going to stop that. Lowry likely has 2-3 all-star years left in him, and the value of those years given all of the moving parts in the Eastern Conference is hard to predict right now. You don’t let a talent like that walk, and if Ujiri had a bad feeling, I think Lowry would’ve been traded by now. The guy is the heart and soul of this thing, so if you don’t bring him back, it raises serious and immediate questions around the ceiling of this team.
Katie Heindl: True (written with a bad feeling) and Truer.
Spencer Redmond: True and True. Kyle Lowry is one of the best Raptors of all time, and the Raptors aren’t a 50 win team without him. From listening to Masai Ujiri’s comments, it sounds like the Raptors will offer him the five year max, and then it’s really up to Lowry if he wants to stay or not. Free agency is really impossible to predict, I hope Lowry stays, and I hope the Raptors do whatever they need to do to keep Lowry in a Raptors jersey.
True or False: Dwane Casey will be the coach of the Raptors in 2017-18. True or False: Dwane Casey should be the coach of the Raptors in 2017-18.
William Lou: False. True. You have to change something if you’re bringing back the same players. Casey has done a fantastic job with this roster over the last five seasons but there’s clearly a ceiling when it comes to his tactics that we run into in each playoff run. Continuity is great until you get stuck in the same spot. It’s not entirely fair but coaches are more replaceable than players.
Anthony Doyle: Both of these I’d say are false, although I think there is still a decent chance of him being back. As far as whether he should, I think there have definitely been legitimate concerns during his tenure, but he also probably doesn’t get enough credit for his role in building this team. If he’s gone I’ll be glad to move on, as the style of play of the last four years simply wasn’t conducive to playoff success, but I’ll bid him a fond farewell for where he took the team.
Matt Shantz: False, Casey will not be back next season. I was already guessing after game two against Cleveland that Casey would not be back, but Masai’s end of season comments about a change of culture being needed really solidified this in my mind. Should he be back is a tougher question, but one I’m ultimately saying no to as well. Easily the best coach in franchise history, but four straight seasons of struggling come playoff time seems like enough. Not only has he helped lead Toronto to its most successful run in franchise history, but Casey also just seems like a good dude.
Tim Chisholm: False and false. Dwane Casey has been a fabulous regular season coach, and the best coach that the team has ever had, but his postseason record is going to have to count against him at some point. He always looks a step slow to react to the opposition, the Raptors’ performances in Game 1’s has to be attributed at least in part to preparation, and I worry about the collective mental makeup of this squad as a Playoff entity. I think that he has done a fantastic job of creating something competitive with a very specific set of skills at the top of his roster, but if Ujiri doesn’t want to blow it up, this might be the place to make the big change.
Alex Gres: False and False. While instrumental in the shift to a winning culture throughout his tenure with his consistent demeanour and allowing his stars to flourish, it’s time for a change. Someone with fresh ideas, someone who is willing to hold every player on the club accountable on both ends of the floor, someone who can adjust on the fly. Good luck Masai.
Cameron Dorett: True. False. A new voice isn’t necessarily what this team needs, but a new strategy on offense is. Casey has done an excellent job over his four years here, and I expect that to be rewarded but it shouldn’t be if Toronto wants to start fresh.
Vivek Jacob: Dwane Casey will not be the head coach. Dwane Casey should not be the coach. I appreciate everything he’s done for the franchise, it is something that goes unnoticed by most. I just don’t think he’s the man to help the Raptors take the next step.
Louis Zatzman: Dwane Casey is a good coach, though he has his flaws. Is there a better coach available? I think Casey should be the coach of the Raptors in 2017-18, as he has proved his ability to get the team to play at a high level and consistently make the playoffs. Whether he will be the coach of the Raptors, I have no clue.
Shyam Baskaran: This is a really tough one, but I’ll say true and false. I love Dwane Casey and what he’s done for this franchise, I really do. But given the length of his tenure, the up-and-down playoff performances, and some of the same mistakes we’ve seen been made, I think it’s time for a change in tone and voice. Having said that, I actually think there’s a higher chance than not that he’ll be back. Given the way Masai operates, the injuries Casey’s had to deal with, and so many other factors, I just don’t see him getting let go unless Ujiri has his mind set on a replacement. And as amazing as Jerry Stackhouse has been for the 905, I just don’t see that happening yet. Nothing more than a gut feeling on this one though.
Katie Heindl: True, False.
Spencer Redmond: I’ve given Dwane Casey a lot of credit over the years. I think he’s always had flaws as a coach, and I think it’s tough to find a lot of coaches in the NBA who don’t have some flaws in their system. Over the postseason I became more open to the idea of a coaching change, so I’m going to go false and false on this one.
