Raptors free agency: Toronto competing with two rivals for Nerlens Noel

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - MARCH 27: Nerlens Noel #3 of the New York Knicks (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - MARCH 27: Nerlens Noel #3 of the New York Knicks (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Despite the fact that Masai Ujiri remains unsigned the Toronto Raptors offseason is starting to properly kick off in the coming days, with the annual Raptors free agency blitz slated to really get started in August. One target that has been linked to Toronto frequently given their lack of quality at the center spot is former New York Knicks big Nerlens Noel.

If the Raptors are unable to retain Canadian center Khem Birch, they need to fix their gaze firmly on Noel. After Mitchell Robinson went down due to an injury, Noel put up numbers on the defensive end that will make your jaw drop.

Noel was the only player in the league that averaged one steal and two blocks per game. His 6.4 rebounds per game in limited action ended up as his best average since his first few seasons in Philadelphia. Noel is looking to cash in off of his solid season, but the Raptors won’t be the only team vying for his services.

Michael Scotto of HoopsHype reporting that in addition to the Kings and Hornets, two Atlantic rivals in the Knicks and Brooklyn Nets will try to sign Noel this offseason.

The Raptors have seen the kind of impact he can have on the floor when he blocked nine shots in three games against him, and they can’t let that ability fall into the hands of a New York-based opponent.

Will the Toronto Raptors free agency plans include Nerlens Noel?

The Raptors might still be holding out hope that USC center Evan Mobley falls to them at pick No. 4 in the 2021 NBA Draft. If that doesn’t happen, a depth chart populated with the likes of Aron Baynes and a still very young Freddie Gillespie doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence.

Noel was paid just $5 million last season, and a year in which he was third in the NBA in blocks is assuredly going to raise his asking price. While the Raptors still have to figure out how to gain some additional cap space and the potential implications of a Kyle Lowry return, Bobby Webster needs to carve out a slice for Noel.

Even though his offensive game is lacking, and his passing could take a small step forward, the plethora of scorers Toronto has could make up for the lack of tremendous offense. Just swat shots away and finish dunks at the rim and the contract is justified.

While they should try to bring back birch before opting for any sort of Noel deal, the former Kentucky Wildcat looks like a quick fix to some of Toronto’s biggest issues without having to break the bank. The Knicks and Nets will make very compelling offers, meaning that the Raptors must be ultra-proactive in securing Noel’s services.

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