The Raptors cruised through much of the regular season last year, but stumbled in the playoffs. Now, they’re looking for more.
Summer leagues are in full swing and we’re headed into the final stretch of the NBA offseason. The Toronto Raptors are coming off of a good season where they finished first place in the Atlantic Division. With a 49-33 record, they landed as the no. 4 seed in the East but were swept 4-0 in the first round of the playoffs by the Washington Wizards. Have the Raptors done enough this offseason to make a real push for a championship in the 2015-16 season? As far as making the playoffs, we have them at -432 so it would be a surprise if they can’t claim one of the top eight spots in the East. We currently have the Raptors at +3000 to win it all at the NBA Finals.
Trades The most notable trade of the offseason happened on draft night. Toronto agreed to trade guard Greivis Vasquez to the Milwaukee Bucks for guard Norman Powell and a 2017 first round pick. Vazquez had a down year in 2014-15, but could still be considered a productive player capable of making big plays. Moving someone of his caliber was a clear signal that the Raptors were looking to transition from the free-wheeling yet poor defensive play that had made up their identity last season. While Powell’s effectiveness is yet to be seen, he’s an explosive shooting guard who plays tenacious defense.
Draft With the 20th pick in the NBA Draft, Toronto picked 23 year old Delon Wright, a point-guard out of Utah with defensive prowess and versatility. Wright is seen as one of the best defensive players of the 2015 draft class with great basketball instincts. While Wright may only live up to the role of back up point-guard at best, he is seemingly a safe bet as a stout playmaker and defender. The choice of Wright could be seen as a move made to err on the side of caution as their first round pick from the 2014 draft, Bruno Coboclo, hadn’t developed the way the Raptors had hoped, sending him to the D league midway through his rookie season.
Signings Toronto’s front office made it clear they wanted to make a splash in the offseason and they did so by giving DeMarre Carroll a four-year, $60 million contract. Carroll joins the Raptors from the Atlanta Hawks where he was the type of grind-it-out, hard defender Toronto truly needs. Carroll averaged 5.3 rebounds and shot 60% in true shooting last season (49% from the field, 39.5 from three-point range). His versatility will be on display, as the Raptors will be able to move him from the wing to power forward depending on need.
The Raptors continued to add defense to the roster in signing Bismack Biyombo for a two-year, $6 million contract. Biyombo is a big presence in the paint and will be a role player for Toronto, likely seeing limited minutes, but will be expected to protect the rim, clean up the boards and play within his skillset. He’ll be just 23 when the season begins and feels like a good fit for what he offers the Raptors.
Lastly, Toronto signed Cory Joseph for four years and $30 million. Just 24 years old, he spent the last four seasons on the San Antonio Spurs development team. He brings smarts and the ability to run the offense or play off guard. The Raptors are hoping he can be the first guard off the bench and occasionally make a start or two.