The Raptors should follow the Clippers’ lead
The Los Angeles Clippers are the perfect example of how to have it all. After moving on from Lob City, the team appeared to be headed into a rebuild. The Clippers surprised everyone last season when they snagged the eight seed and gave the Warriors a run for their money in the first round.
The team had a solid nucleus. They were just missing that one superstar. Then the Clippers went out and added Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Now they are viewed as one of three teams capable of hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy on October 13th.
The most important thing the Clippers did during that stretch was trading Tobias Harris to the Philadelphia 76ers. Harris was a borderline All-Star at the time of the trade. He was averaging 20.9 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.
The Clippers knew that keeping Harris would be expensive. He turned down an $80 million contract extension in July 2018. Harris did so, in order to play out the final year of his deal in an attempt to sign an even bigger contract the following summer.
Harris bet on himself and he was right. The 76ers rewarded him with a five-year deal worth $180 million.
If the Clippers had kept Harris and tried to re-sign him, they would not have had the flexibility to add Leonard and George. Instead, the Clippers moved him. In return, they got two future first-round picks, plus Landry Shamet who was taken no. 26 overall in the 2018 draft.
On the flip side, the 76ers now find themselves on the hook paying $30 million-plus over the next four seasons for someone that has never made the All-Star team. Committing big money to such a player can be dangerous.
In the summer of 2017, the Miami Heat handed out big contracts to Kelly Olynyk (four-years, $50 million), James Johnson (four-years, $60 million), Dion Waiters (four-years, $52 million). This was a year after the Heat gave Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson each four years deals worth $98 million and $50 million, respectively.
As a result, the Heat were capped out and stuck with a good team that did not have any chance at making it deep in the playoffs. The Toronto Raptors need to be careful that they don’t follow the same path.
The Raptors find themselves in between the 76ers and the Heat. The 76ers may have overpaid on Harris, but they still have Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid to build around. The Raptors have Siakam, who is a legitimate All-Star and arguably one of the top 15 or 20 players in the NBA. But they don’t have a second star.
Lowry is 34 years old. This season he is playing some of the best basketball of his career. But Lowry can’t keep playing at this level forever.
VanVleet has proven that he can be a high-level starter on a championship team. He is 26 years old and has had a career year. VanVleet is averaging 17.6 points, 6.6 assists, and 1.9 steals per game.
The two other key players on the roster are Anunoby and Powell. Committing big money to both will limit what moves the Raptors can make in the future.
Anunoby is quietly becoming one of the best individual defenders in the entire Association. He has the ideal measurements for a small forward (6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan). Anunoby is only 22 and just scratching the surface of his potential. He is also eligible for a rookie scale contract extension this summer.
As for Powell, he simply doesn’t have the same upside. If it’s between keeping Anunoby or Powell, the choice should be obvious. Anunoby is bigger. He is a better and more versatile defender. He is also four years younger.
I know you are asking, why don’t the Raptors just keep both? Well, if the Raptors want to have a chance to sign Giannis, they won’t be able to.