Five Free Agent Targets for the Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors fell short of defending their 2019 NBA Championship after falling to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. The Raptors proved they can still hang with the best of them after losing Kawhi Leonard to the Los Angeles Clippers after the 2019 season. As well as they played, there are areas where the Raptors need to improve if they want to get back to the NBA Finals. Here are the five players Bobby Webster and Masai Ujiri should have on their radar for this free-agent window.
Five Targets for the Toronto Raptors
Fred VanVleet was a vital part of the 2019 Championship squad and has been a valuable piece of the Raptors backcourt, along with Kyle Lowry. This past season was his best of his young career so far as he averaged career highs in points, assists, steals, rebounds, and three-point percentage. A season like this put VanVleet on nearly every team’s radar. This is bad news for the Raptors.
The Raptors are in a bit of a tough spot when it comes to bringing VanVleet back due to the growing market for his services. Giving VanVleet a max contract is not in the team’s best interest as they are in the “Giannis Sweepstakes” for 2021, but that might just be what he gets offered by other teams. VanVleet also said on “The JJ Redick Podcast” earlier this week that he is looking to get paid this offseason. Not exactly what the Raptors wanted to hear.
A loss of VanVleet would be horrible for the Toronto Raptors as Kyle Lowry heads into the final year of his deal and Terence Davis deals with some legal issues. This would make Norman Powell the only guard guaranteed to be back for the 2021/22 season.
Ideal Contract: 4 years, $72 Million. ($18 million/year)
Serge Ibaka was also a key piece to Toronto’s championship squad in 2019. Ibaka helped solidify the frontcourt for the Raptors while providing much-needed defense and offense for them when needed, especially in the playoffs. Ibaka had career bests in points, assists, and rebounds which will also make him a very attractive free agent.
Despite showing interest in remaining on the Raptors, there are rumors of the defending champion, Los Angeles Lakers wanting him. Former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate, Kevin Durant, is also recruiting him to join the Brooklyn Nets. This is bad news for the Raptors as it looks like they will need to overpay to keep him on the team. The Raptors losing Ibaka would be very worrisome as they are already thin at the center position. It does not look like Marc Gasol will be re-signing and Chris Boucher is also a free agent. Whether he was starting or coming off the bench, Ibaka provided a spark for the Raptors that will be very hard to replicate.
Ideal Contract: 2 years, $28 million ($14 million/year)
Aron Baynes can be a great value addition for the Raptors next season. Baynes put up career highs in points, assists, and rebounds last season but at 34 years old, he should not be expensive. The Raptors face a situation where they may only have one of their bigs from last season returning. This makes acquiring depth at the five position a top priority. Even if Ibaka does re-sign with the Raptors, Baynes can be a great bench piece. He has also shown that he can be as productive as a starter.
Baynes will draw interest from a few teams around the league given that big men who can shoot from the outside and are also responsible defensively are a hot commodity in today’s NBA. There are reports of both the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics showing interest in Baynes. The Toronto Raptors may be forced to outbid those teams with Serge Ibaka’s and Marc Gasol’s future hanging in the balance.
Ideal Contract: 1 year + Team Option: $7.5 million
The Brooklyn Nets’ sharpshooter, Joe Harris, should be near the top of the Raptors’ free-agent list. Harris had a career-high in both points and rebounds last season and is due for a payday. The Nets are expected to dip into luxury tax which would make it difficult for him to get his payday in Brooklyn.
Whether the Raptors sign Fred VanVleet or not, they can use another guard given the uncertainty with Terrence Davis Jr. Kyle Lowry will also be entering the final year of his deal as stated already. Harris would be a great addition to any team given his strong three-point shooting and defensive effectiveness.
Ideal Contract: 3 years, $35 million ($11.6 million/year)
Goran Dragic played a pivotal part for the Miami Heat coming off the bench during their finals run. Throughout his career, he has been a scoring threat. He hasn’t had a season where he scored under 13.7 points since 2011/12. Dragic transitioned to the bench starting last season and he has shown he can still be productive in this role.
The Miami Heat would like to have him back. It will take a lot for the Raptors to make him want to travel north from South Beach. Especially with the Heat looking like title contenders. As mentioned earlier, the Raptors backcourt is looking bleak based on its depth. Taking care of that need should be a top priority. In a diminished role, Dragic will not be making as much as he was for the last few seasons. This will definitely work in the Raptors’ favor as they can address more needs while still acquiring his talents.
Ideal Contract: 2 years, $20 million ($10 million/year)
With the lack of superstars available in this year’s free-agent class, the Toronto Raptors are forced to look for diamonds in the rough. Lucky for them, they have been doing this for years. The Raptors are in an interesting spot where they can retool their roster while still remaining in contention. It will be fun to see what Masai Ujiri and company do this off-season.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images