Down 2–1 in a series and they are not facing the Cleveland Cavaliers, what’s next? The Toronto Raptors entire roster should be on the hot seat.
The Raptors are down 2–1 to a new playoff team in the Eastern Conference. The Milwaukee Bucks are currently too much for the Raptors. At the beginning of Game 3 of the playoffs, Bucks humiliated one of the top tier teams in the East. The Bucks ended the first quarter with a 20 point lead.
Once the game started, that was the end. After the 20 point deficit, the Raptors were in, they didn’t come close to tying the game back up. The Raptors lost to the Bucks 104-77. The star backcourt of the Raptors combined for 21 points on 4-of-18 shooting. DeMar DeRozan ended the game shooting 0 for 8. Lowry only had 13 points; his playoffs stunt has not been good over the past three years.
The front office didn’t build the Raptors to be a playoff team, but instead a regular season team.
Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combined four points in the first quarter. Let’s start off with those two.
In 2009, the Raptors drafted DeMar DeRozan 9th overall in the first round.
In 2012, General Manager Bryan Colangelo traded their 2012 first round draft pick for Kyle Lowry after losing out on signing free agent Steve Nash at the time. Colangelo paired up what to be one of the best backcourts in the NBA.
After missing five straight playoff appearances, Lowry and DeRozan second year together brought the playoffs back to the Raptors.
Before the 2013 season started, the Raptors brought in Masai Ujiri to be the new General Manager.
The first year in the playoffs together they lose to the New Jersey Nets in the first round.
In 2014, that’s when the young backcourt started to make some noise. Lowry was averaging 17.8 PPG and DeRozan was averaging 20.1 ppg. Ujiri added Lou Williams to the roster. The GM wanted Williams on the roster to help take some scoring loads off of the backcourt. Williams sure did ignite the Raptors in the regular season. Williams averaged 15.5 PPG coming off the bench. However, Playoffs are when it matters.
Lowry and DeRozan second roller coaster ride together in the playoffs was disappointing. They lose to the Orlando Magic in the first round. It took the Magic five games to handle the Raptors.
The Raptors lost Lou Williams in the offseason to free agency. However, Ujiri brought in another piece to the team. t dined Demarre Carroll. He had an overachieving year for Atlanta the previous year.
During the 2015–16 season the Raptors was the best team in the East. They ended off as the number two seed.
Once again, the regular season does not determine your path to the finals. In 2016, they had a terrific playoff push. Once they reached the eastern conference finals for the first time, it wasn’t pleasant. They lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games. Title chances are slipped out of the Raptors fingertips after losing to the Cavs.
After trading for Serge Ibaka and PJ Tucker during midseason to boost the roster, playoffs wins is still looking unfamiliar for the Raptors. Now, they are struggling with the sixth seed in the East. It is looking like this roster is coming to an end.
If the Raptors cannot get out the first round, then their roster is on the hot seat. The backcourt is possibly in danger of being broken up after five years. They went to the playoffs four years straight in those four years, The Raptors been to one eastern conference finals game.
After Colangelo and Ujiri put up a somewhat significant roster to contend, Lowry and DeRozan could not get the job done. Both players are in their prime years as of right now. DeRozan has averaged 27.3 points this year. Lowry averaged 22.4 points and 7 assists.
Even though both players is providing enough to get the team to the playoffs, they are not leading their team in the playoffs.
Canagelo and Ujiri changed the roster for four years straight. The front office has been trying to figure out what’s the right formula to get to the finals, but it’s the same result every year.
The problem is that the Raptors never had that third key player that’s a star and been to the all-star game.
The front office can try and sign a third-star player, but it’s highly impossible to do that in the offseason. Why? Kyle Lowry has a player option. However, he is going to turn down his player option for more money. Lowry turning down his player option would allow him to hit the marker. Since Lowry is coming off his best season in his career, he is seeking a max contract.
Not only is Lowry hitting the market, but Ibaka, Tucker, and Patterson will be unrestricted free agents. So, Lowry wants a max and Ibaka would want at least four years + 70 million deal.
Signing another player would take a few players on their team to take pay cuts. So after they resign Kyle Lowry, they’re tapped his cap hold will put them at $102 million leaving them $ 1 million under cap space.
Instead of finding that third star, the ideal situation is to start the rebuilding process.
Teams in the East like the Bucks, Celtics, and 76ers are young and have at least one star on their team. The Raptors in the next five years would not be able to compete with those three teams if they were to keep the roster the same. The East is moving in the right direction to be competitive. Moving players like Corey Joseph and Demare Carrol makes the most sense at this point. Gaining draft picks or young players in the NBA should be the focus on these future transactions.
Possibly trading DeRozan and letting Lowry walk would be a fresh start. Several teams would spend their early first round draft picks and a young player for DeRozan. For example, the Lakers, Celtics, 76ers and T’wolves would make a brave move like that to put their team back in the spotlight.
GM Ujiri talked about rebuilding earlier in the season to CBS reporters.
“We have taken this unique path of maybe trying to develop players as we try to win, too,” Ujiri said at Sloan, later adding, “I feel strongly about developing players. … We talk about how you find these superstars; I think with the new CBA it’s going to be incredibly more difficult to trade for them. In many ways, we need to think about ways to find these guys.”
They have some key young players, so far on the roster. Norman Powell, Delon Wright, and Jakob Petltl are promising young stars. Adding more players and draft picks next to those sophomores and freshman would be just what the doctor ordered for the Raptors. One guy that stand out, out of those three young players is Powell “Mr.Serious.”
Powell has so much great potential that Ujiri traded away Terrance Ross to the Magic. That trade opened up a lot of space for Powell in the future. Powell is the three and D type of guards. Whereas, he can score and play defense as well. Powell shot 45 percent from the field this past season. He dropped 18 points eight times this season. He only averaged 17 minutes per game but averaged 8.4 points.
With Powell and the rest of the young guys ready to sprout, it’s time to jump on the train and rebuild.
The Raptors are running out of money and opportunities to keep this title window open. I expect the Raptors to rebuild if they lose this series in the first round.