General manager Masai Ujiri's first significant move with the Toronto Raptors last season saw Rudy Gay shipped to Sacramento. It was viewed as the first signal the Raptors would begin a ground-up rebuild, and next on the checklist was looking for Kyle Lowry's new home. Instead, nothing materialized on the trade front and the Raptors figured things out on the court.
Making an impressive playoff appearance was enough to convince Ujiri that the plan has now changed. Without Gay's contract weighing the Raptors down, they now have the ability to keep their team together for another postseason push.
Keeping Lowry will be the first act this summer, and shoring up the back end of the roster will be another important thing to consider. Toronto has some financial flexibility and three draft picks to make some moves. It wouldn't appear that the Raps will make wholesale changes with so many appealing young players that grew up in 2013-14, but there will be much room for several smaller roster improvements.
Draft picks: No. 20, No. 37, No. 59
Free agents: Kyle Lowry (UFA), Greivis Vasquez (RFA), Patrick Patterson (RFA), Nando de Colo (RFA)
Cap space: $12.2 million
PG: Kyle Lowry (UFA), Greivis Vasquez (RFA), Nando De Colo (RFA), Dwight Buycks (non-guaranteed), Julyan Stone (non-guaranteed)
SG: Terrence Ross, John Salmons (non-guaranteed)
SF: DeMar DeRozan, Landry Fields, Steve Novak
PF: Amir Johnson (non-guaranteed), Patrick Patterson (RFA), Tyler Hansbrough (non-guaranteed),
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Chuck Hayes
Even a worst-case scenario for the Raptors will include plans to replace Lowry. Every point guard on the roster could leave, as all are free agents or on non-guaranteed deals. Lowry skipping town would obviously be an unfortunate scenario for Toronto, but they do have a little more leverage with backup Greivis Vasquez, a talented young point guard who is a restricted free agent. After that, there will be depth concerns to address.
The same could be said at shooting guard, where there is only John Salmons on his non-guaranteed contract behind either Terrence Ross or DeMar DeRozan, depending on who you consider the nominal shooting guard. The good news is that the 2014 draft class is deep in wings and there's likely to be solid options with the team's 20th overall selection.
Up front, Toronto could use some depth at power forward if Patrick Patterson leaves in free agency and the team wants skill set upgrades from physical forwards Tyler Hansbrough and Chuck Hayes. The Raptors might have chances to nab a stretch power forward or center in the second round, which would fit well alongside big man Jonas Valanciunas.
Toronto found success this past season and no doubt gave a lot of credit to Lowry. Just a year ago, Lowry was a trade chip, but his value as a playmaker and tough defender will make him a coveted free-agent target across the league. He and the Miami Heat reportedly could have mutual interest, but of course much of that depends on outside factors. Internally, it's quite obvious the Raptors will make a strong case to re-sign their starting point guard.
The Raptors will also have to think hard about retaining Vasquez, who might be one of the more talented backup point guards in the league. And at power forward, re-signing Patterson on a reasonable contract would be ideal. He brought floor spacing in the middle that mirrored that of starter Amir Johnson.
It's hard to see who Toronto might go after in the draft, but with three picks, they have the ability to move up and down to get players they're targeting.