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)
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Toronto Raptors
Jaylen Brown vs Toronto Raptors (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

Jaylen Brown

Jaylen Brown is likely a name that the average fan is more familiar with than Murray. Brown was a McDonald’s All-American. He was a five-star recruit and ranked as the fourth-best recruit behind Ben Simmons, Skal Labissiere and Brandon Ingram. Brown entered the draft after his freshman season at UC Berkeley and was selected no. 3 overall by the Boston Celtics in 2016.

In the 2017-18 season, Brown showed flashes of his potential and all-around game. He started all 70 games that he played and averaged 14.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists and one steal per contest. He also shot 39.5 percent from three-point range (on 4.4 attempts).

However, after season-ending injuries to Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, Brown took his game to another level in the 2018 playoffs. He was second on the team in scoring behind Jayson Tatum. Despite missing their two best players, the Celtics advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals, losing to the Cavs in seven games.

With Hayward and Irving back and healthy this past season, Brown had to adjust to a new role. Brown began the season in the starting lineup but was eventually relegated to the bench. He and Tatum had a difficult time taking a backseat to Hayward and Irving.

The Celtics struggled in comparison to preseason expectations. They lost in five games to the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round of the playoffs. As for Brown, he saw a decline in his overall production.

Irving and Al Horford are gone but the Celtics will enter this season with a number of questions. Chief among them is can Hayward regain his All-Star form?

Hayward still has two-years left on his contract including a $34.2 million player option for next season. Last season, Hayward averaged 11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game; a respectable stat line, but one that fell short of the expectation in Beantown.

It took Paul George two years to completely recover from his gruesome leg injury. If Hayward can return to his pre-injury form, the Celtics may be hesitant to offer Brown a lucrative contract.

Irving may be gone, but Danny Ainge did a good job replacing him with Kemba Walker. Walker and Hayward both make over $30 million per season. Tatum will also be eligible for an extension next summer.

Decisions about an extension for Brown cannot be made in isolation. Tatum is viewed as a stronger prospect throughout the league. There is no doubt that he will receive a five-year, designated rookie extension. How much will the Celtics be willing to pay the fourth option on the roster?

Brown has all the tools to become an elite two-way wing. He measured 6-foot-6.75 (in shoes) with a 6-foot-11.75 wingspan at the draft combine. Brown is an excellent defender, capable of guarding multiple positions. However, questions remain about his offensive game.

Brown gets most of his point in transition or off spot-up threes. He needs to work on his shot creation both for himself and for teammates.

At only 22 years old, Brown has been more athletic than most of his opponents his entire career. Brown has always been able to blow past defenders or dunk over them.  There has never been any need to develop a more advanced offensive game.

Despite that, Brown is a smart player, who understands what he needs to do in order to take that next step. He spent time training with Tracy McGrady last summer, understanding that he can learn a thing or two from McGrady, a former two-time scoring champ and someone who was capable of attacking defenses in a variety of ways.

The most the Raptors can offer Brown is a four-year, $125.8 million contract. That may seem like a lot to offer. But it is a mistake to think that Brown has already reached his ceiling.

Raptors’ fans can look to someone like DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan entered the league as mostly just an athlete, but he put the work in and developed into one of the more complete offensive players in the NBA. Brown is a player that is willing to put in the work and should be able to follow a similar career trajectory.