The Toronto Raptors waged war against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, but ultimately fell to a better te
am in six games.
Despite a heroic performance from our nation’s team, we are now in the same place as the rest of the league, which is looking to next season and figuring out how to improve. With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the major story lines circling the Raptors this offseason
The amount of backlash DeRozan endured during the playoffs was staggering, so much so that you couldn’t help but believe the man would head home to L.A. given the hostility he was facing. But DeRozan has been adamant about his desire to stay in Toronto, the team that drafted him, and the team he stuck with through the rough times.
When asked if he could find a better situation than Toronto, DeMar told ESPN:
“I don’t think so, my mindset has always been Toronto. I’ve always preached it. I was passionate about it when we were losing, when we were terrible. I said I was going to stick through this whole thing, and I want to be that guy who brings this organization to where it is now. I definitely don’t want to switch that up after we win.”
On top of that, the Los Angeles Lakers, the team mentioned as DeMar’s top destination, apparently aren’t as interested in the Compton native as initially thought.
Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding let it slip that the Lakers may not be prepared to dish out max contract money to the Raps star this offseason.
“There’s a lot of presumption about DeRozan and I’m told the Lakers aren’t that high on him,” Ding said during his appearance on Bleacher Report Radio.
— Noah Coslov (@NoahCoslov) May 29, 2016
If that wasn’t enough to solidify DeMar’s desire to remain in Canada, Masai Ujiri added his two cents to destination of DeRozan this offseason.
With the incredible play of Bismack Biyombo this post-season, the big man’s paycheque is sure to balloon, and Ujiri praised both Biyombo and DeRozan for their performances, but ensured that bringing DeMar back was his #1 priority.
Ulitmately the choice remains with DeMar, and undoubtedly the most important thing for Canadians is having a player who wants to play in Canada. We have that in our guy from USC, and his quote to the Toronto Star perfectly sums up what it means to DeMar being a Raptor
Don't worry, I got us…
— DeMar DeRozan (@DeMar_DeRozan) June 29, 2010
“I took pride in putting that Raptors jersey on when people counted us out or when people said, ‘Why go to Toronto? Why this, why, that, why this, why that.’ You hear it so much, that gave me the motivation to want to prove people wrong, or prove critics wrong why this organization can’t be a winning organization. You know what I mean? I took pride in that a long time ago. And it’s crazy even now, I see people bring up a tweet I tweeted after Chris (Bosh) left (in 2010). And I don’t even remember tweeting it, but I meant that. I really meant that.”
Coach Casey made it his mission to focus this teams energies on
defence, which is something the team has struggled with committing to during his tenure. The Raps have been in and out of the Top 10 Defensive teams in the NBA, while letting players like Lou Williams change the teams mentality forced the Raptors off the highway and left them stalled on the side of the road.
The departure of Williams and Vasquez, and the introduction of Carroll and Biyombo were moves in the right direction, and this offseason provides another opportunity to creating a Championship calibre contender.
One piece of news that came up during playoffs was from ESPN’s Zach Lowe, who said that Casey was at risk of losing his job if the Raptors didn’t make it past the Pacers. Obviously the Raps survived the first round, but Pacer’s coach Frank Vogel didn’t, losing his position with Indiana and moving to Orlando.
With that in mind, Masai Ujiri was adamant about Casey as their coach for the future, and there isn’t really a differing opinion from the voices who matter, so if you didn’t like Casey before this, you better get comfortable with him for the foreseeable future.
Masai Ujiri: “Coach Casey is our coach for the future. I think that’s very easy for us to figure out.”
— James Herbert (@outsidethenba) May 30, 2016
Biyombo looks to be this post-seasons Tristan Thompson, turning a stellar playoff run into a big pay day. The Biz, who earned roughly $3 million this season, is expected to pull in $17 mil a season, according to a report by Sporting News’ Sean Deveney
“For someone like (Biyombo), I think when you look at a guy like Tyson Chandler and what he got from Phoenix last summer (four years, $52 million), that’s where you start for a contract,” one Eastern Conference GM told Sporting News. “But you factor in the cap spike and it’s probably going to be high, I’d say, $16-17 million. It’ll be a heck of a $17 million-per-year gamble.”
That is a considerable pay raise for Biyombo, one that the Raptors would struggle to justify for their backup centre. That being said, Biyombo told the Fan 590’s Andrew Walker that he would consider a discount price in order to return to the Raps.
Bismack Biyombo tells me he wants to be back, expects to be back, & is open to taking a hometown discount to return. @WalkerShow590 #Raptors
— Andrew Walker (@AWalksOfficial) May 30, 2016
Despite Biyombo’s excellent performance in the post season, it just doesn’t seem feasible for Toronto to retain the big man in a backup role, so keeping him would mean some drastic changes to the composition of this roster, ones that don’t seem likely for the Raps this offseason.
Ninth Pick in the NBA Draft
With the NBA Draft fast approaching, the Raptors #9 pick this June. Their last ninth overall pick was no other then Demar Derozan, so its needless to say they have a great opportunity come NBA draft time.
Toronto will need to fill a glaring need at the power forward, a position filled by the departing Luis Scola for most of this year. Scola filled in admirably for most of the regular season, but was removed from the starting lineup for most of the playoffs, and obviously is not the answer for the Raps for the long-term.
There is a lot of talent at the PF position in the draft this year, from Isreal’s Dragan Bender, to Washington’s Marquese Chriss, to Utah’s Jakob Poeltl.
Hopefully a quality talent falls to the Raps at the 9 spot, otherwise Ujiri will need to figure out a solution to the one position that has been a constant question mark for Toronto since Chris Bosh took his talents to South Beach.