Like so many young teams, the NBA playoffs left the Toronto Raptors by the wayside after a hard-fought first round defeat at the hands of a more battle-tested New Jersey Nets squad. The Raptors made great strides this year, in no small part due to the progression of Chris Bosh into what looks like a perennial all-star, and some savvy moves by Bryan Colangelo last summer. But what does Colangelo do now to take this team past the first round, which seems like a legitimate possibility next year given the aging of the Pistons, Heat, and Nets.
The Raptors currently have the 4th lowest payroll in the league, and with Alvin Williams's $6M contract coming off the books, the team will be in even better shape next year. Morris Peterson's contract is up, and he has proved to be a valuable piece and steady producer for the team. He makes $4.5M, and Colangelo would be smart to hang on to a player that can go for 15 night in night out, and play solid defense. Colangelo, though, has a penchant for overhauling teams, and it's definitely a possbility that Mo Pete could be wearing different colors next season.
Run by T.J. Ford, the Raptors now play a faster style similar to the Phoenix Suns. But they currently have neither the athletes nor the shooters of Colangelo's other architectural masterpiece. The Raps will be drafting in the late teens, and could see a Marcus Williams type at that spot, an athletic, smooth, and long-limbed swingman.
Bosh and Bargnani form a formidable front court scoring wise, but combined they don't inspire fear on defense or the boards. Neither does Rasho Nesterovic. The Raptors would be well suited for a grinder/enforcer type to take the pressure off Bosh and allow Bargnani to roam the perimeter at will. Can anybody say Danny Fortson? A Dennis Rodman wannabe, Fortson comes off Seattle's books this summer and Toronto could get him on the cheap.
Expect Colangelo to look for more speed in the backcourt, though, to complement Ford. Would he consider making a run at one of the Atlanta Hawks wings, like Josh Childress, who Billy Knight would be wise to unload. Childress could be a great 1 or 2 yr experiment for Colangelo. He can shoot the 3, and moves pretty well off the dribble. The lack of incessant losing would also be a positive, next to a winner like Ford, anybody can take another step. Look how good guys like Anthony Parker looked this year.
With a taller wing to make up for Ford's slight of build, and a bruiser to protect Bosh, the Raptors could stay young, stay cheap, and improve. Bosh has not quite hit the ceiling in my book, but at this point it's going to take better players to make him better. Factor in a Bargnani improvement and added muscle and the Raps could lock down the Titanic for the next 5 years.