The Toronto Raptors were one of the surprises of the 2019-20 NBA season, but does that mean they should run it back with the same team next season?
The Toronto Raptors were not expected to make much noise in the Eastern Conference this season, but in the middle of a league-wide hiatus, the defending NBA champions are sitting in the second see of the Eastern Conference with a 46-18 record, just 6.5 games back of the league-best Milwaukee Bucks.
The Bucks had separated themselves as the second-best team in the East and had a good chance of making it to, at the very least, the Eastern Conference Finals again. However, with the growing probability that the 2019-20 NBA season might not resume, it brings an interesting question for the Raptors moving forward.
In the event that the remainder of this season doesn’t get played out, should the team run in back for the 2020-21 season and hope they can replicate some of the magic that they managed to create this year?
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On the surface, that might be an easy decision to make. For the defending champions, coming off a season in which they were ranked as the second-best team in the East for much of the year, why would they not want to run it back and see what happens in 2020-21?
However, when you look at their cap sheet, it’s not that simple.
Locked in for 2020-21, the Raptors have Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry (for one more season), Norman Powell, Patrick McCaw, OG Anunoby, and not much after that. Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, and, Fred VanVleet – three of the team’s top contributors – are all free agents this offseason.
And signing them all back would be quite difficult, without some significant cap adjustments – even more so considering we still don’t know what the possible repercussions of a lost season – or even partial – will have on the 2020-21 salary cap.
Plus, Ibaka and VanVleet could be in line for significant contract offers during the summer. This offseason, there aren’t many big names on the open market. And that will set up for potential big deals for second-tier big names, such as the likes of Ibaka and VanVleet (who was having a career year before the hiatus was implemented).
If the Raptors believe in their core, however, perhaps they could try and hand out rich one or two-year deals to see this team reach its peak. On the other hand, knowing the way Masai Ujiri does business, I’m not sure he’d be willing to punt on the 2021 rich free agency class, which what he’d be effectively doing by giving long-term deals to some of their free agents this offseason.
There’s no question that the Toronto Raptors have some big decisions to make heading into the offseason. And if the remainder of the 2019-20 NBA season gets canceled, it will make life a whole lot more difficult for their front office.
It’s a shame that we might be able to see what this version of the Raptors could’ve done in the postseason.