Toronto Raptors Roundtable: Previewing the Offseason

May 23, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri (right) gestures as he speaks with media during pre-game shoot around before the Raptors host Cleveland Cavaliers in game four of the Eastern conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
May 23, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri (right) gestures as he speaks with media during pre-game shoot around before the Raptors host Cleveland Cavaliers in game four of the Eastern conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

Fresh off their first-ever Eastern Conference Finals appearance, we discuss what lies ahead for the Toronto Raptors during this upcoming offseason.

The Toronto Raptors put together the most memorable playoff run in franchise history this season. Although it didn’t result in an NBA Finals appearance, it did reveal a lot about the roster and where the team stands with the rest of the Eastern Conference.

Related Story: What DeRozan at the Max Means for the Raptors

Entering the offseason, the Raptors have a number of decisions to make with their current roster. Do they bring DeMar DeRozan and Bismack Biyombo back? Who do they pursue in free agency? How do they defeat the Cavs?

To help answer those questions and preview the upcoming offseason, we brought in a few of our own writers from Tip of the Tower.

Sitting at the Table:

Chris Okrainetz (@chrisokrainetz)
Jake Middleton (@JakeMiddleton12)
Ryan Greco (@RyanGreco416)
Demar Grant (@demarjg)
David Morassutti (@d_morassutti)
Tristan Garnett (@_tgarnett)
Jesse Ferguson (@_JesseTheMan)

What was your favourite memory from the Raptors postseason run?

David Morassutti: For me it had to be the comeback in Game 5 of the first round against Indiana. The Raptors were on their way to being blown out in Game 5 and possibly losing on the road in Game 6. The reaction from the crowd when rookie Norman Powell dunked after stealing the ball from Paul George gave me goosebumps.

Many people kept writing the Raptors off but they always found a way to fight back and that game was a great example of it.

Ryan Greco: Had to be Bismack Biyombo cleanly blocking LeBron James despite a foul call. It was the perfect representation of the Raptors playoff run up to that point — exceeding expectations while still feeling the wrath of questionable officiating.

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Tristan Garnett: It has to be the Raptors rebounding from back-to-back lashings from the Cavaliers in Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals to even the series at 2-2. No one — other than Canadians — really gave Toronto a chance to even win a game in the series, let alone, come within two wins of advancing to the Finals. The two wins coming in the Air Canada Centre was really special. Despite the overwhelming odds for success, the crowd’s faith in the Raptors never wavered. It was great to see the Raptors rally behind that energy.

Demar Grant: The Game 4 win against the Cavaliers had so many great moments, but when Bismack Biyombo went up to stuff LeBron James at the rim it was near an epic moment. Somehow Bismack got called for the foul on a pretty clean block but Biyombo got serious recognition out of it.

Jake Middleton: It is a close call between Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals and Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Both of those games were awesome, where DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry played like legitimate superstars. All the pressure was on the Raptors those two games and they came out and put on a performance for the ages in both games.

I was lucky enough to be in Toronto for Game 7 versus the Heat and it was an incredible atmosphere. Getting to the Conference Finals for the first time really legitimized the franchise around the league.

Meanwhile, Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals was the game that really grabbed the league’s attention. After the first two games in Cleveland the Raptors were left for dead, nobody thought they would even win a game, and to win two and tie the series, and to put fear into LeBron for the first time all postseason, was an incredible experience for us fans.

Jesse Ferguson: The single play that will be remembered most was Kyle Lowry’s halfcourt heave to force overtime. But since they played pretty terrible that game and ended up losing in overtime, I won’t say that play.

Toronto Raptors
Apr 26, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors center Bismack Biyombo (8) dunks during the fourth quarter in game five of the first round of the 2016 NBA Playoffs against the Indiana Pacers at Air Canada Centre. The Toronto Raptors won 102-99. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports /

I’m biased because I was at Game 2 against Miami where the Raptors posted a great comeback and my friend couldn’t even enjoy it because he was so nervous they would blow it. Since I was there for that and they were fighting back that game to prove their season was not a fluke – and that they were not going to prove the naysayers right by losing again to a more experienced Miami team – that’s up there.

But Game 3 against the Cavaliers has to be it. Down 2-0 in miserable fashion, the Raptors needed to dig themselves out of a massive hole. The single moment I’m thinking of is in the first half when among a big run that was showing that the Raps just may be for real, Lowry missed a shot and was lurking under the hoop. Bismack Biyombo snagged the board, cleaned up the mess and threw it down with vengeance. This play screamed BOOM! The replay shot from under the basket shows Lowry astonished while in the background Biyombo is flexing. That’s gotta be the top memory for me.

