Tuesday was a busy day for the Toronto Raptors. As many players wrapped up their exit interviews, on Monday, the biggest one was on Tuesday. Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri spoke to the media. If you missed it, do not worry. There was however, a lot of information to take in. All of which, could be critical in the teams near future. Here are some of the biggest takeaways from Ujiri’s press conference.
"After that performance, we need a culture reset here." – Ujiri. That says something.
— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) May 9, 2017
Winds of change are forecasted to sweep through Toronto. There was a time when the immediate goal for the Toronto Raptors was to find constancy and, success in the regular season. Then, that goal became to win the division which, then morphed into being successful in the playoffs. Succeeding in the regular season and, winning the division were goals both achieved, however, playoff success has not come as easy. Sure, last year the Raptors made it to the Eastern Conference Finals however, it should not have taken them consecutive game 7s to get there. After being swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round of this year’s playoffs, Masai Ujiri made it very clear that things need to change.
The uprising of the Raptors has been incredible to watch, but with their newfound levels of success comes higher expectations. Simply put, this team has not yet met those expectations. For fans, hearing this was surly refreshing. Sometimes, change is for the better and, for the Toronto Raptors, it appears as though now, is the time for change. You can only muster up the same results with the same players for so long. The answer to this problem however, lies beyond the players. It is safe to say however, that the “Pound the Rock” era is over.
Ujiri: "I don't think it's a matter of changing players but how do we change the way we play, the way we approach the game?"
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) May 9, 2017
Finally, a comment about changing the way the Raptors play. When Dwane Casey was brought in, he was labeled as a defensive guru. In the present day, the Raptors are far removed from their days of trying to be a defensive oriented team. Who can blame them? We are in a day and age where the three-point shot is heavily relied on but, that’s not the biggest offensive issue for the Raptors. Over the years, the Raptors offensive system has been flawed and heavily reliant on 1-on-1 isolation offence.
DeMar DeRozan is great in an iso setting. However, the large amount of isolation play did not do anyone any favors. On a side note, Cleveland killed Toronto with their off ball screens for Kyle Korver in games Three and Four. All the isolation play caused the Raptors to appear lost on the offensive end. It did however, sound as though Dwane Casey will get the chance to try and implement these changes.
There could come a point where Casey either makes the necessary adjustments or, the Raptors make a coaching change. Drastically changing the players on the roster is not going to solve this one. What the Raptors have been doing does not appear to be working and, as Masai Ujiri said, he will need to “evaluate it”. Finding a true identity will be one of the biggest challenges this offseason. Seeing the Raptors make adjustments to their offensive and defensive systems would be interesting. Also, DeRozan did show flashes of being a playmaker and if he could improve his playmaking skills it could help Toronto in the near future. The Raptors have a lot of good shooters and good isolation players but, their offensive systems seems to lack playmakers. This is evident by their last place ranking in assists per game during the 2016-17 season.
What direction does the team go in?
Ujiri says he has full commitment from ownership to take the team in whichever direction he/they choose – a tax team, a rebuild, etc.
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) May 9, 2017
This quote is extremely intriguing. It has been very clear that changes have to be made but is a full blow rebuild really a possibility. The Toronto Raptors are still a top team in the Eastern Conference but, they have very little to show for it. Here a few on the fly scenarios regarding the direction the Raptors might be taking.
- Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and, PJ Tucker are all re-signed: This would be the best case scenario however, it would mean that the Raptors would need to dip deep into the lottery tax. Re-signing Kyle Lowry is a huge priority but, he will probably receive a massive contract. Re-signing Serge Ibaka could prove to be problematic because where does he play? Will he fit alongside Jonas Valanciunas? Is he a stretch Four or is he going to be a true Centre? Ibaka’s shooting is too valuable for him to only play at the Centre position but, his interior defence is also a big need for the Raptors. Thankfully, there will be an entire summer to figure this one out.
- Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka are both re-signed: Scenario Two hinges on Raptors management’s belief in DeMarre Carroll. In both scenario’s, Toronto is still competitive team. The Raptors will still end up being a competitive tax team. Lastly, losing PJ Tucker would be a major blow. It is well known that Ujiri likes his defensive abilities but, once again how confident is Raptors management in DeMarre Carroll having a comeback year? PJ Tucker’s success in a three-and-d role may be too valuable.
- Kyle Lowry and, Serge Ibaka sign elsewhere: If Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka sign elsewhere, this would be the likeliest scenario in which the team goes into rebuilding mode. In this scenario, Patterson and Tucker are not re-signed as the team looks for cheaper and younger options to whether the storm. However, in this scenario Tucker may still re-sign but, either way Patterson is gone and, the Raptors being a rebuild. What the Raptors do with DeRozan during this rebuild is a more complex question to answer.
Not everyone will be back
Not realistic to bring back all free agents. "The end of the year was disappointing…. At some point we look wide-eyed."
— (((Eric Koreen))) (@ekoreen) May 9, 2017
Lastly, this does not really surprise anyone. After the events of this years Playoffs, bringing back everyone is not a good idea. The problem may not be how many players need to go however, some of the little things have to change. There is no point in bringing everybody back when this group of players did not have the success that was expected. It appears as though Masai Ujiri and Raptors management are committed to positive change. The biggest question may be, who survives these changes?
On a positive note, seeing Masai Ujiri admit the mistakes of the Toronto Raptors was a welcoming sign. Also, seeing Ujiri’s confidence in trying to make adjustments and, figuring out where things went wrong was also very reassuring. As previously noted, there will be plenty of critical decisions to be made over the course of the summer. Missed today’s big press conference? You can view part One by clicking here and, part Two here.