Why the Toronto Raptors could benefit from being bad this season

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Toronto Raptors

The Toronto Raptors huddle during a game. (Getty Images)

The case for the Toronto Raptors to take a step back this season.

If the season ended today, the Toronto Raptors would have the second-worst record in the NBA and would be primed for a top 3 pick in the 2021 NBA draft.

Their 1-6 record is not encouraging; they have three major pieces in place (OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet) and cap flexibility to build around them going forward. Assuming some decisions around Norman Powell’s player option for $11.6 million, Boucher & Baynes non-guarantees for about $7 million each along with some other non-guarantees for Thomas and Davis, the slate is essentially wide open with plenty of directions they could go.

With this being an unorthodox season, to say the least, the slow start, the great draft class, the lack of great free agents in this class, and the prospect of returning home to the fans in Toronto next year; I’m here to make the case that the Raptors could benefit from being bad for this season.

Let’s start with what we know. We know this is a great defensive team, we know this team struggles to score in the half court, we know Toronto has trouble attracting a major free agent star (Damon Stoudamire, Vince Carter, Chris Bosh, DeMar DeRozan and Siakam were all drafted), and we know Toronto does a decent job at finding talent in the draft.

Here is the list of players who are free agents this coming summer:
Kawhi Leonard (Player Option)
Victor Oladipo
Jrue Holiday (Player Option)
Kyle Lowry
LaMarcus Aldridge
DeRozan
Andre Drummond
Spencer Dinwiddie (Player Option)
Kelly Oubre
Mike Conley
Dennis Schroder
Evan Fournier
Tim Hardaway Jr
Otto Porter

The players on this list fall into 4 categories:

  1. Likely to stay with their current team (Holiday, Leonard)
  2. On the wrong side of the age curve (Lowry, Aldridge, Conley)
  3. Roll player who doesn’t move the needle (Hardaway, Fournier, Drummond, DeRozan, Dinwiddie)
  4. Or someone who’s position is already filled by a core piece (Schroder, Oubre, Porter) – these guys probably don’t move the needle either.

The only player left on this list is Oladipo, who in my opinion does bring what the Raptors need. He fills a hole in the back court (assuming Lowry does not return), brings solid defense across three positions and can provide some ability to drive to the rim in the half court (something the Raptors need). While I really do like Oladipo and his fit with the team, how much is it going to cost with other teams bidding for his services, (looking at Dallas and Miami along with others) the opportunity to play in a bigger market, and perhaps a better chance at winning a title.

The reality is that as much as Oladipo can bring to the Raptors, there’s nothing that the Raptors can really bring to Oladipo. All of this to say, staying competitive to attract a free agent in the 2021 free-agent class, provides minimal value.

Instead, the Raptors could potentially use this chance to take a step back and improve over the long run and here’s how they can do it.

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