That’s Weird…The Band is Almost Entirely Back Together?

Masai promised a “culture reset” but here we are. A primer on what could be next for the Raptors now that some free agency stuff has happened. This is a long subtitle.

3 years.

That’s the magic number for this Raptors team. They’ve got a 3 year window.

On Sunday, the night after losing PJ Tucker to Houston, the team locked up both Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka to 3 year contracts (100M and 65M, respectively) and that just so happens to coincide with the player option on DeMar’s contract.

Coincidence? I think not.

So, they’ve got 3 years, a core three the front office had targeted and a luxury tax problem. Now what?

I could do one of those articles where I outline a plan, step-by-step. Instead, I’m just going to run through various ideas and address the rumours out there. There are a couple of lists in here for you Buzzfeed fanatics. Don’t worry.

Replacing PJ Tucker

Tucker’s arrival last year almost felt like that culture reset. He got off his redeye flight and walked onto the basketball court, demanding defence and announcing his presence. He publicly called for better defence from DeRozan, he hustled and he was a key cog in a great end-of-regular-season stretch sans Lowry.

So that’s why it felt like a bit of a gut punch to the Raptors’ off-season plans when Tucker took Houston’s offer of 4/32 over the reported Raptors figure of 3/33 (which would’ve also been in line with the other Raptors signings!).

So how do the Raptors replace him? Here’s what could work.

DeMarre Carroll

I get it. He’s one of the salary dump options with an approximately $15M cap hit and little production to show for it. But the probably exorbitant price it seems will be necessary to get rid of him could backfire. If he can rebound at all from a couple of tough injury-riddled seasons, maybe? Don’t count on it. But I really hope we don’t have to count it out. Optimism for the win.

Bruno Caboclo

Please. There are a number of tones you could take from reading that Please – choose wisely. Remember, I’m an optimistic guy.

CJ Miles

One of the free agent options who can slide into a 3 + D role at the wing position. He shot a career high 41% from 3 last season and would/should probably command a non-tax-paying team’s mid-level exception

(FYI: The Mid-Level Exception is around $8M for non-taxpayers above the cap and $5M or so for taxpayers.)

Oh yeah, the Raptors are now in the tax.

Clearing Cap

That previous sentence was an excellent segue to the Clearing Cap portion of this article; was it not?

The Raptors have a couple of contracts they might want to shed.

The names of these players are as follows:

  1. Cory Joseph
  2. DeMarre Carroll
  3. Jonas Valanciunas

Let’s go through them in that order.

Cory Joseph:

Michael Scotto (of Basketball Insiders) was the first to report talks of a potential Cory Joseph trade to the Pacers. They did sign Darren Collison post-this rumour, so who knows about this one? It would get rid of Joseph’s cap hit and perhaps replace it with the aforementioned CJ Miles’s future cap hit – sign and trade, baby!

Delon Wright looks ready to slide into the backup role and Fred VanVleet is a capable third point guard. The Raptors are deep here and Cory can be expendable.

DeMarre Carroll:

For as long as this contract remains, he is a bounceback candidate for me. Forever optimistic. But if the Raptors do want to ditch his 15M salary, picks are not just necessary. They are absolutely mandatory. That’s where his value has gone. Rumours going around the NBA Twitter world indicate the asking price to absorb his cap hit is exorbitant. Man, I like that word. Exorbitant.

Jonas Valanciunas:

The “new NBA” is leaning positionless. And it’s especially not friendly to the Valanciunas skillset. He’s slow, can’t really stick on defence and his big man offensive game has flashes of brilliance but is occasionally flat as well. He handled Cleveland towards the end of that quick four game semifinal set but those games had become increasingly rare. Yeah, that’s where JV’s three he’s been working on comes into play. Yeah, I’d like to see it more but I don’t think it’s a game-changer. Enes Kanter’s contract isn’t friendly to OKC and their skillsets are comparable. Offensively talented players who should have a place somewhere but whose defensive difficulties (understatement alert) make it really, really tough to keep them on the court. When this contract was signed, it looked promising, it looked good. Now, it doesn’t. Now, it needs to be accompanied by compensation if the Raptors want to trade it.

A Quick Bit About Culture Reset Because I Said I’d Mention It

I think the Raptors need to do something different this year. I don’t know what it is. But to bring back the whole crew (sans guys who signed elsewhere) plus coaching staff does not scream culture reset. New playbook? Bring in one new free agent face? I think they have to do something. It’s tough being steady in the world with The Process and the Greek Freak and the innumerable number of Celtics assets.

Other Musings

The rough draft of this article had notes on retaining Patrick Patterson but one of the latest WojBombs will make that impossible. He’s headed to OKC on a 3 year deal for around 16M.

The Raptors have a lot of youth and it will be cool to see the guys get playing time.

I feel like it’s important to list some potential free agent targets, regardless, I will highlight a couple of names I find myself surprisingly (or unsurprisingly) interested in seeing suit up for the Raptors.

Thabo Sefolosha

This guy plays defence. Shooting is sometimes a question. But he plays defence.

Nick Young

All we know is Swaggy P will not be in La La Land next year. The Warriors are interested, so if he’s interested in going, that’s probably where he’ll end up. The Pelicans can offer more money than them (the Warriors) and seem like a better fit for him, too (every other team). He showed another gear on defence this year that we hadn’t seen before and knocked down 40% of his threes.

JaMychal Green

I love his fit with that Grizzlies team so much. Super solid defender, great athlete. Will definitely make some money this offseason and it won’t be with the Raptors. I just wanted to get his name on this list.

Luc Richard Mbah A Moute

This is the mid-2000s UCLA fan speaking here, too, but I’ve always liked LRMAM (much easier for me to spell correctly). He’s always been a real solid defensive player and last year with the Clippers, he was hitting his shots, too. 39% last year from 3 – a career high! Could come cheap. Speaking of the Clippers, another one of their former guys is here, too.

Brandon Bass

I forgot he was in the league. Is that wrong of me? I feel he could definitely do the Drew Gooden thing where you see him providing quality bench minutes for a team that’s overachieving (or achieving, for that matter) and you think to yourself:

Wow, he’s still in the league?

And then you look him up on, like, Basketball-Reference and see better numbers than you’d thought.

OK, so that’s that. Lots of words on the Raptors. I did my best but the best part of all of this is something I find myself writing in essentially every piece I’ve written about the NBA. Who knows what happens? Things happen everyday like Gordon Hayward’s decision but it still feels like it’s all just getting started. None of this stuff in this article could happen, it could all happen, some of it could happen. Who knows? Why am I still writing this? Why are you still reading this? It’s over.

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