Grading every Toronto Raptors move this offseason

Toronto Raptors - Masai Ujiri (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Masai Ujiri (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Toronto Raptors
Stanley Johnson (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Signing Stanley Johnson

Stanley Johnson was drafted with the 8th pick of the 2015 NBA draft. He had size, athleticism, and he had the potential to develop into a star at the NBA level. Unfortunately, things haven’t been quite that easy for the young small forward.

Johnson played 3.5 years for the Detroit Pistons before being traded the New Orleans Pelicans last trade deadline. After 18 games in New Orleans, they decided they had seen enough, declining to offer him a one-year, $4.9 million qualifying offer. With that, he became an unrestricted free agent.

Toronto snagged up Johnson believing their developmental staff has the ability to turn his career around.

Despite his overall lack of success, Johnson has displayed one elite talent since coming into the league — the ability to defend. You might remember Johnson’s big-time defensive performance against Kawhi Leonard in the fourth quarter of a close game last season.

Johnson is 6-foot-7, extremely athletic, with lightning-quick hands. He combines a physical skillset with the mentality and basketball IQ required to be a great one-on-one and team defender. At 23-years-old, he still has room to grow, but make no mistake, he’s already one of the better defenders in the league.

Offensively, he’s still a work in progress (putting it kindly). He’s posted an inefficient field goal percentage at the rim, from the mid-range, and from beyond the arc throughout his career. He turns the ball over at an incredibly high rate, oftentimes forcing the action when nothing is there.

He’s a solid passer and has the physical frame of an elite offensive player, but in terms of actual production, there’s a long way to go.

Signing Johnson makes a ton of sense for the Raptors. He’s young, talented on one side of the ball, and if he can become even an average three-point shooter, could be a building block for the future.

Johnson the player would receive a B+ to A- grade. However, the contract he signed doesn’t help the Raptors at all. Johnson signed a two-year deal with a player option in the second year. If he performs well, he can leave next season in free agency. If he is even worse offensively, he guarantees a contract and roster spot for next season.

Giving Johnson more money on a standard two-year deal would have made more sense than giving him a team option. Toronto wanted to fit Johnson into the Bi-Annual Exception, but in doing so, cost themselves all the leverage for next year.

Considering that Toronto is focussed more on the future than 2019-2020, this deal doesn’t make as much sense from a cap-management perspective as it does from a roster perspective.

Overall grade: B-