Raptors' Roster Will Define The Direction This Season

The Raptors off-season for the most part is done in terms of the major pieces to the puzzle. The biggest thing that happened was the Raptors addressed their Andrea Bargnani problem and actually were able to get some assets for him. It cost them having to take on a couple players that will never suit up as Raptors in Camby and Richardson. They did get Novak and some draft picks. When you compare it to taking on a bad contract it makes much more sense.

The Raptors really have not defined what they will be to any extent, other than they will at least start the season looking to compete. The way I look at things is the Raptors have given the current roster a chance to come out and show they have the talent to build on as a group. If they do not succeed in showing that there is an escape route for Masai Ujiri.

Perhaps the most movable part to the Raptors puzzle could be Kyle Lowry. The Raptors do not seem like they have any interest in looking to commit long term to Lowry at this point. The same might be true as far as Lowry in his interest in sticking with the Raptors long term. Lowry came in with a lot of expectations from some as the alternate plan of Bryan Colangelo after failing to land Steve Nash.

Some going as far as saying the Raptors were actually better off with Lowry. It was not a good season for Nash or for Kyle Lowry. In the end Lowry had injuries and fell into a battle for the starting position with Jose Calderon. They would eventually move Calderon and Lowry was by default the man. He never really developed into the potential all-star talent that people who were high on him coming had suggested. Even the addition of Rudy Gay who is close friends with Lowry did not really take his game up to the next level.

Lowry is in the last year of his deal and Gay technically could be as well. Gay has a player option for another season after this one. While some have suggested he could opt out and walk on the Raptors that seems to lack logic. He is due a big payday with that option and would need to have a tremendous season to even consider such a move. It seems unlikely Gay could make the same money he is getting from the max deal he originally signed with the Grizzlies.

In addition Gay has had the issues with his back and over the off-season had eye surgery to fix a vision problem. The word is that Gay has been working hard in the off-season and looking to improve his three-point shooting. That has been a big issue with a lot of folks that both he and DeRozan lack of ability to make the three and have similar games.

While many have looked at DeRozan has the odd man out it might not make as much sense. Colangelo gave DeMar DeRozan an extension on his contract at roughly 9 million as season. While no one is going to question at this point Gay is the more talented of the two players. He is also making significantly more and is not as durable. Whatever you may critique DeRozan about no one can question his durability.

DeRozan is also getting another summer to work in the USA Basketball system with the training camp going on in Las Vegas. Last season DeRozan took some big strides with have a summer working within that program. Too often it seems Raptor fans are focused on DeRozan’s faults as opposed to his strengths. What has to improve beyond the obvious with his three-point shooting is the defensive play of DeRozan.

What might be true is that Jonas could be growing into the main piece for this team’s future going forward. He was clearly the big story coming out of Las Vegas Summer League. This is league wide not just with the Raptors. He was the MVP of Summer League which is voted on by the media from around the league covering Summer League.

In the end the Raptors roster will determine the direction this team heads by their performance. If the Raptors land the traditional schedule they have been saddled with in the past that will not be easy. The Raptors often end up with a much tougher schedule in the first few months of the season.

Why this is important is in reality the Raptors need to have a clear direction by the end of the calendar year in my view. If the Raptors are not a playoff team or a fringe playoff team (seventh or eighth seed) they need to cut bait and start dismantling this roster. It is far to tempting to get in the hunt for Andrew Wiggins in next season’s draft.

Wiggins can be a game changer for this franchise. A trip back to playoffs for a guaranteed sweep is not worth missing an opportunity at getting Andrew Wiggins. You don’t have to be the worst team to get in that hunt for him. The fact Wiggins has made it known that he would like be a Raptor if it were up to him. That statement was a huge one and will be one that is going to be the elephant in the room if the Raptors struggle this season.

In the end the future is still pretty cloudy but the fact the Raptors have options is a good thing. You get the feeling that the new people running the Raptors have a much more realistic outlook on what it will take to fix this team for the long term. 

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