Free Agents (Cap Holds)
While most teams head into the offseason not entirely sure whether or not they'll land an impact player, the Raptors are assured of adding at least one such player to their rotation. Last year's fifth overall pick Jonas Valanciunas is expected to arrive in North America for the 2012/13 season, and he could be just the first of many interesting new faces in Toronto.
Even after adding Valanciunas to their books, the Raptors have an enviable cap situation. With just under $44MM in guaranteed salary committed to nine players, the Raps are in good position to renounce their cap holds and gain some cap space this summer. Although the team missed out on a potential offseason target when Wilson Chandler signed a long-term extension with the Nuggets, there are still a number of free agents that could interest Toronto, including Andrei Kirilenko and new Team Canada GM Steve Nash.
With Valanciunas, Andrea Bargnani, and DeMar DeRozan expected to be building blocks for the franchise going forward, the Raptors will be seeking a long-term solution at point guard and small forward. Jose Calderon ($10.56MM) and James Johnson ($2.81MM) are the incumbents, but both players will face free agency after next season. Johnson is certainly a player worth keeping around, but he may be better served coming off the bench, making Kirilenko an intriguing possibility for the starting lineup.
Calderon, meanwhile, was efficient on the offensive end, but isn't strong defensively. Even at age 38, Nash is the superior player, albeit with a similar skill set. Taking into account the appeal a Canadian star could have in Toronto, it wouldn't surprise me to see the Raptors make Nash a competitive multiyear offer. However, if the two-time MVP's top priority is a championship ring, he may turn down the Raps' money for a chance to win elsewhere.
With Calderon under contract for next season, the Raptors may not pursue a non-Nash point guard in free agency, though it's an area they could target in the draft. Given this year's underwhelming class of point guards, the Raps would likely have their pick of the litter at eighth overall, and could nab Weber State's Damian Lillard. The club could also use its lottery pick on a scorer like Austin Rivers or Dion Waiters to replace Jerryd Bayless if the combo guard departs in free agency.
If the cap space, lottery pick, and new arrival from overseas weren't enough, the Raptors also have a handful of interesting trade chips at their disposal. Ed Davis could be expendable in a frontcourt that includes Valanciunas, Bargnani, and Amir Johnson, and his affordable contract should draw plenty of interest. If they want to get adventurous, the Raptors could even explore trades for Bargnani, though I doubt they'd go in that direction unless they repeated Cleveland's 2011 feat -- landing the first overall pick with the eighth-best odds. Pairing Valanciunas with Anthony Davis would give the team a tremendous foundation and would provide the opportunity to shop Bargnani for wing or backcourt help.
General manager Bryan Colangelo and other members of the Raptors have strongly suggested the team expects to contend for the playoffs next season. Considering the progress made under coach Dwane Casey in his first year in Toronto, it's not an unrealistic goal. Adding Valanciunas this summer is a near certainty, but the club's postseason chances may depend on the rest of its offseason moves. Armed with a lottery pick, trade chips, and cap room, the Raps have a great opportunity to take a big step forward.