Raptors & free agency: all but done for season

TORONTO, ON - MAY 07: Kevin Love
TORONTO, ON - MAY 07: Kevin Love /

The Raptors are taking shape. With two high-profile free agents returning, we mull over what next year’s team will resemble.

The Toronto Raptors appear to be all but done in free agency. Of the four Unrestricted Free Agents our team could have retained, Masai Ujiri has struck deals with two, while the other pair look like they are headed out of town. Now we need to figure out where we are.

To sum up, Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka have agreed to king’s-ransom deals with Toronto. P.J. Tucker appear to be on his way to Houston, and Patrick Patterson (whom the Raptors barely waved at) looks like he’ll be in Oklahoma City for 3 years.

CLEVELAND, OH – MAY 3: Referee Sean Corbin
CLEVELAND, OH – MAY 3: Referee Sean Corbin /

The loss of Tucker is unfortunate. He apparently decided he wanted to be paired with long-time friend Chris Paul, who was recently shipped to Texas from the L.A. Clippers.

Next season’s Raptors are going to look a lot like last season’s. Let’s consider what that means.

“Meet the new boss – same as the old boss”

With a roster so top-heavy with expensive stars, there won’t be a lot of minutes available for the backups. Ibaka, Lowry and DeMar DeRozan will average 36 minutes each. Ibaka’s role is not clear at the moment, however. I read a lot of scuttlebutt to the effect that Jonas Valanciunas’ departure from the Raptors awaits only a trade partner. Don’t be so sure…

In the trade-JV thinker’s mind, Ibaka becomes the center. That’s interesting, sez I – and who’s the power forward? Does the 4-spot disappear in favour of another swingman as the NBA trend towards positionless hoops continues?

Serge can’t do all the rebounding by himself. He’s our best shot-blocker, and if he’s doing that (or changing shots, which can be just as effective), somebody has got to crash the boards. JV was our best rebounder last year, averaging 9.5 Per Game.

Player development – not so easy

Is it possible one of the kids can take a giant leap? With Patterson gone, there should be more minutes for either Pascal Siakam or Jakob Poeltl as backup big men. We’ll consider in detail who will backfill 2-Pat’s 24+ minutes PG another time; suffice to say there’s a vacuum, and no easy solution at hand.

The Raptors are seriously short of proven 2/3-type players. There’s reason to hope Norman Powell can step up, and/or DeMarre Carroll can regain the form he’s never shown since coming to Toronto. But until either or both of these fellows crosses the chasm, we’re still weak.


, the #23 pick in the draft, won’t be playing for some months. He’s got the physical profile of a swingman, but was drafted for his defense. If we get consistent outside shooting from him within 3 years, I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

It’s the coach’s decision who plays

Our coach is no Mad Scientist, a la Mike D’Antoni. Dwane Casey is conservative by nature, and will need a lot of persuading before he abandons a traditional 5-man set. It’s worked, folks. The Raptors have averaged more than 50 wins for the past 4 seasons.

Money talks. The five men announced for Game 1 of the 2017-18 season will be the Raptors’ highest paid. JV will jump center, Serge is the 4, Carroll, on a short leash, gets the 3-spot, and All-Stars Lowry and DeRozan are the backcourt.

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