No easy answers for Raptors in off-season
Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry speaks to the media at the season-ending press conference at the Biosteel Centre in Toronto on Monday May 8, 2017. (Michael Peake/Postmedia Network)
Pity the poor Toronto Raptors.
With the Raptors trapped in the “very good but not great zone” the last few seasons, general manager Masai Ujiri made some bold moves at this year’s trade deadline. They ultimately didn’t make a difference and the team was swept out of the second round of the playoffs by their nemesis, the defending-champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Raptors have firmly hit a ceiling, and given the age of their core group — and impending free agents — no easy answers lie ahead to the question of where they go from here.
DeMar DeRozan is 27, Kyle Lowry 31, Serge Ibaka 27, P.J. Tucker 32, DeMarre Carroll 30, Patrick Patterson 28.
LeBron James is just a year older than Lowry and will probably outlast them all.
The Raptors have peaked. Or to quote a former NFL coach: they are who we thought they were.
Or maybe a little less.
In a league trending towards the three-point shot and role players who space defenders to allow star teammates to operate, Toronto looked lost against Cleveland.
The Cavs tied a record for three-point differential in a playoff series.
The Raps were just 27-90 on threes for the four games, including a miserable 2-18 at home in Game 3, when they were annihilated in the fourth quarter.
DeRozan is paid the salary of an elite player, but his game regressed in the playoffs.
As for the rest, four of them are about to become free agents this offseason: Lowry, Ibaka, Tucker and Patterson.
Lowry should be let go. A 31-year-old point guard seeking a huge payday shouldn’t be attractive to anyone, except maybe the New York Knicks, who specialize in such things.
Ibaka, though, would be a good candidate to re-sign.
And what of head coach Dwane Casey? He’s had a nice six-season run in Toronto, and of all of GM Ujiri’s offseason decisions, this might be the toughest one.
Although a sport with different dynamics and time tables, the Raptors face a choice not unlike that of the Vancouver Canucks circa 2013: retool on the fly with a suddenly aging core, or blow it up with a full rebuild?
Do the right thing.
Your fan base will thank you sooner rather than later.