At the conclusion of the 2019-2020 NBA season, the Toronto Raptors had a record of 53-19 which placed them at 2nd in the eastern conference and 2nd overall in the league. The Raptors followed up their championship with another extremely successful season. After losing their star in Kawhi Leonard and a key piece in Danny Green, The Raptors only had the mid-level exception to replace them. They filled their roster with cheap players and rookies and Nick Nurse was able to coach them to higher winning percentage than last season. Ultimately, their lack of a legitimate superstar shone through when they fell to the Celtics in the second round but that does not diminish what they were able to accomplish. Nick Nurse won the prized Coach of the year award after his incredibly ability to get his team to play up and for his defensive strategies. Pascal Siakam continued to show great improvement and became the regular number one option for this team. He did struggle to handle the load in the playoffs and that may have ultimately cost the team, but all signs are promising for him to become a star with a little more time. Their defence was what won the Raptors their games, placing second in the league in defensive rating and stepping up in close games, especially in last quarters. This offseason will prove to be difficult with the Raptors set to lose some of their best players in Fred VanVleet, Marc Gasol and potentially Serge Ibaka. They will look to retain their depth and pick up defensively minded players to add to the culture that they are growing in Toronto.
Currently, the Toronto Raptors have six players with guaranteed contracts for the 2020-2021 NBA season. Terence Davis, Dewan Hernandez, Matt Thomas, and Paul Watson have non-guaranteed salary for next season which I expect to become fully guaranteed very shortly. Stanley Johnson has a $3.8 million player option which I expect him to opt into. Johnson has been a serviceable player for the Raptors off the bench this season in limited minutes and has not increased his value enough to risk losing salary. Chris Boucher and Malcolm Miller will be restricted free agents along with two-way player, Oshae Brissett. The Raptors will also have several key unrestricted free agents in Fred VanVleet, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Toronto will project to have the full $9.2 million mid-level exception available to use in free agency.
Depth Chart –
The Toronto Raptors will enter free agency don’t have a massive amount of salary on the books for next season but it is assumed they will be operating as an over the cap team once they resign some combination of VanVleet, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Chris Boucher and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. VanVleet has made it very clear that he has fulfilled his goals in Toronto is looking to get paid this offseason wherever he ends up. There are some teams like New York that can exceed any offer the Raptors are able to make, providing they are hoping to keep cap space available for next season, so I don’t expect VanVleet to return. Having said that, if Giannis signs a super max extension prior to free agency, the Raptors will have more confidence to go after him. Marc Gasol is another free agent that I do not expect to return as he has made it clear he would like to go back to Spain to finish his career and is set to do exactly that. This leaves Serge Ibaka as the most important free agent for the Raptors to bring back. They have his bird rights and should be willing to go over the cap to sign him, even on just a one-year deal if they want to have options next offseason. There will be plenty of interest at the mid-level from other teams so the Raptors will need to be willing to offer a contract in the $10-15 million range to keep him. The Raptors will also be looking to match any offer that restricted free agent, Chris Boucher receives as he has become an important piece of the rotation in Toronto and will become even more important now with the departure of Marc Gasol. The Raptors will also look to bring back Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to be an important piece off the bench. He projects to have a larger role next season with the loss of some depth pieces and will be keen to take that head on so should be easy enough to resign. The Raptors will then need to fill out their depth at the forward positions and Jae Crowder could be an interesting signing if he is willing to come in for multiple years at the mid-level exception. He would fit the team’s identity defensively and provide some floor stretching which the Raptors could use.
The Toronto Raptors will have the 29th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. The Raptors have a recent history of turning late draft picks into solid contributors in the rotation and will be looking to do so yet again with this pick. With Fred VanVleet projected to go elsewhere, the Raptors will be looking to draft a replacement at point guard and ensure they have enough depth at that position. With the 29th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, the Toronto Raptors should look to select Tre Jones, a 6’2” point guard out of Duke. Jones is a great floor general at the point guard position who possesses amazing decision-making skills and impressive passing ability. He is a very intelligent player, showing great basketball IQ on both ends of the floor and has shown that he can put in the effort on the defensive end which is something the Raptors will be looking for. While his shooting consistency is questionable, he has shown some improvement between seasons at college and the Raptors will be hoping this trend can continue in the NBA.
The Toronto Raptors are coming of a somewhat surprising but ultimately very successful season after winning a championship and losing their star to free agency a season prior. They have a team full of players that work together and show up on defence every single game. They will be once again losing some of their best players in free agency and will look to bring in some pieces that can contribute off the bench and add to their depth. They will need to retain at least two of their three free agent centers and it will be a stressful period of time for the Raptors during this upcoming free agency. Ultimately, I have no doubt the Raptors will once again be able to make the playoffs next season and expect to see Pascal Siakam blossom into a star while doing so. Look for the Raptors to be dark horse contenders once again.
Projected Depth Chart 2020/21 Season –
Players IN: Jae Crowder, Tre Jones
Players OUT: Fred VanVleet, Marc Gasol