Chris Okrainetz: Game 5 against the Indiana Pacers. Norm Powell’s dunk was the signature moment from this game, but it signified so much more for the Raptors. It was a moment where you could look back and truly say the Raptors grew.

Whether it be the team taking on the personality of head coach Dwane Casey, or their first true moment of overcoming adversity, it was a game that proved the Raptors are on the right track for the future.

The Raptors have made it clear that they want to bring DeMar DeRozan back. Do you think he’s worth a max-deal?

Demar Grant: It really depends on what you want as a franchise. The Raptors right now aren’t good enough to beat the Cavs to make it to the finals. If you want to capitalize on the momentum of ‘We The North’ and just remain a playoff fixture for a long period of time then sure, he’s worth the max. If you’re trying to carve your way to raising the Larry O’Brien trophy in Toronto, no, he isn’t worth the max.

Ryan Greco: Yes he is, and the reason is simple: if we don’t pay him someone else will. Plus, if he leaves, who from this free agent class will replace him and his game that he brings to the Raptors?

He may not be the guy to get us over the hump, but there is no short-term success plan in Toronto that doesn’t involve DeMar DeRozan.

Tristan Garnett: I think so. DeRozan wants to be a max-player and I think he understands and welcomes the pressure that comes along with the payday. Facing the greatest scrutiny of his career during this year’s playoffs, the two-time all-star answered the call with big games every time his team’s back was against the wall. He’s improved every season that he’s been with the Raptors, and at just 26 years old there’s no reason to think that this won’t continue as he nears the prime of his career.

Chris Okrainetz: With the way the salary cap is increasing, DeRozan is going to command a max-deal. That’s the reality of his situation. But unless he develops a three-point shot, I don’t think he’s worth a max deal. But at the same time, if you let him walk, who replaces him?

Unless the Raptors can lure another big free agent to Toronto, or sign-and-trade DeRozan for a gigantic return, I think they have to re-sign him to a max-deal and have faith that he will continue to grow as a player.

Jake Middleton: I do not think DeMar is worth a max-deal, but I also think there are very few players who are truly worthy of a max-deal distinction, but in today’s marketplace, with the money available to players, almost everyone is willing to spend max money on even fringe All-Star players. With DeMar, he is a legitimate All-Star, and should be paid around $20-22 million a year, but to think he is worth the same as Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, and Anthony Davis is foolish.

So while I don’t think he is worth it, I still would have no issues with the Raptors signing him to a max contract, or slightly less than the max if he is open to a slight hometown discount. DeMar deserves every penny. He’s slightly improved his game each season and I think he still has not reached his ceiling. Rewarding his loyalty isn’t a bad thing either.

Toronto Raptors
May 25, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) drives against Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) in the first quarter in game five of the Eastern conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

David Morassutti: DeRozan is a big part of this team and the chemistry that he and Kyle Lowry has is vital to the Raptors’ success and we saw that in the playoffs. When one or both of them are having an off-night the Raptors struggled. Before the series against Cleveland it would have been tough to say whether DeRozan should get a max-deal, but I think he made the decision a bit easier after the Conference Finals. While he is not a top player in the league, he will continue to be a key component of this core, so unless there is a better option out there he should get a max-deal.

Jesse Ferguson: The max-deal is such a hard question to answer. On the surface you see DeMar and know he’s a talent, but is he a generational player? The answer is sadly no. Generational players are LeBron James, Steph Curry, and Kevin Durrant. However, the question is not Is DeMar a generational player?, but rather is he a max player? We must base this answer on precedence. Who else has max deals? The glaring one for me is Dallas signing Chandler Parsons. Right!?? Chandler Who Parsons? Is DeMar better than Parsons? Everybody knows he is, so the answer, sadly, may be yes.

Los Angeles will likely ink DeMar’s tender, so does Masai match it? At any rate, I believe in Masai #TimandSid.

Bismack Biyombo will hit the open market this summer. Despite saying he wants to return to Toronto, do you think the Raptors should pursue him, and what would you offer?

Chris Okrainetz: It all comes down to cost with Biyombo. Of course, he’d be a great fit with the Raptors, but signing him to a deal worth more than $12 million a year is a gamble. Aside from being a great high-screen and roll, dive to the rim type player, his offensive game is limited.

