Raptors Free Agency: Summer target is increasingly a longshot to return this year

Domantas Sabonis and Malik Monk, Sacramento Kings
Domantas Sabonis and Malik Monk, Sacramento Kings / Mark Blinch/GettyImages

The Toronto Raptors have undergone a roster makeover this year, but their moves largely point to a team that is looking to get back to competing for a playoff berth by as early as next season. Injuries and a lack of chemistry have doomed this season, but nailing their moves in the draft and free agency this summer could have them back in at least the Play-In mix next season.

Whether or not that's the best long-term path for the Raptors to take, it's worth following them down that path to determine what moves they could make this summer. That includes signing players in free agency who can help the team win now without putting a timer on their long-term build.

The Raptors could target Malik Monk in free agency

One such player frequently mentioned as a potential free agency target for the Raptors this summer is Sacramento Kings guard Malik Monk. The one-time Kentucky star had a slow start to his career with the Charlotte Hornets before turning things around with the Los Angeles Lakers and truly breaking out on the Sacramento Kings the last two seasons.

Malik Monk looks like an excellent fit on the Raptors next season and beyond. Still just 26 years old, Monk is a dynamic shot-creator and scorer at all three levels, and his passing vision has grown significantly since joining the Kings. Toronto could bring him off the bench as a combo guard running bench units with Scottie Barnes, often closing games alongside Immanuel Quickley as well. He would give the Raptors offensive juice and strong scoring and playmaking without breaking the bank.

The question is not whether he would fit on the Raptors, then, but whether he will even be available for the Raptors to court in free agency. Monk is eligible to sign an extension with the Kings prior to free agency; the reason he has not already could speak to the two sides being far apart on contract negotiations, but a strong close to the season for both Monk and the Kings could convince Sacramento to pay up.

Things were certainly on track for Monk to earn a large payday, as he put up career-best numbers and was a frontrunner for Sixth Man of the Year. The odds of that happening now are significantly reduced, however, as Monk is spending the end of the season on the bench after suffering an MCL sprain that will keep him out for four-to-six weeks.

Monk probably won't play again this season

In addition to reducing his chances of bringing home some hardware, Monk's lengthy absence will likely ensure he isn't able to get back onto the court this season. The Kings would need to make an extended playoff run for Monk to have time to return, but with Monk and Kevin Huerter both sidelined the Kings have been sliding back into the pack and are in danger of missing the playoffs altogether.

Sacramento is locked into the battle for 6-10 in the Western Conference, and they could still finish anywhere on that ledger. Even if they do make it out of the Play-In Tournament they will then need to upset a team in the first round to give Monk a chance at returning. Perhaps that would be realistic with Monk in the lineup, but it seems impossible without him.

If the Kings flame out in the Play-In Tournament or the first round of the playoffs, will the team look at Monk's absence and determine he would have been the difference, incentivizing them to bring him back? Or would they instead recognize they need to change the mix around their two stars and hold onto financial flexibility instead of investing in a sixth man?

The Raptors will hope whatever path the Kings take to close the season leads to Monk hitting the open market, either to sign themselves or to take up another team's cap space and push a different player their way at a bargain. Either way, Monk looks like he won't have another chance to set his market on the court this season.

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