NBA AM: 2015 Summer Has Been Mixed Bag For Raptors

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Is this the year Toronto finally gets over the hump?

There is no doubt the Toronto Raptors have firmly entrenched themselves as an Eastern Conference power player over the past two seasons. But despite the recent run of success, the franchise hasn’t been able to win a playoff series in the process. Most teams on their rise are humbled in the playoffs. This is not new and definitely not unique to the Raptors. However, the Raptors have been unceremoniously bounced from postseason competition in series where they enjoyed home court advantage and were the clear favorites.

The Raptors will head into the season, once again, as the clear frontrunners to win the Atlantic Division. But with an ever improving Eastern Conference the question is can this team, as currently constructed, advance deeper into the playoffs?

This summer has been a mixed bag of sorts for Toronto. The team suffered huge blows to their backcourt losing Greivis Vasquez (trade) and reigning Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams (free agency).  The selection of Delon Wright with the No. 20 overall pick in June’s draft adds some talent at guard but he will need time to adjust to the pro level. To counter the unfavorable impact of losing Vasquez and Williams, the Raptors invested $30 million in Cory Joseph, who was a role player in San Antonio.

Toronto also started free agency off with a bang by throwing $60 million at emerging forward DeMarre Carroll, who enjoyed two solid years with the Atlanta Hawks. Carroll is now the Raptors’ highest paid player (until Jonas Valanciunas inks his new deal) and will have to adjust to the pressure going from league bargain to eight-figure salary recipient.

From a chemistry standpoint, losing veteran forward Amir Johnson to Boston in free agency may sting. But general manager Masai Ujiri and company are hoping the additions of defensive minded forwards Bismack Biyombo and crafty veteran Luis Scola can offset Johnson’s departure.

Overall, here is how the Raptors’ summer shaped up:

Additions: Bismack Biyombo, DeMarre Carroll, Cory Joseph, Luis Scola, Delon Wright

Lost: Tyler Hansbrough, Chuck Hayes, Amir Johnson, Lou Williams, Greivis Vasquez

Ultimately this team will be judged by how quickly Carroll and Joseph can adjust and thrive in new roles with higher expectations and scrutiny. After all, the team invested $90 million in the duo, banking that both are still on an upward trajectory.

One question the team will encounter this season is the status of former All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan, who holds a player option for the 2016-17 campaign and could opt to test free agency as salaries / payrolls are set to explode.

On paper the Raptors took a huge hit in their backcourt but solidified their wing issues while also adding defensive versatility. For the third straight season this team should be a top five club in the East, but can they advance to the second round (or further)? That is the true question here.

New York Knicks not finished adding assets, now targeting Jamal Crawford?

The first full season of Phil Jackson at helm of the New York Knicks ended with a franchise-low 17 victories and to make matters worse, the team unexpectedly slid out of the top three in the draft lottery. Needless to say questions regarding Jackson’s ability to lead the team out of the league basement began to immediately surface.

But for the past two months Jackson has been able to silence most of his critics by managing a respectable draft in June and subsequently stockpiling a host of proven veterans in free agency.

As it stands currently, here is how the Knicks’ summer stacks up:

Additions: Arron Afflalo, Robin Lopez, Derrick Williams, Kristaps Porzingis, Kyle O’Quinn, Kevin Seraphin, Jerian Grant and Sasha Vujacic

Lost: Tim Hardaway Jr., Andrea Bargnani, Jason Smith, Shane Larkin, Cole Aldrich and Quincy Acy

On paper the Knicks are considerably better than the 2014-15 unit. When you factor in All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony may regain top form after a season limited to just 40 games, a potential playoff run in the Eastern Conference isn’t out of the question.

Not resting on his recent run of talent acquisition, Jackson is now reportedly targeting former Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.

Crawford is owed $5.7 million this season, which marks the final year of his current deal. Acquiring Crawford, a former Knick, is a low-risk, potentially high-reward move for the franchise. The mere presence of Crawford’s scoring ability would take additional pressure off of Anthony on the perimeter and also provide good spacing for the entire offense overall. The move also wouldn’t unfavorably impact the Knicks’ future salary cap room and financial flexibility since Crawford would represent an expiring contract.

Crawford averaged 15.8 points per game last season with the Los Angeles Clippers but shot just 33 percent from three-point range on nearly six attempts per night.

According to Isola’s full report, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami HEAT are also interested in acquiring Crawford from Los Angeles.