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Where Does the North Go?
Written by: Javid Lalva

After 4 season of making it to the NBA playoffs, the Toronto Raptors are going into the most intriguing offseason of the franchise. The current mold of the team can be split between veterans and young minute hungry rooks.

As the Raptors sit going into the off season they have pending UFA’s in Kyle Lowry who is the heart and soul of the team, Serge Ibaka who they gave up a talented but inconsistent Terrence Ross for, Patrick Patterson who is a defense leader but has struggled on the offensive side and PJ Tucker who is a grind it out defensive Bulldog. Where it sits right now, at least one of these four will not be back.

Now, going into the offseason the Raptors depth chart sits at:

PG: ______ / Cory Joseph / Delon Wright/ Fred VanFleet
SG: DeMar Derozan/Norman Powell
SF: DeMare Carroll/ Bruno Coboclo (still a year away)/ OG Anunoby
PF:______/ Pascal Siakam
C: Jonas Valanciunas/ Jakub Potlel/Lucas Bebe

The Raptors have two paths to go down, they can go into a mini rebuild and build around the new and improved DeMar Derozan or  they go for the win now mentality going against the two headed  monsters of the league.

The argument for Win now:

It’s simple, The Raptors have DeMar Derozan who is in his prime years and definitely showed it this year. If you are going to win now you have to bring back his running mate, Kyle Lowry, now the question is at what cost?he is eligible to get max money. Does Masai cave and give it to him or do they work out a fair deal  and show Kyle that he can win here, which entices him to come back at a lower rate. If the Raptors are going to try and win now your second question mark is at the PF spot. The raptors made a deal mid February acquiring Ibaka who has been long coveted by Masai. Ibaka does enter free agency with a lot of questions marks around him, he has been declining  statistically over the past three seasons, questions mark around his age and the ability to be a go to player on the offensive end. He did however, have a pretty good post season. Other options Masai has is Paul Millsap, a proven big man who can put the ball in the bucket with consistency and can play Defense, proven in the east and would be an upgrade to Serge. Other than that the Raptors would be hard pressed to find someone via the free agent market. If they do truly want to go “all in”, Raptors have a lot of nice young pieces that get some decent returns. Norm and Delon have both proven they can play minutes On a consistent basis. Packaging them and a 25 year Old JV with a pick.could yield you a top tier player who can play alongside Demar and Kyle. The problem with that is Masai has been reluctant to trade away the future for now. With the rumors swirling of Paul George, bringing him in as a rental would thrust the Raptors into a championship contention, but what would  I be the  a cost to get there, Norm, JV couple picks for a one year rental? The Raptors should go into a win now mode is that they have been there, they are a piece or two away from really competing with Cleveland, Boston and yes I am going to say it Golden State. Knowing Masai it would be very un-Masai like to mortgage the future to win now.

The argument for a rebuild:

Now, let’s not get this twisted the raptors are not going all Sam Heinke on us and trading everyone and their mothers for draft picks but, having a young core of Delon, Norm, Pascal and Jakub the raptors have some talent there, and you put those pieces around DeMar and get some top lottery picks over the next 2-3 seasons,  and with Lebron being in the twilight of his career you can have a formidable team who can compete at the top of the east. Delon has shown flashes of being a general at the PG position, he has the length and speed to give a lot of opposing PG trouble. Norm, has already shown flashes of big games and big time Defense with a little bit more playing time he would easily become a solid starter, on a winning team. The two young guys up front have shown the ability to play in NBA but need more time on the court to gain the experience to compete. If the Raptors go to a mini rebuild trading away guys like Cory Jo and DeMare could couple more draft picks which can help build for time where Lebron is no longer ruling the east.

Overall, the Raptors have an interesting offseasons, Masai is known for staying the course but if Kyle Lowry is going to ask for max dollars I don’t see the raptors committing to that. This off season can go either way and a lot is going to be determined by if Kyle comes to share the throne in the North, or try is luck at the crown elsewhere.