The Toronto Raptors have two key rotation members scheduled to hit the open market this summer, as both Chris Boucher and Thad Young will be in line for new multi-year deals. Based on Masai Ujiri’s postseason quotes, retaining Boucher sounds like the more likely proposition of the two.
However, Toronto needs to prepare for the possibility that both of these players end up bolting in free agency. Young could be seduced by a championship contender looking to add one more experienced piece, while Boucher might price himself out of a return to Canada.
If both of these players wear different jerseys next year, Toronto needs to get an A+ backup plan together. Failing to do so would be an unmitigated disaster for a team that wants to play a unique brand of basketball centering around players with Boucher’s physical build.
If Boucher ends up leaving the Raptors, Toronto would do well to sign one of these players as a replacement. It doesn’t matter if they’re youngsters who thrived after a change of scenery or veterans looking for an ideal situation to maximize their talent. All three of these players could reach their full potential in Canada.
3. Jalen Smith, Indiana Pacers
Smith didn’t even make it to the end of his second season in Phoenix. The Suns needed someone that could contribute to a championship contender, which forced a trade that sent the former top Maryland recruit to Indiana. The Pacers may have stunk, but Smith was excellent.
Smith averaged 13.4 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in just under 25 minutes per contest with the Pacers. With Myles Turner coming back and Indiana potentially taking a big man high in the 2022 NBA Draft, Smith could get an enhanced role and hefty multi-year contract with Toronto.
Jalen Smith could star with the Toronto Raptors.
Smith is still skinny for a big, but he’s proven to be a solid rebounder and passable defender in the paint. Khem Birch is on the roster, but swapping out the older Birch for a much-younger Smith could make the bench that much more potent offensively. Smith came into the league raw, but he’s starting to figure it out.
Smith will have some skepticism attached to him. Are his numbers with Indiana the sign of a player who was underutilized in Phoenix or someone that was scooping up tons of vacated shots on a tanking Indiana team? If Toronto gives him an expanded role, we’ll find out once and for all.