If the Raptors try to remain competitive, they’ll be up against a luxury tax crunch and may need to shed some salary. Of the four free agents, who are you most willing to let walk? Of the players on the roster, who would you most be willing to unload for salary relief?
William Lou: Let Patrick Patterson walk and keep Serge Ibaka but only if he’s not too expensive (over $20 million). Shed DeMarre Carroll for salary relief and use Cory Joseph and Bebe Nogueira to sweeten the pot. That’s probably not enough but you can’t give up any more future firsts.
Anthony Doyle: In order of most important to retain, I’d rank them Lowry, Ibaka, Tucker and Patterson. I think Patterson is likely gone either way, whether or not the team is trying to remain competitive. To keep the other three guys, the Raptors will need to move some other salary, which probably means that DeMarre Carroll is gone if they can find a taker for his salary, and I think the next guy that makes sense is Jonas Valanciunas. Despite his considerable skill, he has never really fit with this team and could clear some salary to keep the tax burden reasonable.
Matt Shantz: If Ujiri decides to continue being competitive next season, and without contracts coming into the equation yet, I try and resign Lowry, Tucker, and Ibaka (likely in that order). That leaves Patterson on the outside looking in. He was often the team’s plus/minus king (outside of Bebe, of course) and had months where he could hardly miss a shot, but the consistency issues have driven me crazy. The last half of the season he seemed unwilling to even hold the ball, let alone consider shooting. Ironically, he may be the easiest to retain after what he just did in the playoffs. Wonder how much money he lost himself over the last month?
Tim Chisholm: I’m most willing to move on from Patrick Patterson. Yes, he’s a plus-minus monster, but he’s a liability on offence, often looking uncomfortable with the role that the team requires him to play, and if the team keeps Serge Ibaka, I think you can afford to let Patterson walk and either replace him in free agency or explore promoting Siakam back into the rotation. As it pertains to shedding salary, obviously DeMarre Carroll is the right answer, because that signing has simply continued the trend of failed small forward acquisitions that dates back to Tracy McGrady leaving in 2000, but I could see Valanciunas being floated hard out on the market, as well.
Alex Gres: Patrick Patterson would probably be the first choice of the four to not be resigned. For salary relief purposes, DeMarre Carroll would likely be the first casualty.
Cameron Dorett: I’d be the most willing to let Lowry walk away simply because he demands the biggest chunk of the pie. Committing anything to a now injury-prone point guard at the age of 31 just isn’t ideal. Unloading Carroll is the move, but it will be easier said than done. Letting JV walk is the best bang for your buck move.
Vivek Jacob: Let Patterson walk. Try and unload Carroll, Valanciunas, and Joseph.
Louis Zatzman: My ranking for free agents I would be most willing to let walk, in order (most to least): Patterson, Tucker, Ibaka, Lowry. I want them all back, though.
Shyam Baskaran: Most willing to let walk: Patterson. He’s proven in multiple seasons that he can’t be a starter, and if things go right for him, he may be paid like one in the offseason. With the additions of Tucker and Ibaka, Patterson’s defense became less valuable to the team; his inability to consistently hit 3-point shots from month-to-month was just too disturbing of a trend, and his off-the-dribble game hasn’t seen the development I would’ve liked. Most willing to unload: this one is almost too easy; it’s DeMarre Carroll. I don’t think he scores or defends even close to the level his salary demands. He’s set to make $14.8M in 17/18 which is about what an average starter costs in today’s NBA. And quite simply, he’s not an average level starter in the NBA.
Katie Heindl: Didn’t we already cover this? God Blake, this is hell. Patterson and Ibaka, I am ok with letting go of. Maybe they’ll be like butterflies who don’t want max and come back for a bargain. Carroll—I wish you luck, JV—I wouldn’t mind. Hey, has anyone calculated if cutting assured missing person Jason Thompson would solve all of our salary cap woes?
Spencer Redmond: It really starts with Lowry, if you can bring him back then it makes sense to remain competitive and bring back Serge Ibaka, and P.J. Tucker. I’ve been a big Patterson fan for a long time, and I think on the right contract he makes a lot of sense, but he’s probably the guy you don’t mind walking specially if you’re bringing back both Ibaka and Tucker. DeMarre Carroll seems like an obvious contract the Raptors will try to move. Jonas Valanciunas is a real asset that I feel certain teams would love to have, and Cory Joseph who isn’t really a big contract at all, but Delon Wright could serve as a quality backup on a bit of a reduced price tag.
