In recent memory we don’t tend to think that the NBA champions are going into a year of rebuilding. Instead we diagnose and analyze whether that team is the favorites to win it again next year, and the year after that. In an era of NBA basketball where teams have tried to set themselves up to become a “dynasty”, and hope they go down as the greatest teams ever to grace the court, the Toronto Raptors are in the process of potentially rebuilding their roster. After losing out on getting Kawhi Leonard back in free agency, they are seeking ways to become formidable contenders for the upcoming season. If anyone can pull it off, it would be the current GM for the Toronto Raptors, Masai Ujiri, who pulled off the trade with the San Antonio Spurs that sent Kawhi Leonard to the Raptors, and DeMar DeRozen to the Spurs during the previous off season. The move proved to be the right one, after the Raptors won their first NBA title just days ago. So where do the Raptors go from here?
What we know?
We know that they are over the 109 million dollar cap, which you can only go over if you are signing players that are already on your current roster. So they have nowhere to go with the free agents still without a team besides the mid-level exception where they can sign a free agent for up to 4 years and starting around !0 million with a small raise every year after that. With the free agents left they could possibly pick up a Rondae Hollis-Jefferson or a scorer in Justin Holiday on the mid-level exception.
We know that after this next season ends the Raptors while have excessive cap space with Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, and Free VanVleet all set to be unrestricted free agents. Which sets them up nicely in free agency to land a big name like a Draymond Green, Andre Drummond, or Anthony Davis if he gets sick of playing the Lakers. It is a big if though, if they can even attract one with what is left on their roster. Which is possible if Pascal Siakam can improve on a strong year that lead him to winning the most improved player award.
The last thing we know is that Masai Ujiri is not afraid to make bold moves to increase the Raptors productivity and competitiveness. So he could package a deal sending a few of the 3 upcoming veteran free agents for a younger player with high potential to play alongside Pascal, while getting some cap space for the next off season. If it were me I’d resign VanVleet or extend his contract, he showed promise in the finals, and he is just one more young player to build around.
The best the Raptors can hope for:
There is no question that in the Eastern Conference, even without Kawhi on the roster, they are still built to be competitive enough to at least slide into the playoffs, in one of the 5-8 slots. The best they can hope for next season is being similar to the 2004 Detroit Pistons championship team, where their wasn’t really a star, yet they played so cohesively, they won against a Laker team that featured Kobe and Shaq. With free agency playing out like it did, in my opinion is you go out and sign your mid-level exception, and make a run with the current team the Raptors have in place. The 2004 Pistons proved not having a superstar, doesn’t automatically disqualify you from winning a championship, and with there being no super teams left, they got a chance to repeat. It may not be likely, but anything can happen.