If you’re the Raptors, can you really afford to pay a player who is essentially a defensive specialist more than $12 million a year? On top of that, can you comfortably commit to paying around $30 million a year to the centre position? In a guard oriented, perimeter-centric league, I don’t think so.

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  • Demar Grant: Hey Bismack is a great back up center but Masai Ujiri is going to be hard pressed to keep him. Bismack could easily secure $12-17 million on the free agency market, but he has said he will provide Toronto a hometown discount. The Raptors will definitely pursue Biyombo, but I have a feeling there is going to be a trade that frees up space so he can re-sign. Terrence Ross will be making $11 million a year starting next season. Hmmm…

    Tristan Garnett: I think the Raptors should pursue him, but only if the big man is truly serious about taking a hometown discount. Biyombo is a quality big man (there’s not too many of these guys remaining in the league) at only 23 years of age, but I don’t think he’s worth the reported $17 or so million that he commands in free agency. He was an impact player for Toronto this season, but it wouldn’t be very hard to replace him. I would offer him a contract between $10-12 million annually.

    Jake Middleton: Yes, I 100 percent think that Bismack Biyombo should be retained by the Raptors, BUT, only at the right cost. What that cost is? Nobody exactly knows. What Bismack did this season for the Raptors was nothing short of spectacular. When JV went down during the regular season Biz stepped up in a big way and the Raptors didn’t skip a beat.

    During the Conference Finals was where he raised his stock to obscene heights. In my opinion Biz is worth somewhere between $8-12 million per year to the Raptors, his rebounding, defense, and energy are worth more to the Raptors than to any other team in the league. But due to the influx of television money, and the salary cap set to rise close to $20 Million, there are a lot of mediocre teams that are said to be willing to pay him $15 to $18 Million a year, and whoever does that is going to be extremely disappointed.

    Biz is an elite role player, a Dennis Rodman type that you need on a championship team moving forward, but the ball is in his court with regards to what he values (money or camaraderie and winning). While there is no wrong answer between those two, I hope that the two sides can get this deal done.

    David Morassutti: Biyombo stepped up in a huge way when Jonas Valanciunas went down against Miami. I think if the Raptors can make it work under their salary cap then I would want him back, but I would not offer him more than $10 million per season. Valanciunas is the teams starting center moving forward and Biyombo should be in the mix too.

    The issue will come down to money, but if Biyombo is willing to take a short-term deal and stay with the team and pursue a bigger contract after, than that would work out best for both sides. Biyombo is only 23 years old so there is still plenty of time for him to make a lot of money in this league and he will make more if he wins a championship.

    Related Story: Biyombo Says He'd Take a Discount to Stay in Toronto

    Ryan Greco: This is a tough one because we have seen situations like this before in sports and it can go in two very different directions.

    The relatively unknown minimum salary player has a breakout postseason stretch and is then signed to the big contract where he will either rise to the level of his new salary or get swept up in his newfound stardom and wealth.

    Whether Biyombo turns into the next Andre Drummond or Gilbert Arenas is anyone’s guess, but I wouldn’t want to take a chance on passing him up when the athletics forward/centre is a crucial piece to any contending team.

    Jesse Ferguson: Biyombo, I think, was the key to this postseason run. JV went down and many people thought the Raptors would just fizzle away, especially since Valanciunas was just hitting his peak at the time of his injury. Insert Biyombo, and the Raptors didn’t just ‘not miss a beat’, but they actually ascended. Biyombo not only proved worthy of filling a spot, but he was a catalyst in the run that saw the Raptors win not one playoff series, but two!!

    What do you offer him? The Raptors probably would’ve been better to re-sign him in the season when they could be the only team to negotiate with him. Now, Ujiri may have to do quite a lot better than the $3 million he gave him this year, but hopefully he can get Biyombo to stick to his word of a discount, so the Raptors can afford to field a team. You don’t wanna break the bank on a backup centre, but is there a way JV and Biyombo can play at the same time?

    What player, if any, could you see the Raptors trading this offseason?

    Ryan Greco: Oddly enough, Bismack Biyombo in a sign-and-trade for a proven four. As great as his postseason was, there is a very real chance Biyombo will never be more valuable than he his right now, especially as a trade chip.

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    Other than that, I could see Terrence Ross getting swapped for a more reliable veteran defender on the wing.

