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RR Roundtable: Looking ahead to the offseason

Onward.

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 in a number of directions this summer, each of which has some logic to it. Are you in favor of the blow-it-up path, running it back as is, or something in between?

Tim Chisholm: Somewhere in between. Blow-it-up makes no sense because they have some good young players, and they are probably too good to fall deep enough into the basement for picks. However, you can’t run it back again exactly as composed without some significant eye-rolling. Better to nip-and-tuck, stay good, work hard, develop the kids, and hope for things to break right. Being very good is never bad.

Tamberlyn Richardson: It’s important to remember the Raptors are tied with Brooklyn with the fifth youngest team average in the NBA. Only the Blazers were younger in the postseason. Also worth noting is the Spurs needed several seasons to implement their new system prior to gaining postseason success. My point is there is something to be said for constancy and the benefits which can be gained from it. That said, I do feel there needs to be tweaks. If Masai can pull out his Magician’s hat to find a buyer for Serge Ibaka and Norman Powell that’s over $31 million from two players who aren’t contributing commensurate to their salary.

Vivek Jacob: Something in between. I’m in favour of moving on from Dwane Casey for someone who’s more of an in-game strategist and just to get a fresh voice in the locker room. I don’t see how you can bring everyone back and think the ceiling can change. Not that the ceiling changes anyway, but a coaching move could help give the players a renewed belief and more confidence if there are better defensive schemes for the elite offences in the league.

Matt Shantz: I know the last two years ended poorly, but I can’t bring myself to blowing up a 59 win team. Very few teams that blow it up will come anywhere close to the success Toronto has reached. While I fall somewhere in the middle, I’d be a little closer to the rolling it back side of the argument, as I expect big internal improvements from guys like Siakam and OG. All that said, it will fall somewhere in the middle and I wouldn’t be surprised to see rumors floated about any core player (not OG…my heart couldn’t take that).

Cam Dorrett: All-in. Lebron’s another year older and the “young teams” are charging for them. Keep this in mind…the Raptors were one of the youngest teams in the playoffs last season, why would you blow it up!?

Joshua Howe: I think the most logical direction is for Toronto to re-sign VanVleet and run the team back, unless something pops up that they should definitely jump on. Ujiri has already stated that he’s not planning on blowing up the team à la Atlanta in 2015 (probably a good thing, since a full rebuild never guarantees anything, and this club did just win 59 games), and the in-between moves are certainly possible, though tricky (the Raptors have very limited options this summer, money-wise). I would love to find a good trade for Ibaka, though that seems unlikely, for example. Running it back is not a bad option, as those bemoaning the playoff results would have you believe. Fans will still get a competitive team to watch, the young guys will continue to grow, and management can operate along the three-year timeline they originally intended to follow. Sounds fine to me.

Anthony Doyle: Something in between. I don’t want a full repeat, but I do think some common sense changes need to be made in order to try to improve for next year. Blowing it up completely isn’t really feasible, and running it back fully makes sense from a business perspective, but not really from a basketball perspective.

Katie Heindl: Most selfishly, I don’t want to watch unwatchable basketball for the next 5-10 years, so blowing it up for me makes no sense. Least selfishly, with the amount of work and adjustment that the team underwent to get here, blowing it up makes no sense, it also seems insulting. Again, change really is a long and winding road and even if that has to be accelerated (competitive sport, and all) it makes no sense to blow up the road if it’s gotten you 3/4 of the way there. I think there have to be some painful, key changes with one or two big pieces, for the game and for the culture and for the mentality to change, but blowing it up has always seemed the laziest route to me.

William Lou: I think they should keep their options open, but from the sounds of it, they will run it back and try to tweak around the margins as they usually do. My only concern with that is we’ve already seen what that looks like, so I wonder if people will buy into it again.

Who is the Raptor least likely to return for 2018-19?

Tim Chisholm: Well, Dwane Casey seems like the obvious choice, but if we want a player of significance then I’d say Valanciunas.

Tamberlyn Richardson: Least likely: Norman Powell or Lucas ‘Bebe’ Nogueira (who I hope doesn’t: Serge Ibaka).

