Although NBA free agency opened on July 1st, today is actually the day where players can officially sign those contracts. In what has been a busy off-season filled with headlines of LeBron James and “where the Big Three will end up” rumours, the Toronto Raptors have quietly flown under the radar and bolstered their roster. Before we analyze the moves made by the Raptors front office, let’s take a second to do a quick recap of them.
Before opening free agency, the Raptors made a move to free up a bit of cap space by acquiring Louis Williams from the Atlanta Hawks in a three player deal, sending guard John Salmons and a second-round pick to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for guard Louis Williams and centre Lucas Nogueira. Louis Williams provides the Raptors with a decent scoring option off the bench that can play both guard spots, and Lucas Nogueira is an intriguing prospect that should play with the Raptors next season.
But the most prominent signing of the off-season for Toronto was without a doubt, theKyle Lowry
signing. Lowry was arguably the Raptors best player throughout the second half of the season last year, and he looks primed for a big campaign in 2014-15.
After re-signing Lowry, general manager Masai Ujiri quickly went back to work and started assembling the rest of the pieces in Toronto. Bringing back hard-working bench players like Patrick Patterson was a high priority for Toronto and Ujiri addressed this quickly by signing Patterson to a three-year deal, worth $18-million.
After clearing cap space in the Novak deal, Ujiri moved on to bringing back guard Greivis Vasquez. Well, as he usually is, Ujiri was successful in doing that too; inking Vasquez to a two-year deal.
Masai Ujiri wasn’t done there though! Earlier today the Toronto Raptors signed former 16th overall pick James Johnson to a 2-year deal, worth $5-million. The deal brings Johnson back to Toronto for a second stint. The tall, long armed Johnson should give Toronto a flexible forward that can play both the three and a “stretch four” off the bench.
In what has been an exciting off-season for the Raptors, the signing of Johnson will more than likely be the final signing of free agency for Toronto. But with almost the same roster as last year’s playoff team returning, plus a bolstered bench led by Louis Williams, the Raptors faithful must be pleased with what has transpired.
If not with the personnel, consider it from a value standpoint alone. Two years ago the Toronto Raptors looked doomed and headed towards the NBA’s abyss of floundering franchises stuck with overpaid contracts. Yes, I am talking about the Rudy Gay and Andrea Bargnani deals that had the Raptors set to pay Gay and Bargnani $31-million during the 2014-15 season. After Masai Ujiri miraculously traded both of those albatross contracts, the Raptors are now paying Lowry, Vasquez, Patterson and Williams $31-million combined this year!
Which would you rather have?
But the financial makeover might not stop there. Look at the Raptors contracts for the upcoming season. Only the core of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas , Terrence Ross, Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson and Bruno Caboclo are signed beyond next season.
Coming off the books would be Amir Johnson, Landry Fields, Chuck Hayes, Tyler Hansbrough, Louis Williams and Marcus Camby. (Yes you read that right, the Raptors still owe Marcus Camby money from his buyout a few years back.) With all of those players coming off the books, the Raptors would have more than $33,525,760 in cap space next season!
That kind of money would allow the Raptors to take aim at high-profile free agents in 2015 like Kevin Love, Al Jefferson, Klay Thompson (restricted free agent), LaMarcus Aldridge, or even Brook Lopez or Robin Lopez. Either way, the Raptors will have cap space at their disposal to do whatever they see fit.
If the way Masai Ujiri has run this franchise since taking over as general manager is any indication, the Raptors will be players for the foreseeable future as Ujiri constantly adds more pieces to Toronto’s puzzle. Breathe easy Toronto, with Masai at the helm, being a Raptors fan doesn’t look to be so bad after all.
In Masai we trust.