    Tristan Garnett: Patrick Patterson. I don’t think he’s developed as much as they hoped. As a stretch four, Patterson takes a lot of threes (more than half of his shots this season were from three) but he only shot about 36 percent from there. He struggles to score from the other areas on the court.

    Jake Middleton: Terrence Ross. I think most Raptors fans agree, but Ross is an enigma, at times he can look like the most talented player on the team with his ability to create his own shot, his length and athleticism, and his ability to make three pointers. Yet, on the other side of the coin, he is an incredibly weak defender, he makes a lot of terrible decisions with the ball, and he is grossly inconsistent. Combine that with his almost $11 million per year salary and he is the most expendable player on this roster. Moving out his contract would open up space for the Raptors to keep Biyombo, DeRozan, and also putting that money into another big name free agent. If you can move Terrance Ross for a mid-range first round pick, or a young power forward, the Raptors should take that deal and run.

    David Morassutti: The Raptors have the ninth overall pick that will most likely be in play this offseason, especially to a team that is not ready to compete right now. The Raptors have a great window to push forward as championship contenders and the pick could help them land a player that can help them now. If not the Raptors should possibly look at moving up in the draft and try to grab an impact player like Jamal Murray, who they can ease into the lineup but has the potential to be a vital part of the Raptors core moving forward.

    Toronto Raptors
    May 17, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Toronto Raptors forward Terrence Ross (31) drives to the basket in the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers in game one of the Eastern conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

    Although trading up in the draft could prove to be tough, the Raptors could also look at moving a player like Terrence Ross if they package him with a pick. It is tough to gauge what the trade market is like but the Raptors do need to upgrade the power forward position and find a bonafide three-point shooter. There are rumours that Nerlens Noel could be available and with the position that the Philadelphia 76ers are in maybe the Raptors can make a trade work for them.

    Jesse Ferguson: Most people think Terrence Ross is a likely trade candidate, but he looked strong in the postseason. He can be a lights-out shooter, although he’s an even better drive-and-dunker, though he definitely doesn’t do that nearly enough. He falls in love with the jump shot instead of driving and that drives me nuts (especially when he’s cold). But remember, Ross just signed a three-year deal. That could make him improbable to trade.

    Chris Okrainetz: Terrence Ross is always linked to trade rumours, so I’d expect his name to resurface this summer. But aside from him, I could see the Raptors possibly shopping Patrick Patterson or Jonas Valanciunas. That doesn’t necessarily mean they will trade them, but if somebody offered a lucrative deal, I could see Masai pulling the trigger.

    A more likely scenario involves the Raptors four first round picks over the next two seasons. I could see them packaging a pick or two with Ross or Patterson, and possibly another player, to help address some of their needs.

    Who is the one free agent you would love to see the Raptors pursue?

    Chris Okrainetz: Kevin Durant is the obvious choice here, and although he’s stated his love for Toronto numerous times, I think he’ll sign a one-and-one deal with the Thunder and wait to test free agency with Russell Westbrook.

    Toronto Raptors
    Mar 10, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Atlanta Hawks forward Al Horford (15) shoots the ball against the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Hawks 104-96. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports /

    Instead, a player like Al Horford would be an excellent fit with the Raptors. He’s one of the best — and most versatile — frontcourt players in the league. His ability to play defence, consistently knock down an 18-footer, and elite pick-and-roll skills (on both ends of the floor), makes him the perfect player for the Raptors to pursue.

    Signing him would restrict their ability to bring back Biyombo, but they could still re-sign DeRozan and use their mid-level and veteran exception to create a very competitive roster.

    Jake Middleton: For me, there are two: Al Horford and Nicolas Batum. Depending on how much money the Raptors have to play around with, I think adding one of these two players would be a fantastic decision for the team’s championship hopes.

    The Raptors have a gaping hole at the power forward position and should do everything they can to load up on athletic players capable of stretching the floor and who can also defend at the power forward position.

    For me, the No. 1 target is Nicolas Batum. He is a terrific defender who is long, can shoot, and more importantly is big enough to play the four. While he might be a little light for a power forward, he would move the Raptors towards the more small ball centric NBA that the league has become, and perhaps be the Raptors Draymond Green so to speak. If he were to sign with the Raptors, they would become a prohibitive favorite to reach the Conference Finals yet again and maybe even the NBA Finals.