Vivek Jacob: Man, this is tough. It’s probably Fred VanVleet. As weird as this feels to say, the team may have to choose between VanVleet and Lowry. With the pending extension for Delon Wright, it’s hard to imagine the Raptors committing that much money to the point guard position. So, do you trade Lowry and roll with a Fred/Delon…Lorenzo rotation? Or do you stick with Kyle and let VanVleet go/look for a sign-and-trade? I think it’s one or the other.

Matt Shantz: Bebe is the easiest answer. With depth at centre and his inability to earn consistent minutes, it feels like Masai may just let him walk in free agency. Of the players currently under contract the answer would likely be Norm. I’d assume he still has decent value around the league despite his struggles, and with teams needing wings he would be a good flyer for someone.

Cam Dorrett: Bebe.

Joshua Howe: It’s gotta be Norman Powell, right? If the Raptors are looking to shed some salary, he’s an obvious candidate. Unfortunately, with the way the cap is this summer and Norm’s lack of production this season, it may be more difficult to move him than first anticipated, despite his contract not being overwhelming bad. Still, he is paid to be a rotation player and wasn’t really one for most of this season, so the Raptors will likely have to attach an asset to move him, and none of their picks are currently very valuable, especially if they run back this iteration of the team and continue to win 50+ games going forward. With all of that said, I do think Toronto will run this team back, and so I don’t expect any major moves unless someone like a Kawhi Leonard becomes seriously available to them, meaning that a guy like Powell gets the short end of the stick.

Anthony Doyle: Is saying Bebe cheating? I don’t know if he makes it back because of roster spots and luxury tax realities, despite him clearly being talented. If not him, then the answer, I think, is Jakob Poeltl. You won’t find many bigger Jak fans than me, and I’d rather have him back, but if the Raptors set out to make a move they might have to attach a young guy, and he’s the easiest to see moved. OG and Pascal have higher ceilings, and Jak showed enough that he can bring back solid returns. Would still be sad to see him go.

Katie Heindl: Powell :(((

William Lou: Jonas Valanciunas. They’ve tried to trade him before, and now that his stock is up and his contract is shorter, there’s going to be more of a market.

What is your willingness to explore possibly trading Kyle Lowry or DeMar DeRozan in a “retooling” scenario where the aim is to remain competitive but mix things up?

Tim Chisholm: Here’s my take on this: DeRozan is probably the easier guy to trade, but you have to be concerned about what happens to Lowry’s attitude if DeMar is sent packing. Those two are as tight as it comes, and while Lowry may be totally unaffected by it in terms of motivation or productivity, it could easily go the other way, as well. I don’t know that breaking that duo up is the direction I would go yet, barring a way to do it while making the team decidedly better, but I also understand that with the wounds so fresh from another Playoff sweep that I’m probably in the minority on this one.

Tamberlyn Richardson: DeRozan probably is the easiest contract to move of the big three contracts. The dilemma is everyone knows he’ll work this summer and given his exit speech I’d put good money on defense being his offseason focus. Moreover, what would it do to the franchise if we move the one player in franchise history who wanted to be a Raptor for life? Lowry —- I just can’t. I know it makes sense given his age and contract, but I still feel he is the soul (best leader) of this team. *One caveat – as much as Lowry is my guy if the 76ers entertain trading for him with Dario Saric and Robert Covington included plus picks I might be tempted (but Ibaka still has to go, lol).

Vivek Jacob: Personally, I don’t think Delon and DeMar are a good backcourt combination. If you trade Lowry, do you start Fred then? Well, that’s probably better for the starting unit but then the Bench Mob takes a hit as we’ve seen they do without their connective tissue. What is DeMar’s value after the way his season ended? I keep wondering this. If you can’t really get equivalent value in return there’s probably no reason to pull the trigger. Ultimately, I think you roll with this backcourt for the next two years and go from there.

Matt Shantz: I’ve gone back and forth on this question. It hurts, but I’m okay with exploring trading Lowry or DeRozan. I think DeMar would be the more likely candidate to be moved (younger, more affordable, need for quality wings, etc.), but that would be hard to watch. He has given so much to the franchise that emotionally it would be hard to see him go. If it makes the team better though, I’m willing to go through the grieving process for either of them. I’ll heal in time.

