Toronto Raptors: Three restricted free agents for fans to keep an eye on this season

Toronto Raptors - Masai Ujiri (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Masai Ujiri (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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Toronto Raptors
Caris LeVert vs Toronto Raptors (Photo by Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The 2020 free agent class doesn’t feature any marquee names. But there are a few players that the Toronto Raptors should be monitoring in case they become available next summer.

This is a transition year for the Toronto Raptors. Masai Ujiri is on record stating that he won’t trade any of his veteran players before the start of the season. However, Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka are all on notice. Their time with the Raptors is likely coming to an end and Ujiri will finally get the opportunity to construct a roster from the ground up.

Fans will have the hardest time saying goodbye to Lowry. Next year will mark Lowry’s eighth season in a Raptors’ uniform. He is the heart and soul of the team. Lowry has worked hard throughout his career, transforming from a late first-round pick into a perennial All-Star. All that hard work finally paid off last season, as Lowry helped lead this team to its first-ever NBA Championship.

As for Gasol and Ibaka, both were key contributors to last year’s title team. However, their respective tenures with the Raptors don’t come close to rivaling Lowry’s impact. Most fans would be fine with either one being moved before the trade deadline for draft picks or young assets.

The Raptors have eight players under contract for the 2020 season: OG Anunoby, Norman Powell, Patrick McCaw, Terence Davis, Dewan Hernandez, Matt Thomas, Cameron Payne and Stanley Johnson (player option). After factoring in cap holds for Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, the Raptors have just under $54 million committed to 10 players.

The salary cap is projected to increase to $117 million next season. The Raptors will have at least one first-round pick in 2020. The cost of adding a mid-to-late first-round pick is between $2 million and $3 million. As such, the Raptors could enter next summer with close to $60 million in cap space.

Bobby Marks, ESPN’s front office insider, reported that 14 teams had $20 million-plus in cap space this summer. Next summer, there are only five teams projected to have $25 million-plus. In addition to the Raptors, the other teams are the Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Memphis Grizzlies.

All four of those teams are in the early stages of a rebuild. With the exception of the Hawks, it seems unlikely any one of them will make a big splash next summer. They are all better off using their cap space to take on bad contracts, with draft picks attached, and focus on the future.

The Raptors, on the other hand, will try to avoid a full-scale rebuild. Ujiri and his staff have done an excellent job developing late first-round picks and undrafted players. Siakam is 25 years and looks ready to take over as the Raptors’ best player. Even without Lowry, Gasol or Ibaka, the Raptors should still be able to make a playoff push in the East.

As such, the Raptors should use next summer to add to their nucleus of young players.