    Tristan Garnett: Ryan Anderson. The Raptors like versatile power forwards, so Anderson would be a great fit. He’s an excellent three-point shooter and a double-digit scorer. Anderson would be an upgrade at a definite position of need for Toronto.

    Demar Grant: I would love to see the Raptors go after Kevin Durant. It may be a pipe dream but he did come off a really disappointing playoff loss in the Western Conference Finals. Durant on the Raptors almost makes too much sense roster wise and he would only have to got through an aging LeBron to make it to the NBA Finals every year. Imagine the Eastern Conference battles.

    Ryan Greco: I’m a big fan of what Chandler Parsons has become in the NBA. A tall, athletic forward with an above average shooting touch. Though the Raptors have DeMarre Carroll for that role, adding another player like that wouldn’t hurt.

    If Lowry and DeRozan are going to continue their iso heavy game, adding another shooter would be comforting. Harrison Barnes would be suffice at the right cost.

    David Morassutti: Tough to say until the draft is complete and we know where the salary cap is. It will be tough to see a top name free agent like Kevin Durant come to Toronto so they need to look for someone on the rise. A player like Nicolas Batum who has been linked to the Raptors before would be an interesting option but he is expected to re-sign with Charlotte. A player like Ryan Anderson could help stretch the floor for the Raptors but it is unlikely that Toronto will be in on him. So when it comes to free agency I do not have a good sense of who the Raptors should go for.

    Jesse Ferguson: The obvious answer here is Kevin Durant. But is that really possible? Really? I believe in Masai too, but luring the biggest free agent to CANADA? I love Canada, but does Durant, who went to school at Texas, really want to be in the cold in the winter months? Do any big names sign here? Winning may be key to that and the atmosphere Toronto has proved is tantalizing… but is it enough? We shall see.

    What has to happen for this offseason to be considered a success?

    Jake Middleton: The Raptors have to add another star. When I say star, I mean a player who is capable of creating his own shot and others teams have to game plan around. I think the Raptors also have to try and become a luxury tax team, to show the fans how much ownership believes in this team.

    Considering I don’t think the championship window is open that long (maybe three years), I think they have to go out and add another star in order to be able to match up with the Cleveland’s, Golden State’s, and the Oklahoma City’s of the world.

    If the Raptors can add athleticism to their wings, three-point shooting, depth at power forward, and another star, the offseason should be considered a resounding success. I don’t know how many of those boxes Masai can check off, but I have faith he will at least do three of four.

    Demar Grant: The Raptors need to retain DeMar DeRozan for less than the max so it doesn’t restrict their offseason in the coming years, and find a way to keep Biyombo because he’s only 23 and already has a massive impact in games.

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    David Morassutti: They need to support Lowry and DeRozan and hope that Valanciunas plays a more integral role on the offence next season. The Raptors will always be in tough against LeBron James as long as he is in the East. However, if the team can add to their core and be a tougher team to shutdown offensively then they will have a chance to push forward as contenders. It is tough to expect to find a player better than Lowry and DeRozan in the offseason so a better option would be to surround them with a player that can take some of the defensive pressure off DeMarre Carroll and not sacrifice offensively for it.

    Tristan Garnett: Improving their offence would result in a successful offseason for the Raptors. Evidenced by the result of the Eastern Conference Finals, Toronto won’t win a series against Cleveland or any other elite team with only two real consistent offensive threats. If DeMar DeRozan does return to Toronto, he and Kyle Lowry will need at least another scorer, ideally someone who can create shots for themselves, and ease the load for Toronto’s backcourt.

    Jesse Ferguson: For this offseason to be a success, Masai has to keep the foundation just as solid. This may seem impossible given the situations. Again, Raptors’ fans must believe in Masai. And, why shouldn’t we should trust him? He did, in fact, make Andrea Bargnani go away.

    Chris Okrainetz: In a perfect world they add a superstar like Kevin Durant or Al Horford, but that’s more of a dream than anything at this point. Realistically, if the Raptors can re-sign DeRozan, bring back Biyombo on a team friendly deal, improve their three-point shooting, find an answer to their problems at power forward, and add role players who can help them defend some of the elite scorers in the East, I’d say the offseason would be a huge success.

    Next: Saluting the Raptors Twitter All-Stars

    Ryan Greco: Signing a player that can start on this team, keeping DeRozan, and another James Johnson sighting at the Nike Crown League over at Jarvis Collegiate!