The 2020 NBA Draft is over, and the Toronto Raptors have some major decisions to make to fill out their roster. The major question is Fred VanVleet truly a priority, or is finding frontcourt players?
Officially, November 20th, 2020 is the date that NBA general managers, including Bobby Webster of the Toronto Raptors, can begin negotiations with players in free agency to sign on November 22nd, 2020. With a second consecutive abbreviated season scheduled to start December 22nd, 2020, franchises have not much time to rebuild their rosters.
The Toronto Raptors are no exception; with high profile free agents Fred VanVleet and Serge Ibaka available in free agency, the Raptors’ management team has a hard decision to make. They either bring back the point guard they developed into a star in Fred VanVleet or address the obvious holes in their frontcourt.
Toronto may have actually already answered this question despite management’s recent insistence that Fred VanVleet is a “top priority” with the draft picks they selected Wednesday night.
Toronto Raptors add a point and shooting guard to the roster
Wednesday night, The Toronto Raptors selected Malachi Flynn, a point guard from San Diego State, and Jalen Harris, a shooting guard from Nevada University. With point guard Fred VanVleet expected to attract a lot of attention and, by extension, a large pay raise on his 9 million dollar salary in 2020, and the legal troubles surrounding shooting guard Terence Davis, the Raptors may have used the draft to replace outgoing players on the roster.
Malachi Flynn is very similar in play style to Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry, not to mention his stature at six-foot-one and weighing 185 pounds.
Jalen Harris is an offensive standout who averaged 21.7 points a game for Nevada in 2020 but will need seasoning. He will likely spend some time with the Raptors 905, the G-League affiliate to the Toronto Raptors.
Toronto Raptors current roster
The Toronto Raptors’ current roster is three players short of the 15 man limit allowed. It breaks down as follows:
Point Guards – Kyle Lowry and Malachi Flynn
Shooting Guards- Norman Powell, Terence Davis, Matt Thomas, and Jalen Harris
Small Forwards – OG Anunoby, Patrick McCaw, and Paul Watson (two-way contract)
Power Forwards – Pascal Siakam and Stanley Johnson
Centers- Dewan Hernandez
The Toronto Raptors recently extended qualifying offers to Chris Boucher and Oshae Brissett, making them restricted free agents. At the moment, including the two new rookie additions, the Toronto Raptors will have around 88-91 million dollars in salary committed under the salary cap.
Toronto Raptors’ needs vs. wants
At this point, the return of Fred VanVleet seems more excess than a necessity in no way disparaging his talents. It’s simply a matter of need vs. want or price. The Toronto Raptors may have been helped by recent deals in which point guards changed teams like the OKC Thunder deal with the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers, and the Milwaukee Bucks deal with New Orleans Pelicans.
Rajon Rondo, another point guard, is expected to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers as a free agent. These transactions or pending transactions involved seven point guards. However, the Detroit Pistons and New York Knicks could make it hard for the Toronto Raptors by creating a bidding war for Fred VanVleet’s services.
The salary cap is set at just over 109 million, and the Toronto Raptors may have less than 20 million to spend. The team’s current makeup suggests two centers and a capable backup at power forward are necessities, and the Raptors already have six guards on the roster.
The Toronto Raptors could bring back both Fred VanVleet and Serge Ibaka because they own their Bird rights allowing them to sign their own free agents and go over the cap. This would most likely have the Toronto Raptors close too or in the luxury tax level of 132 million in committed salary under the salary cap rules.
In this scenario, if Chris Boucher re-signs, the Raptors are still minus a big man on the roster and a reduced mid-level exception to fill that hole. If the Toronto Raptors walk away from Fred VanVleet, they have more options to adequately improve their roster’s flaws.
A third and yet scary option would be to bring back Fred VanVleet in free agency but trade point guard Kyle Lowry’s 30 million dollar salary cap commitment. It is a difficult choice because Kyle Lowry is the heart and soul of the Toronto Raptors, but at age 34, it’s hard to determine what value would be acquired in return for his services.
The Toronto Raptors’ roster choices will be evident as soon as Sunday, November 22nd, 2020.