Throughout the month of November, Hoops Rumors will look back at each team's offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.
Trades and Claims
Rookie Contract Option Decisions
The Raptors entered the offseason with cap room to spare and one clear-cut top target they wanted to use that room to sign. When the clock struck midnight on July 1st, the Raptors put a full-court press on Canadian star Steve Nash, hoping to lock him up quickly to a deal that would bring him to Toronto.
Since July, Nash has said on multiple occasions that he was seriously considering the Raptors' pitch, likely weighing it against a similar offer from the Knicks. However, when the Lakers entered the fray and offered Nash a three-year deal to go along with the chance to stay close to his children on the West Coast, the Raptors saw their number one choice in free agency heading to Los Angeles instead.
The major developments of the Raptors' offseason stemmed from the pursuit of Nash and what happened after they missed out on him. While they were still in the running for ex-Sun, the Raptors signed restricted free agent Landry Fields to a pricey offer sheet, at least in part to hinder the Knicks' chances of landing Nash -- Fields was considered a likely candidate to be included in any sign-and-trade deal involving the veteran point guard.
That move backfired when Nash chose the Lakers, leaving the Raptors on the hook for a contract that the Knicks weren't about to match. I defended the deal to an extent at the time, pointing out that it was a worthwhile risk if the Raps considered New York to be the strongest competition for Nash. Additionally, a three-year deal worth only about $6MM annually isn't the type of contract that will handicap a team for years to come. Even if Fields might not have been worth that price, it wouldn't be a disaster if he bounced back from his horrible 2011/12 season and submitted a performance more similar to rookie year. However, the early returns on Fields aren't good, and even his $6MM annual salary could become a major albatross if he can't turn things around.
While the Fields signing doesn't look great, missing out on Nash did allow the Raptors to acquire a point guard I think could outproduce the 38-year-old over the next couple years. GM Bryan Colangelo sent a first-round pick to the Rockets in exchange for Kyle Lowry, who was coming off his best season and looked even better early this year before he was derailed by a sprained ankle. Besides being a younger alternative to Nash, Lowry came cheaper, with his total salary over the next two seasons (about $12MM) making him one of the best bargains in the league.
Of course, acquiring Lowry came at the cost of that first-round pick, which is protected in such a way that it will almost certainly be a lottery selection. Still, since it's protected at the very top of the draft, the Raptors are unlikely to miss out on a superstar, and if there was ever time to trade out of the first round, it was now -- Toronto will already be working two lottery picks into its rotation this season, in No. 8 pick Terrence Ross and 2011's No. 5 pick Jonas Valanciunas.
It goes without saying that the Raptors aren't a title contender, and the team probably won't even be in the playoff hunt this season unless Ross and Valanciunas make incredible strides. This is a fairly young team, and there's still work to be done on the roster, which could include trading Jose Calderon's expiring contract or even fielding offers for Andrea Bargnani.This summer's acquisition of Lowry was a step in the right direction though. The Raptors haven't drafted particularly well in the Colangelo era, and contracts like Fields' and DeMar DeRozan's four-year extension could be the latest of the club's ill-advised long-term deals. So using a draft pick to trade for a very good player who is already signed to a team-friendly contract represents perhaps the best use of the Raptors' assets. The Lowry acquisition alone doesn't necessarily make the Raptors' offseason a success, but it certainly stands out as a bright spot in a summer that could have otherwise been awfully dreary.