Cam Dorrett: I can’t picture many trades where this makes sense, but if it works I’d rather see Kyle go than DeMar, and I know that’s the wrong take.

Joshua Howe: It always depends on what the return is. Sure, as a self-declared reasonable fan, I’m willing to be open to the idea of exploring the trade market for those two, and if a proper trade presents itself, then I will go along with it. That doesn’t mean, however, that the notion of dealing either of our stars (DeRozan especially) doesn’t hurt. Both have meant a ton to this franchise, and this era has been the best in Raptors history. That’s not something that should be tossed away for anything less than a fair return, and I don’t think Ujiri in particular will let that happen. I trust Raptors management, and truly believe that if either of those two are dealt, it will only be for the better.

Anthony Doyle: Personally, I would definitely look at moving DeMar, but wouldn’t trade Kyle barring a big move. DeMar is younger and more likely brings back equal value, and his flaws are bigger as well. He’ll remain in his prime longer, but the Raptors need to open up offensive space and touches for OG and Pascal, and Lowry is going to be a better complimentary player as he ages.

Katie Heindl: Like, I’m willing to say I’m willing, but I’m not willing to talk about it yet.

William Lou: My opinion is that they should do what makes sense and not just shake it up up blindly. Lowry won’t fetch much in return, so trading him doesn’t quite make sense. DeRozan has value, but you can’t move him unless you get a legitimate piece in return, otherwise Raptors fans will riot. There’s too much emotionally invested in DeRozan to move him for anything less than what the Pacers got for Paul George. That next star has to step up immediately, otherwise this gets ugly.

True or false: Dwane Casey will still be coaching this team in 2018-19. True or false: Dwane Casey should still be coaching this team in 2018-19.

Tim Chisholm: False and false. Casey has had an excellent run with the Raptors, and has been criminally underrated by too many people in Toronto for what he’s done, starting with sustained success on the court and extending down to the awe-inspiring development work with the youngsters. However, while he made some great coaching adjustments against Washington in round one, he looked as spooked by Cleveland as any of the players under his tutelage. The Miles-on-Love stretch was perplexing, the insertion of Bebe was ill-advised, and the general lack of fire his team played with against the Cavs was ultimately too worrisome to ignore. We may find out that another coach can’t replicate the successes that Casey had, let alone improve upon them, but after several near-firings, I think it’s time to bring another voice into the locker room.

Tamberlyn Richardson: Based on the exit interviews it seemingly pointed to Dwane Casey returning. How much blame is fair because his squad can’t beat the best player in the NBA? Jerry Sloan never got fired for not beating Jordan (just saying). As for the second part of this equation I’m torn. I respect Casey’s ability, particularly in season. Conversely, although Casey doesn’t lace them up he has to bear some of the responsibility for playoff failures. In game adjustments and timeouts aren’t made quickly enough. And, the team’s overall mindset is suspect. It’s said teams take on the personality of their coach. Casey is a hard worker, a gentleman and takes the high road (never see dirty or unsportsmanlike plays from him). I respect him for that. But, would it hurt him to emulate the likes of Popovich or Kerr who take (demonstrative) technicals to send a message to the striped men and to fire up their players? I wonder what Jerry Stackhouse could accomplish in the postseason given his personality. He’s proven in the G-League his team will be adept defensively and play with toughness which is the area the postseason Raptors need to improve. That said, I’m not sure what the right answer is. Perhaps if Nick Nurse gets hired to bring his offensive talent elsewhere Ujiri pulls in Stackhouse and makes him Assistant with the wink – wink of your time is soon. And the benefit is having Stackhouse with the team on a daily basis could offer a voice who could pull out the toughness in the squad.

Vivek Jacob: False. False.

Matt Shantz: While I believe Casey is deserving of remaining as coach, I think a change will and should be made. Great big picture coach, but I have some concerns about the finer details as we saw on display against Cleveland at times. As a man though, Casey deserves another chance and it will be hard to see him go (if he does).

Josh Weinstein: False and false. He’s had his run. A new voice is needed after a near-decade of reciting the same old mantras

Cam Dorrett: True.

