Toronto Raptors: 5 Moves To Build A Contender
By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…
The Raptors had one of their best seasons in franchise history, winning 48 games and being rewarded with the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference. Although with that record they wouldn’t have made the playoffs in the Western Conference and they lost in 7 games in the 1st round of the playoffs against the Nets, they proved that they are one of the best young teams in the NBA and with their excellent young talent headlined by All Star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan (24) and franchise center Jonas Valanciunas (22), they have a very bright tomorrow. However, including resigning 3 of their best players and making a big free agent transaction, there are 5 things they can do this offseason to build a potential title contender, assuming their young talent continues to improve. They already resigned their coach Dwayne Casey, but there are still 5 moves that their excellent general manager Massai Ujiri needs to make to assure they stay close to the best teams in the East. If they make these moves and DeRozan, Valanciunas and the players involved improve, they could have a possible contender on their hands in a couple of seasons.
1. Resign Kyle Lowry
– Kyle Lowry is one of their 2 stars guards and had an All Star caliber season. He is a franchise cornerstone of the team and they have to resign him and build around him and DeRozan. Starting the season his price was in the 6-8 million dollar per season range, but now he will cost them at least 10 million. However, regardless of the price, they have to resign him. The minute they are allowed to, they should have him sign his name on his brand new contract.
2. Sign Greg Monroe
– Valanciunas is an excellent young player, who is an elite rebounder and an improving scorer and defender and he can be an All Star, but can he be the best big offensive big man on a contender? No. Aamir Johnson is very efficient and a strong scorer and rebounder, but neither can he. They need to bring in someone to take the role of go-to big man and Greg Monroe is a perfect fit. With Josh Smith signed to a ridiculous long term contract and Andre Drummond the franchise player in Detroit, who will receive a max contract in the next 2 seasons, they cannot afford to pay 3 players who play 2 positions 10+ million per season. Smith proved that he is no perimeter player and because of Joe Dumars’ poor decision to bring him to Detroit, it will probably cause them to lose Monroe. If the Raptors offer him a contract of 4 years and 40-48 million, they could take him from Detroit and he would slide right into the starting power forward spot, where he would give them 16+ points, 8+ rebounds and 3+ assists per game, with the potential for 18-10-4. Monroe is an All Star talent and needs a new team to thrive and that team should be Toronto. That would give them 4 All Star level talents in their starting 5. If a sign and trade would be necessary, they have the pieces to make a trade that would please the Pistons.
3/4. Resign Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson
– Vasquez is arguably the best 2nd string point guard in the NBA and is a solid starter too, but the Raptors would be wise to have him return as their sixth man. He is an incredible distributor and a very strong scorer in his own right and as Lowry is able to play off the ball, Vasquez can play in 3 guard sets with Lowry and DeRozan and play near 30 minutes per game. He can give them more than the 10 points and 5 assists he averaged in the playoffs this season and a 6th Man of The Year candidate. A 3 year, 12 million dollar contract sounds fair.
Patterson, like Vasquez, is a restricted free agent who came to them in the Rudy Gay trade and also perfectly fit this team. He can be one of the best 3rd big men in the NBA and can provide them with 10+ points and 6+ rebounds per game, like he averaged against the Nets in the playoffs this season. He is a very efficient offensive player, a strong rebounder and an excellent shooter for a big man and they would be wise to have him return. A 3 year, 14 million dollar contract sounds fair.
5. Trade Amir Johnson for Corey Brewer
– The Raptors have a big need for a perimeter stopper on defense and Corey Brewer fits that mold and is also a solid offensive presence. If they were to sign Monroe and resign Patterson, the Raptors wouldn’t have a place for Johnson and therefore trading him to fill a hole would be a very smart decision. This would move Terrence Ross to the bench, which is the best spot for him right now, bringing big time shooting and scoring to the 2nd unit.
A Lowry-DeRozan-Brewer-Monroe-Valanciunas starting 5 is an elite young unit and with Ross, Vasquez and Patterson, they would have excellent depth. This is a team that would be one of the 3-4 best teams in the East next season and with the potential to grow into a title contender within 2 seasons, assuming they are able to play together as a team and all of their young players are able to improve. This would be at the very least, the best team the in the history of the Toronto Raptors.