State of the Cap: Toronto Raptors
By Josh Redetzke
2007/08 Toronto Raptors Payroll: $51 million
2007/08 Estimated NBA Salary Cap: $55 million
Roughly: $4 million under cap
[img_assist|nid=3893|title=Chris Bosh - AP Photo: Bill Kostroun|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=250|height=361]The Good: The Raptors were the feel-good hit of the NBA season and most of their good feelings came from Chris Bosh, the franchise's centerpiece. Bosh has rightfully etched his name alongside LeBron, Wade, and Carmelo among the top of the stellar 2003 draft class. He averaged 22.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and shot nearly 50% from the field while earning his second career all-star berth. This summer, Bosh's four year, $57 million dollar extension kicks in. As long as he remains healthy, there is little doubt that he will earn every penny.
Coincidentally, the 8th pick from that 2003 draft came to Toronto this season and helped Bosh turn around the team's fortunes. Many people scoffed when T.J. Ford was traded to the Raptors for Charlie Villanueva, claiming that the Bucks obviously got the better of the trade. At the time, I thought it was a good trade for both teams since they both got something they needed. Now that T.J. raised his shooting percentage and scoring average while dishing nearly 8 assists per game for a 47-win team, I think the trade worked out pretty well, don't you? Ford is also entering into his new contract extension, but at four years and $33 million, it is moderately priced and shouldn't be that hard for him to earn. His injury history is definitely a risk and should be watched closely, but all signs point to success thus far.
The most bang for Toronto's buck comes from shooting guard Anthony Parker. The NBA's fourth best three point shooter (44%) was third on the team in scoring at 12.4 points per game and shot 47% overall. Parker's smooth shooting is a bargain at roughly $4.5 million each of the next two years.
Jose Calderon has developed into one of the most efficient point guards in the NBA. In 21 minutes a game, Calderon dishes 5 assists and shoots an excellent 52% from the field. The Raptors get him for a cheap $2.4 million next season but need to extend his contract after that. Calderon is an important cog in the machine and must stick around.
The Bad: Unfortunately for Toronto, Rasho Nesterovic is still roaming the paint along with the $16.2 million and two years remaining on his contract. Rasho provides the team with very little production and simply serves as a speed bump in an otherwise up-tempo offensive attack. With any luck, the Raptors should be able to trade him and his expiring contract next summer. Almost anything in return would provide a lift at this point.
There is very little to be upset about in Toronto these days, so it's time to nitpick. Whatever happened to that Fred Jones guy? Oh, that's right, after signing him to a contract and watching him shoot 38% from the field, the Raptors shipped him to Portland for Juan Dixon. Even in a great season, not every move can pan out.
The Future: The #1 pick in last year's draft, Andrea Bargnani, had a good year but not a spectacular one. The seven-footer shot just 42% from the field and spent most of his time near the three-point arc, which contributed to his terrible 3.9 rebounding average. I know he is a perimeter guy, but a player of that size should be getting around 7 to 8 boards a game. However, Bargnani is just a rookie after all and he did average 11.6 points and showed a lot of potential. He'll have lots of time to grow as a player right next to the rest of his teammates.
Toronto really couldn't be in a better position right now. They have a lot of excellent, young talent signed to worthy contracts and plenty of maneuverability for the future. If the Raptors can find one more star to pair up with Bosh, they could be perennial title contenders. With GM Bryan Colangelo making the decisions, the sky is the limit for this franchise.
Free Throw: Were the Raptors as good as their record this season? The answer is yes… for the most part. Playing in the worst division in basketball certainly helped as their 11-5 divisional record shows. They avoided the rampant injury bug that plagued key players on nearly every team. Also, the ball seemed to always bounce their way at the buzzer (example: Michael Ruffin's gaffe that led to Mo Pete's miracle heave).
Now, before Raptor fans flood my inbox, hear me out. Despite it all, Toronto was a very good team this year that deserved all of their accolades, especially Sam Mitchell's coach of the year award. The question for next year is: how will this team handle the inevitably high expectations?
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