The Toronto Raptors have a plan in place that will allow them to compete next year. Bryan Colangelo has poised this team to draft a big name and pursue big names in free agency, all while the current team continues to show progress and improvement.
Still, there's a lot more to be done. Every season a number of small trades and pickups turn out to provide great value for teams around the league, and some even help form contenders. A great example of this could be the Grizzlies' acquisition of Marresse Speights for a second-round pick. Despite being a practical nobody before the trade, Speights provided the Grizzlies with a solid interior presence, averaging nine points and under seven rebounds. Perhaps the most lopsided pickup all season, the Knicks claiming Jeremy Lin of waivers is another great example.
The Toronto Raptors have looked pretty solid when healthy this season, and the addition of two talented rookies could definitely help them reach the playoffs, but Toronto can't take any more chances. This fan base has endured enough losing and needs to see a winning team for next year. This means the Raptors' management needs to make haste when pursuing free agents, and they should also pursue as many low-risk, high-reward options as possible.
Luckily for them, there are many talented players in the league that leave you asking, "what are they doing on that team?" and Toronto could see some serious payoff by pursuing these players.
With no further ado, here we'll take a look at some of those hidden gems and how Toronto could obtain them!
Goran Dragic is perfect for the Raptors, and no, it's not because he's from Europe.
Dragic, a student of the legendary Steve Nash, has been fueling the Rockets with solid all-around play all year. For the season he is averaging 11.1 points, five assists, and 25.5 minutes.
Dragic can learn a lot from Calderon, and in his fifth year, the 26-year-old can finally establish himself as a starter in the NBA.
The best part about this is that the Raptors may not have to invest a whole lot for Dragic. Toronto could offer the Rockets the younger Jerryd Bayless.
Bayless may have more potential, but he's still failed to prove anything in his two seasons with Toronto. Trading potential for solid production would be the smarter move for Toronto in this situation because the move will take away from the team's cap space flexibility, and because of that there's no room for mistakes.
Overall, Dragic will quietly play a big role for Toronto, and he's totally worth looking at come free agency.
Omer Asik has all of the traits of a solid big man, and we're very aware of how these so-called solid big men are valued in free agency.
Luckily for Toronto, Asik isn't playing on the Bobcats, and thus he is not averaging a whole lot of playing time. On the Bulls this season, Asik has only played 15 minutes a night, but we know he's capable of doing more.
Last season, as a rookie, Asik averaged eight points and 11 rebounds per 36 minutes, and this season Asik is averaging eight points and 13 rebounds per 36 minutes. He's improving.
The Chicago Bulls are in a tight spot financially and are barely under the luxury tax threshold. Sure, the Bulls can afford to be a tax-payer, but paying Asik $5 million next year would really cost them at least twice that amount.
The Raptors can offer Asik a modest $4-5 million a year deal and get away with highway robbery if they're lucky.
On the Raptors, Asik will likely start or play backup to rookie Valanciunas. In both situations Asik will likely see at least 25 minutes of play, which could be more than enough for him to establish a reputation as one of the league's few talented big men.
Toronto has seen a number of its players come down with injuries over the past two years, and Asik's addition will be huge if Toronto wants any chance at competing without a fully-healthy Bargnani.
Overall, Asik is a steal in the making. Don't overlook this guy, Colangelo!
Andre Miller does not miss the playoffs, and for that reason the Raptors must sign him.
Miller's stats may be the lowest since his rookie season, but so are his minutes. On Toronto his leadership and endurance will be huge. Miller may be old, but he's never been one to jump very high or run very fast; he knows how to play without athleticism and will continue to produce in the NBA.
Miller will be a valuable pickup and his salary is bound to be much lower than the $8 million he was supposed to be paid this season.
Denver has been looking to swap old for young lately, and the Raptors could even send them Jerryd Bayless in a sign-and-trade if the situation calls for it.
Overall, I would be shocked if Toronto missed the postseason with Miller on the roster. From Denver to Philly to Portland and back to Denver, Miller has been silently taking teams to the playoffs throughout his career.
Patty Mills is probably one of the most underrated players in the entire league.
One of the many talented players contributing off the bench for San Antonio, Patty Mills isn't really known by most fans. However, he's a very solid player and was paid basically nothing for his services so far in the league.
In seven games this season Mills is averaging nine points in only 16 minutes. He's shooting 49 percent from the field and 40 percent from downtown. Sure, seven games is a small sample, but this is no D-league product we're talking about; this was Portland's talented up-and-coming backup PG just last year.
In free agency, I'd be surprised if Mills gets a multi-year contract, but Toronto shouldn't hesitate to offer him a three-year, $6 million deal right away.
Mills is only 23 years old, and in his third season, he hasn't had the opportunity to play many minutes. However, if we adjust his career averages to 36 minutes of playing time, we see that he averaged 17 points and five assists.
On Toronto, Mills will be a project PG, but I can see him doing very well playing on a less-talented team. I wouldn't be shocked if Mills averages 20+ minutes and averages double digits in scoring as a result.
At only $2 million per year, the Raptors could add a long-term piece to their playoff puzzle, and that's a bargain we can't let up.
Gerald Green has been a journeyman these past few years, with failed stints in Dallas and Minnesota, but he is finally playing up to the potential he showed when he was a sophomore in Boston.
Could playing next to superstar Deron Williams play a big role in it? Sure, but regardless of his team or teammates, no one can deny Green's tremendous improvement this season with the Nets.
Green is a player with amazing leaping ability and athleticism, but his inconsistency and poor decision-making hurt his opportunities. With the Nets, however, Green is averaging career highs in field goal percentage and three-point accuracy as well. He has stepped it up defensively and is still averaging 13 points in only 24.6 minutes.
The most important part to this is Green's salary. He's been a minimum-level player throughout his career, never making more than $1.4 million.
If Toronto throws between $2-3 million in Green's direction, the team could basically land themselves a second DeRozan for a fraction of his value.
Again we're not going to put all of our playoff hopes on this guy's shoulders, but if he can continue to average double-digit scoring in limited minutes, he will totally outplay his salary.