We continue our coverage of the NBA off-season as we delve into teams and see how they look going into the upcoming campaign. This time around, we’re looking at the Toronto Raptors.
The Raptors had a bit of an odd off-season. They didn’t end up making very many moves that will affect their roster, but they did make big headlines. Canada’s government deemed it unreasonable for the team to play their season in Toronto, so the organization had to look elsewhere. The team finally landed on having their “home” contests be played in Tampa Bay for the 2020-21 season. This puts a weird wrinkle into how scheduling for the year pans out, but I think the transition will go rather smoothly. The NBA has done a great job in recent years of being able to adjust to what’s thrown at them. If you don’t believe me, just look at what they did in the bubble.
As far as basketball moves go, Toronto didn’t have the best off-season. Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol left for L.A. as Gasol ended up in the purple and gold while Serge is now a Clipper. The team was able to plug the gap in their roster by signing Aaron Baynes and Alex Len, which is an obvious downgrade. Chris Boucher ended up agreeing to an extension as well and should see a fair share of minutes at the center spot as well. That trio isn’t the worst big man rotation you’ll see this season, but it doesn’t spark a whole lot of hope. The lack of production the team may receive from their frontcourt may end up putting too much pressure on the stars. Guys like Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby will need to pick up the slack and show they can be Robin to Pascal Siakam’s Batman.
VanVleet ended up being one of the more prized free agents this past off-season and seemed to have a pretty solid market. There were rumors that the Pistons and Knicks were both hot on the trail. Eventually, things cooled down as Detroit picked Killian Hayes in the draft and New York became entertained with Russell Westbrook. Fred ended up signing an extension with the Raptors for $85 million over four years. That contract is the largest ever signed by a player who went undrafted. It is a major testament to the guy’s work ethic and the Raptor’s scouting and development departments. For Toronto, this off-season would have been one to forget if they had ended up losing the star guard.
The team didn’t end up doing much in the draft. They ended up having two picks and tried to fill a hole in the backcourt. Malachi Flynn went 29th and looks like someone right up Toronto’s alley. Flynn is a small guard who seems to be able to play with the ball in, or out, of his hands very efficiently. There always seems to be a plethora of guys like this in drafts, with just a few panning out. With the team’s ability to maximize guys like Kyle Lowry and VanVleet, some feel confident they can do it again with the San Diego State product. Their second choice was the next-to-last pick in the second round. The Raptors chose Jalen Harris from Nevada who looks like somewhat of a steal. Harris is a rangy, 6-5 wing who shows competence as a three-level scorer. Toronto hasn’t been great at developing wings recently, so it will be interesting to see if the pick works out.
Underwhelming would be the word I would use to describe the off-season the Raptors had. They lost a couple of key contributors from their frontcourt and didn’t knock it out of the park in the draft. They should still factor in as a team poised to get homecourt advantage in the playoffs even if it isn’t truly home. The eastern conference will be more competitive this year, but the Raptors are a cut above many.