The free agency period is approximately a week old, and the Toronto Raptors have made several transformative roster moves, led by Kyle Lowry’s departure. With that dust starting to settle, fans have turned their eyes to the Summer League, which includes prospects like Scottie Barnes, Dalano Banton, and Anas Mahmoud.
The deal with Miami failed to properly address a major flaw in the Raptors organization. The Raptors still need help in their frontcourt after releasing Rodney Hood, Aron Baynes, Paul Watson Jr., and re-signing Gary Trent Jr.
With Jarrett Allen returning to Cleveland at $100 million for five years and Richaun Holmes signing back in Sacramento, the Raptors for the second straight off-season appeared destined to round out their front-court with poor options.
Even though the re-signed Khem Birch had an impressive stat line in 19 games, averaging 11.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks with Toronto last season, Birch joins a list of 6-8 to 6-10 positionless players on the roster.
While the positionless, small-ball lineups preferred in the NBA are all the rage, size still matters. The 2021 NBA Finalists in Phoenix and Milwaukee had size with Deandre Ayton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Brook Lopez.
Even with 6-9 Khem Birch and 6-8 Precious Achiuwa on the roster, more depth at the center position was added to the organization. It was done quietly and very astutely just before the summer league began. Management signed a 7-0 center in Mahmoud.
In an indictment of the state of the Raptors’ frontcourt needing to play small with Siakam at center and OG Anunoby at the power forward spot last year, Fred VanVleet stated during this past season:
"“It better be” (sustainable) we don’t have a choice at this point.”"
The Raptors were forced to play small, and the lack of depth following the Aron Baynes signing reason was a huge reason why.
Can Mahmoud latch on with Raptors 905 and help provide more depth?
Toronto Raptors addition Anas Mahmoud has tons of intrigue.
Mahmoud is a former four-year Louisville Cardinal who played center. His collegiate stats weren’t great, but we’ve seen many a player who wasn’t outstanding at the collegiate level excel in the NBA, even if it takes a few years. He did average 4.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game.
He went undrafted in 2018. However, coming out of college, he was exceptionally mobile for a big man, with good skills finishing plays around the basket. He was also a strong defender and shot-blocker, a good playmaker for a center, and has a great motor. These are all qualities the Raptors’ organization favor, love to develop or need presently.
There are scouting reports claiming he would be a late bloomer, which may be what the Raptors’ organization is seeing now.
At age 26, Mahmoud played for Zamalek in Egypt and the Basketball Africa League. Mahmoud ended up taking home the inaugural BAL title. He averaged 7.3 points per game but led the team with 6.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game.
Mahmoud also averaged 2.3 steals and 2.8 blocks per game. He is defensively sound, winning the BAL(Basketball Africa League) Defensive Player of the Year award. If Chris Boucher can become a quality player, why can’t Mahmoud?
His production will be welcome with the 905. The Raptors, who were No. 27 at rebounding in the NBA in 2021 partly because of a lack of size and girth in the five spot, need a true center to develop.
If he impresses enough in the Summer League, he will likely find himself on the Raptors 905 roster, where he can continue to grow his game. After a season in which the Raptors had no true center, it is nice to see someone of the 7-footer get a chance.
In his initial opportunity with Toronto’s Summer League squad, he had two points, two rebounds, and was +18 in nine minutes on Sunday. A plus-minus line like that is very promising.
In the Atlantic Division, the Nets have Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin, Philly has Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Tobias Harris, and the Knicks have Mitchell Robinson. Even Cleveland could dominate the paint with Allen and Evan Mobley.
It is better to have size available, and it’s even better when that size is an elite defender and shot-blocker. Toronto may have addressed their mistake from the last offseason with the signing of Mahmoud.