Describe your ideal (and realistic!) Raptors offseason in five moves.
William Lou: (Assuming Lowry stays.) Replace Casey for someone with a more structured offense. Let go of Patterson, Carroll, Jonas Valanciunas and Joseph. Give the backup PG and C spots to the Utah Utes and let Norman Powell be the starting SF. Add a reliable third option who can play SF/PF (ie: Danilo Gallinari). Keep PJ Tucker.
Anthony Doyle: I’ll go with the bring the core back plan here, because I think it’s the more realistic way to go, and I would start by trying to move at least one of the movable salaries at the draft, whether that’s Jonas Valanciunas, Cory Joseph or DeMarre Carroll. Use one of those guys to try to clear some salary for the free agency period. I would then let Casey go, and bring in a coach who could run an offense with more ball movement, and potentially a higher pace. The team has athletes and can run more than they have. The next move would have to be bringing back Lowry, Ibaka and Tucker. I would then try to package the players who weren’t moved at the draft, along with one of the younger players not set for rotation minutes, to try to bring back a reliable shooter to reinforce on the wing positions. If the summer ended up looking like that, I’d be happy with it.
Matt Shantz: Replace Casey, look for coach with a developmental background. Shop DeMar at or around draft, look for high pick or high level prospect from team wanting to be more competitive now. Let Lowry, Ibaka, and Patterson walk (hope for sign-and-trade options), but re-sign Tucker (he likely leaves if we rebuild, but this is my dream here) for leadership and to help instill a defensive focus and for asset management. Explore trading Jonas (unlikely), Carroll (even less likely), and Cory (probable) for future assets. Build systems around a starting line-up of Delon, Norm, Tucker, Siakam, and Poeltl, with Bruno as your sixth man, add new prospects to fill our roster, with the goal to have at least two first round players from 2017 (ours and at least one additional pick).
Tim Chisholm: Trade Valanciunas on draft night for a backup wing and salary detritus. Re-sign Lowry, Ibaka, and Tucker. Sign Omri Casspi as a free agent. Stretch DeMarre Carroll. Hire Jerry Stackhouse as head coach with a strong stable of strategy assistants.
Alex Gres: Let Lowry, Patterson, Ibaka walk. Re-sign Tucker. Trade Joseph/JV/Carroll for a combination of youngsters with upside (2 end players ideally)/picks/cap relief. Bring in a new head coach – Ettore Messina would be intriguing, I also think David Blatt got a bit of a tough situation in Cleveland with LeBron signing after he joined, and may be a perfect choice if the Raptors decide to take a step back from a 50 win team to a 40 or so (he could be allowed to grow with the team, as his X’s and O’s have been absolutely on point overseas).
Cameron Dorett: Toronto lets Kyle Lowry walk. Toronto lets Serge Ibaka walk. Toronto lets PJ Tucker walk. Toronto lets Patrick Patterson walk. Toronto goes for a run….to the lottery.
Vivek Jacob: Fire Dwane Casey. Re-sign Lowry, Ibaka,Tucker. Hire one of Messina, Kalamian, or Stackhouse as the new head coach. Trade Valanciunas (and Joseph if needed) for a stretch four / volume three-point shooting SF, moving Ibaka to full-time C. Trade Carroll if possible, if not, waive him and make Powell the full-time starting SF and see what Bruno gives you as the understudy.
Louis Zatzman: My ideal and semi-realistic Raptors offseason involves packaging Cory Joseph (replaceable by Delon Wright, but still ouch) and DeMarre Carroll with a future pick for cap relief and then re-signing all of the free agents. Run it back, baby! Hopefully we don’t get the Cavs in the second round next year. There is no better and realistic alternative.
Shyam Baskaran: Re-sign Lowry. Re-sign Ibaka, play him at the 5. Fire Casey, and hire a young, viable replacement. Trade a combination of JV/DC/Cory and assets for a starting-calibre wing/PF who can shoot 3’s. Money permitting, add to the depth by signing a reliable scorer and knock-down shooter (Tony Snell? JJ Redick? Or, if the market is right, maybe Kentavious Caldwell-Pope?).
Katie Heindl: I’ll do it in 3: Kyle doesn’t wait until the last day of the off-season to resign. Tucker stays put. Everyone has a nice summer vacation.
Spencer Redmond: Bring back Lowry. Raptors look for a new head coach. If Lowry comes back, bring back Ibaka and Tucker. Shed cap space and rework younger players into rotations. Maybe even bring back Vince. He would actually help the team out a lot, and the storyline would be pretty cool.