Ever since the decline and departure of Vince Carter, the Toronto Raptors have been an anonymous NBA team toiling in obscurity. Signing forward Wilson Chandler, however, would be a major step toward relevance.
According to Doug Smith of the Toronto Star, the Raptors recently hosted Chandler and are extremely interested in signing the 6'8" swingman. Chandler, who just returned from a stint in China, also visited with his team from the second half of last season in the form of the Denver Nuggets.
It had been assumed that the Nuggets were the frontrunners by a large margin, but it seems as though the Raptors are very much in the race. Chandler averaged over 15 points, nearly six rebounds and more than a block per game last season split between the New York Knicks and Nuggets, so he would be a coup for either Toronto or Denver.
There is obviously some familiarity in Denver as Chandler meshed very well in a deep rotation last season, but the opportunities would be plentiful with the Raptors. With the Nuggets, Chandler would be one of many offensive options, but in Toronto he and Andrea Bargnani would pretty much run the show on that end of the court.
Chandler's averages dipped noticeably across the board after being traded to the Nuggets from the Knicks last season in the Carmelo Anthony deal. While the team was successful and Chandler was an important piece, he is a player that the Raptors want to build around, while the Nuggets view him as another piece.
There is likely also more financial gain in it for Chandler if he signs with Toronto. Not only do the Raptors have close to $6 million more in cap space than the Nuggets, but Denver also has a lot of money committed over the long term. Nene, Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington and Danilo Gallinari are all signed to fairly large and lengthy deals.
Toronto, on the other hand, will have its cap number drop below $40 million next season due to expiring contracts, and is only heavily invested in Bargnani and Amir Johnson for more than a couple years. The Raptors are likely more willing and more able than the Nuggets to give Chandler security with a long contract that will make him a focal point of the team.
While Bargnani and point guard Jose Calderon are having great seasons, the Raptors are severely lacking wing players. DeMar DeRozan is starting to come into his own, although he is still too inconsistent. Aside from him, though, Toronto counts on the likes of Linas Kleiza and James Johnson.
Chandler is an extremely versatile player who excels on both ends of the floor and is the type of scorer who has the potential to average close to 20 points per contest if given the opportunity. Adding him to a core of Bargnani, Calderon and DeRozan would take the Raptors from non-playoff fodder to real contenders in the Eastern Conference.
That isn't to say that Chandler is the missing piece to a championship puzzle or anything of that nature, but the Raptors have some good pieces that would benefit from another strong player. Chandler might win more immediately for the Nuggets, but if he wants a bigger role and a brighter future, then Toronto is the right destination for him.
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