The Toronto FC made a huge splash on Monday, announcing the signing of English striker Jermain Defoe and United States International midfielder Michael Bradley. Both players were coveted in the soccer world and ultimately decided to sign with the Toronto FC. The amount of time, determination and money the organization put forth shows that they are ready to compete now.
With the Toronto FC dishing out all this money to bring in strong assets to make their team better, one has to wonder what that says about the future of the Toronto Raptors.
Tim Leiweke, President and CEO of Maple Leafs Sports Entertainment (MLSE), was on Toronto radio and television show "Tim and Sid" Monday afternoon and spoke about the future of the Toronto teams, including the Raptors.
We will do whatever it takes, including spending to the cap on any of our teams or spending luxury tax for Masai. And Masai and I again, another very strong, good relationship. We see the world the same way. If there's a move he can make now that ultimately makes this team better and doesn't give up on any of our assets, then he not only has 100% of our support, we're not afraid of the luxury tax at the right time. He just needs to make a decision on when the right time is.
For those who aren't familiar with the term "luxury tax", it is a payment required by teams who exceed a certain tax level beyond the salary cap. Teams are forced to pay a minimum of one dollar for every dollar their team exceeds that tax level. The tax level changes each year and your required payment is also based on if you are a repeat offender or not. This season the Brooklyn Nets are paying over $80 million in luxury tax due to the large contracts they have on their roster. Their total payroll cost for the 2013-2014 season is over $186 million when you factor in the salary cap and the luxury tax. It's a huge risk and it takes a lot of money and support, but if teams feel like they can win now, they will pull the trigger.
Leiweke, who was previously the President and CEO of the Anschutz Entertainment Group owning the Los Angeles Kings, Galaxy and part of the Lakers, has a history of making big moves. He was instrumental in bringing David Beckham to the Galaxy in 2007.
The Raptors are playing some of the best basketball they have played in franchise history right now, but aren't serious contenders to win an NBA title with this roster. They could win a couple of rounds in a weak Eastern Conference, but playing a series against the likes of the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers would be extremely difficult, not to mention any team in the Western Conference.
It is up to Masai Ujiri, General Manager of the Raptors, if he wants to let it ride with this team or if he feels like he needs to make some big moves in the coming years. As stated by Leiweke, MLSE is 100% behind Ujiri and the Raptors and it's all up to Ujiri on who he wants to bring in. MLSE will make that happen and aren''t afraid of paying a luxury tax. It's just a matter of when the right time is.
With big names like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Roy Hibbert and Kevin Love possibly becoming free agents over the next few years, it will be interesting to see if the Raptors become a potential landing spot based on their willingness to spend the money. You wouldn't think any of those players would be interested in playing with the Raptors, but if money is thrown their way, along with the chance to win a title, anything is possible.
Of course, if the Raptors want to land a big name player they will need to continue playing at a high level and win a few playoff rounds. They need to be one player away from winning the title so that player feels like they are the final missing piece.
The future of the Toronto Raptors is looking bright and fans could finally get what they've been wanting the last 19 years – a championship. It will take a lot of time, effort, patience and probably a lot of money, but the Raptors could position themselves as a consistent contender within the next few years. It's just a matter of when they feel the right time is to make a move.
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