Toronto Raptors must pursue free agent center Jarrett Allen

CLEVELAND, OHIO - MAY 10: Jarrett Allen #31 of the Cleveland Cavaliers (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OHIO - MAY 10: Jarrett Allen #31 of the Cleveland Cavaliers (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Now that the Cleveland Cavaliers have scooped up seven-foot center prospect Evan Mobley at the 2021 NBA Draft, the Toronto Raptors have been given new life in their pursuit of center Jarrett Allen.

Cleveland hoarded centers this past season, eventually winding up trading JaVale McGee and buying out Andre Drummond. They also were part of the multi-team deal involving James Harden and wound up acquiring a former Brooklyn Net in Allen, another center.

Allen just completed his fourth season in the NBA but was never offered a contract extension by Brooklyn in the fall of 2020. He is now an RFA, but Cleveland has a financial crunch in their frontcourt.

It starts with the insane four-year, $120 million contract they inked with power forward Kevin Love that kicked in starting in the 2019/20 season. It’s an albatross around their management team’s neck because Love has played in just 103 games in the past three seasons.

Assuming that the Cavs don’t trade Mobley, a four-year standard rookie contract is due to the USC standout to play center. It stands to reason with his acquisition, Mobley’s development is the priority for the Cavs, and Allen looking for a long-term commitment in Cleveland would hamper that development.

That is where the Raptors come in.

Will Jarrett Allen sign with the Toronto Raptors?

Cleveland has extended a qualifying offer of $7.7 million to Allen, coming off of his NBA rookie entry deal signed when he was drafted by Brooklyn No. 322 overall in 2017.

Jarett Allen is an RFA, just like the situation Toronto faces with Gary Trent Jr. this year. However, with Kyle Lowry a free agent, the Raptors should have the cap space for Allen. The cap is expected to be $112 million and the luxury tax level at $136 million for the coming season.

Allen could be looking at a contract somewhere around four years, $72-$80 million, or between $18-$20 million per season. If a fifth year is included with an option, the deal could be worth $100 million. The soon-to-be 23-year-old center averaged 12.8 points, 10 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks this season between Brooklyn and Cleveland in 45 games.

According to’s Chris Fedor:

"“In a word: Pricey. I’d expect Allen’s total number to creep close to $100 million, maybe even a bit north of that."

With Toronto’s emphasis in the last two drafts on guards and wing players, they desperately need to address their frontcourt. A full season of Freddie Gillespie and Khem Birch in 2021/22 might be good, but the Raptors need to address the long-term viability of bigs on the rosters’ depth chart and the starting role in the center position.

On a team that likes to get out and run in transition and off the fastbreak, head coach Nick Nurse and management must recognize that that philosophy starts with defensive rebounds. The Raptors were 27th in that category last year.

Allen may be a better fit at the center position than Birch due to his verticality, shot-blocking, and rim-rocking dunks. Allen is also younger, as Birch, maybe at his potential ceiling, will be 29 in September.

The last three NBA Champions all had true centers patrolling the paint, including the 2019 NBA Champion Raptors with Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka.

Even if the modern era of basketball emphasizing guard skills and shooting, the intangibles of winning basketball still require size and power to allow the finesse to shine.

Raptors management needs to recognize that tenet of the game and cannot go into 2022 with players like Aron Baynes at the center spot. Allen may be the best big man free agent for the job, and Toronto must offer him a contract.

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