Offseason Primer

So I’ve said my “piece” about the Raptors trying to sign Steve Nash. Now let’s look at what else could, should and shouldn’t be in the cards for the Raptors, as well as around the NBA.

The guys I felt the Raptors should really target in the offseason is Nicolas Batum. If the Raptors couldn’t land a potential impact small forward in the draft (they drafted a SG), I thought Batum should be target number one. He’s 23 years old, athletic, can defend and hit the three. In other words, he’s perfect for the Raptors and their rebuilding process. He improves the team but, at just 23, isn’t a short term fix or shortcut like a trade for a veteran would be.

The good news is that the Raptors are apparently interested in signing Batum.

The bad news is that the Raptors have already offered $12 million to Nash, so will need to clear salary in order to match Minnesota’s 4 year, $45-50 million offer in order to have a chance at getting him in a Toronto Raptor uniform. And the fact that Minnesota came to him first and that Toronto went to Nash first has to work in the T-Wolves favour.

While signing Nash is more of a PR move, signing Batum would be solely a basketball move, and that’s why I like it. Perhaps what the Raptors should do is offer Batum a back end loaded contract, but of course they wouldn’t have to do that if they hadn’t offered the 38 year old Nash a $36 million contract. Whether Batum is actually worth $10 million a season is also a question worth asking. Especially to a team that was a close to the playoffs as it was to the bottom of the league, last season.

Muddying the waters even more is the news that the Raptors are also interested in signing Ersan Ilyasova, as well as possibly offering Jeremy Lin a back loaded contract that the Knicks wouldn’t be able to match. Talk about the shotgun approach.

I like Ilyasova as an alternative to Batum. He’s a year and a half older than Batum, but is a better player right now. With Ilyasova, though, there’s the danger of signing a player coming off a career year to a big contract.

Speaking of career years, while I think signing Lin now is fraught with dangers (he’s at the absolute peak of his worth, he played in the perfect system for him etc.) I’d much rather sign Lin than Nash because at least Lin would (hopefully) be a long term solution.

I do question the logic in overpaying a free agent (or two) to come to Toronto at this point in the rebuilding process. When you have no idea who you’re actually building around, how do you know you’re actually adding the right pieces? And when you overpay then, it’s a little more difficult to trade them if you need to down the road. Overpaid free agent acquisitions are not the best assets.

So Jerryd Bayless and Sonny Weems both were offered qualifying offers. Bayless wasn’t a surprised, but Weems was. Weems had made statements, this past season, that made it seem as though he really wasn’t in the Raptors’ plans.

I actually think Weems has some talent and the skills to one day become a very good role player in the NBA. His biggest problem is that he doesn’t realize that’s what he is.

The biggest news so far, is probably the Hawks finally trading Joe Johnson, and his gargantuan contract, to the Brooklyn Nets. In exchange, they got back basically spare parts, a protected draft pick and freedom from a contract they should never have offered in the first place.

In fact, at the time Johnson signed the contract I said…

The Hawks are a team stuck at high level mediocrity. They’re too good to break up, but they’re not good enough to be a real contender.

I had been a unabashed critic of Danny Ferry’s tenure at Cleveland. I thought he was largely responsible for the mess that Cleveland became and for what lead to LeBron James leaving town.

When Ferry was hired as GM of the Atlanta Hawks, he took over a team that had made the playoffs for 5 consecutive years, even winning 53 games, in 2010. They were even able to reach the second round three years in a row. That’s a better five year span than at any time in Raptor history.

And Ferry looked at the situation and realized he needed to pull the plug. And I applaud him for it.

I’ve heard comments from many Raptor fans that they would love for the Raptors to be a team similar to the Atlanta Hawks. Yet Ferry saw that team and decided that a perennial first or second round team simply was’t good enough. He wanted more for the team. So he traded away Johnson for spare parts and cap room, as well as Marvin Williams, and his unwieldy contract, for Devin Harris, whose contract expires next summer, giving the Hawks a boatload of caproom.

Now Atlanta will apparently try and go after Dwight Howard, either through a trade (involving Al Horford) this summer, or next summer when he becomes a free agent.

What’s even more interesting than Atlanta deciding to gut their roster, is what Brooklyn is doing. After pretty much mortgaging themselves for Deron Williams, the Nets are now so desperate to keep him, and to build a winner as soon as possible, they that are willing to take on other team’s mistakes to do so.

It’s going to be fun to watch, if nothing else, so stay tuned…

Coming up soon, trades I’d like to see happen this summer.

One thought on “Offseason Primer

  1. Hi Tim,

    I’ve been reading your commentary and this website for a while and your thoughts usually bang on with my thinking of how Raptors should build the team. – i.e. as a real contender, not as a middle of the road team in the East with 2nd round playoffs as the end goal.

    Re: Free Agents, I would be very happy if the Raptors signed Ilysova or Batum – both young with great all-around games (3 pt shooting, rebounding, defence). Batum signing is not looking likely at this point though…

    Re: Nash signing, my initial reaction is it is not a good basketball move, especially if Calederon is amnestied to achieve it. It’s funny that Raptors keep trying to replace Calderon when he is one of the strengths of the team. A wise GM would make bold moves that go against the grain and be willing to concede past mistakes, like trading DeRozan or Bargnani for more productive players / players with higher basketball IQ. The challenge is none of those scenarios will happen as long as Colangelo is around… I will be excited when the Nash signing happens, but I know it’s the wrong move longer term for this team…

    I’ll wait till end of summer for final judgement on the roster… and curious to read your proposed trades…

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