By: John Mignelli- Assistant Sports Editor
The Raptors are in an opportune position heading into the 2013/14 season. They won’t be bad – they’ll certainly hold their own against this year’s minnows and maybe hang around for a few quarters against the league’s top teams. A playoff berth is absolutely a possibility for them, but it’s a consensus around Raptor circles that their roster will be very different at season’s end.
Rudy Gay has looked pretty good in the preseason. He came back from the summer a little bit bigger and stronger and said he’s focused on raising his Field Goal Percentage – which was a career low for him last year. He shot just 39 percent from farther than 15 feet, which is brutal for a small forward.
Improving his offensive efficiency is good for Gay and it’s great for Masai Ujiri – not because Gay is going to standout for the Raptors but because Ujiri is more than likely shopping Gay. That’s the biggest item on Ujiri’s plate and even better if he can throw in Landry Fields’ ugly contract, although that’s probably pushing it. Another ideal scenario would be to add Kyle Lowry to the trade and since his contract expires after this season, he’s probably the more probable of the two to be packaged with Gay.
The only untradable piece the Raptors have is Jonas Valanciunas. Valanciunas is no doubt going to be a very good NBA player, and it’s likely he’ll make the leap from promising to rewarding this year. It’s almost unthinkable that Valanciunas would be traded – I wouldn’t do it if I was Ujiri, but if he gets creative enough he could probably swing a nice package in return for him. Jonas probably has one of the highest trade values of any player in the league and this is especially true after he won the Summer League MVP this past offseason for being basically the best young asset of any team that played in the Summer League.
Of course this all depends on whether or not the Raptors plan on beefing up their odds for landing the first pick and the hometown stud that comes with it. It’s no secret that Toronto is the ideal landing spot for Andrew Wiggins. However, tanking can only get you at best a 25 percent chance at Wiggins, and just ask Celtics fans how that plan worked out in 1997. There are enticing players other than Wiggins though, so the Raptors need to decide if they want competitive additions for Gay or a future set-up with picks and young talent, but more waiting is probably not a popular option for Toronto.
Either way, there’s a real chance for Ujiri and new suit Drake to make the Raptors relevant after this year. Then all they need to do is change their name to the Huskies, and maybe this will be a team that people pay to see instead of paying just to see the team they face.