Joshua Howe: According to sources like Josh Lewenberg and Michael Grange, it appears that the first statement is already proven to be false. The second question is where things get interesting, since Grange reported that the team is looking for an “experienced head coach at the helm of a 59-win team.” If that is the case, I think it is true that Casey should remain the Raptors’ head coach. None of the experienced coaches left on the market excite me that much, and some of them are downright scary to think about (Mike Brown?!). If the Raptors were more open to hiring someone internally, such as current assistant coach Nick Nurse or Raptors 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse, then I would be more relaxed about the notion of letting Casey go. But with the way things are looking, I’m planting my flag on Casey Island until further notice.

Anthony Doyle: He’ll probably still be coaching this team in 2018-19, I think. I’m not sure on the second part. He’s both the best coach the franchise has ever had, and a very good coach, as well as he’s someone who’s flaws as a coach have clearly come into view due to the length of his tenure in Toronto. He’s also taking blame for things that aren’t his fault, that are due to the roster makeup. The case each way is clear, and if they move on from him, they just have to ensure that they have a capable replacement in mind.

Katie Heindl: True and true.

William Lou: He will be coaching this team in 2018-19, as he should. But he will not get a contract extension.

Describe your ideal and realistic Raptors offseason in three-to-five moves.

Tim Chisholm: New coach that has the blessing of the stars and has a realistic plan for improving where Casey came up short. A little bit more veteran presence on in the middle of the roster. Nothing that interrupts the plan for 2020 and the pivot point with the cap that that summer can offer.

Tamberlyn Richardson: 1. Trade Ibaka and Powell. 2. Deliver a mandate to DeRozan he improves defensively ‘or else’. 3. Get bench/OG/ Alfonzo McKinnie and *Malcolm Miller (not sure of the dynamics here because he’s not contracted beyond this season) to repeat efforts from last season with priorities of improving: defense, perimeter shooting, ball handling and TOUGHNESS. 4. Seek FA’s who add same assets as outlined for bench unit with emphasis on a player entering/near prime who brings playoff success. 5. *Evaluate whether team would be better served to hire Jerry Stackhouse to replace Dwane Casey. Whichever choice is made make it a priority for Jonas Valanciunas to become a more consistent (read: whenever he’s on court) part of Raptors offense.

Vivek Jacob: Well, I’ve committed to the backcourt and moved on from Dwane Casey. Despite Michael Grange reporting the Raptors are looking for experience, everything I’ve seen in the G-League makes me comfortable rolling with Jerry Stackhouse. I think the Raptors have a real problem in the frontcourt. They have one true power forward in Pascal Siakam Serge Ibaka should be a center in this era of the NBA. I’d explore deals for both Ibaka and Valanciunas for a 4/3 type and roll with whichever one best helps the team. Wouldn’t look to do much beyond that.

Cam Dorrett: 1. Bring it all back, sign a veteran that can shoot and play D. 2. Develop OG into more than just a 3 and D. 3. Give JV more minutes.

Joshua Howe: Step 1) Re-sign Fred VanVleet, treating him as the priority; Step 2) Shed Norman Powell’s contract without giving up too valuable an asset; Step 3) Hire a new coach if, and only if, it’s an internal hire; Step 4) Test the market for Serge Ibaka, take a deep breath when nothing comes from it, and keep testing it.

Anthony Doyle: Find a trade that shores up the wing depth, especially another capable defender, which I think is necessary going forward. Search for an Ibaka trade that doesn’t cost too much in additional assets, as I’m not sure he fits in the team’s long-term plans. Trade into the draft to keep building the young talent for the next core.

Katie Heindl: Retain MVA (angel) Fred VanVleet. Explore and entertain GOOD free agent options but not options that mean we’d lose the team in the process. Everyone takes a nice vacation.

William Lou: 1. Solve the Valanciunas-Ibaka logjam. Both players are centers and they shouldn’t play together. Pick one and move the other. Valanciunas is better, but he’ll also get more in return. 2. Re-sign VanVleet to a 3-year, $24-million contract. 3. Quietly test the market for DeRozan. 4. Make a decision on Casey instead of letting it become a distraction all season.

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