A case for building the Toronto Raptors like the Oakland A’s

(Photo by Anatoliy Cherkasov/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
(Photo by Anatoliy Cherkasov/NurPhoto via Getty Images) /
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Toronto Raptors
E’twaun Moore (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /

The Raptors cannot simply rely on free-agent superstars.

With what we know about the history of the Raptors, chasing after superstar free agents is not something that the organization should rely on. Not to say it isn’t a fruitful tactic, it just shouldn’t be the only target in the matter.

While that’s difficult, given the superstar empowerment we’ve come to know in the NBA, it may be the best option for the Raptors overall. Ujiri himself saw Siakam at Basketball Without Borders, he knows the diamonds in the rough may lie beyond the typical playgrounds.

As well, there have to be undervalued assets lurking in the 2020 free agency class. As of right now, here are the notable free agents that Toronto should consider targeting:

Kyle Lowry

Lowry is an obvious one if he agrees to a cheaper deal. Lowry’s play can age well, he’s a pass-first point guard after all and just came off his best season average for assists. If Ujiri can work with him for a team-friendly deal, then Lowry is a fantastic asset to lead them into the future.

Of course, this is assuming that Lowry is ready to do this type of deal; Ujiri will have a lot of magic to pull in negotiations here.

Montrezl Harrell

Montrezl Harrell is an interesting player, who has proven his worth on the LA Clippers. It is doubtful that Harrell will want to leave the Clippers unless it is an abject disaster. A lot of things must happen over the next season for Harrell to want out, but stranger things have happened in the NBA.

He’s a defensive stalwart and a pick-and-roll fanatic, both things are highly valuable in the NBA and would perfectly suit the Raptors offense. If he develops his passing, then he will be a highly touted commodity.

Shabazz Napier

Shabazz Napier is a player to pursue if things go south with both VanVleet and Lowry. Otherwise, his skills may not be sufficient for the Raptors. Just last year, he increased his 3-point attempts and he dropped his percentage, which doesn’t seem like a good sign.

But, this is the type of player the Raptors should look for, someone who can be potentially undervalued. Using his skills in a system that is supportive of what he is good at–say a second unit player or a two-guard–then he could have warts in his game, but most of which are hidden in the approach.

Bertans, Harris, and Moore

Leftover there is Davis Bertans, Joe Harris, and E’Twaun Moore. These players all have the same reliable piece to their game: 3-point shooting. As constructed, the Raptors definitely lack 3-point shooting. If this year doesn’t have improvement from many players, then looking for 3-point shooting will be on the menu for the Raptors.

These players are all unrestricted and although they all have reasons to stay with the teams that employ them currently, the Raptors should give it a shot if nothing else just to see if there is an inkling of wanting a change of scenery.

NBA Draft

Then there’s the draft, of course. Now is not the time to consider all the variety of prospects that could be entering the 2020 draft. But, it is time to consider what assets the Raptors currently have at their hands.

Right now, according to Real GM, the Raptors own all of their first-round picks with no restrictions until 2026. In the second round, they owe 2021 to Brooklyn, 2022 to Philadephia, and 2024 to Memphis.

The Raptors have their own draft assets and they should focus on keeping them as well as nailing them. There are some teams that clearly value gathering picks–just look at the haul both the Pelicans and the Thunder orchestrated–but the Raptors can’t have the same return without giving up some of its competitiveness.

In short, they should keep the assets that they have already, and unless the trade is unbelievably one-sided, then they should focus on finding the undervalued players in the upcoming drafts. There is seemingly always at least one player outside the lottery that turns out to be a franchise-altering stud; it is up to the Raptors’ scouting team to discover him.

Next. Can the Raptors be a top-five defense in the NBA?. dark

The Raptors have a long way to go in their rebuild to get back to the Finals, but it is a task that Ujiri can complete. With the Oakland A’s giving a blueprint for competitiveness while rebuilding, the Raptors have an opportunity to continue their winning ways while making subtle but significant changes on the roster.