Initial Post-Draft Depth Chart for Toronto Raptors
"With the 37th pick in the 2014 NBA draft, the Toronto Raptors select DeAndre Daniels."
These are two names that Raptor nation certainly did not expect to hear, but yet here we are.
If you were to have looked at any “expert” mock drafts or projections for whom Toronto would select at either of these spots, not once would you have come across the virtually unknown Caboclo, or even Daniels for that matter.
The Raptors’ two most glaring needs from last year’s roster were the lack of a defensive-minded, backup small forward and a substitute center, neither of which were addressed by these two picks.
Sitting here after having some time to try to process these selections, I can’t help but question the thinking of general manager Masai Ujiri. For a team that was thought to only need one or two more pieces to become a serious contender, it’s very curious that he chose the youngest and most raw player in the entire draft with the Raps’ first-round selection.
However, he deserves the benefit of the doubt given his tremendous track record. The Raptors faithful (myself included) hope that he knows something that we don’t and that his instincts are spot on with these picks, particularly Brazilian product Caboclo.
So all in all, putting together an early depth chart of the 2014-15 roster is not exactly a surefire task considering all of the items that are still left to be determined in Toronto.
There's the possibility of the two new draft picks nabbing roster spots and of course there are still several looming free agents still floating around in Kyle Lowry, Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson and Nando de Colo.
Then come the decisions needed to be made on the contracts of John Salmons and Tyler Hansbrough. It’s safe to say there is still a lot left to be determined.
However, here’s a quick look at what things might look like next year.
Starter: Kyle Lowry (Unrestricted Free Agent)
Ujiri is making this Toronto's biggest priority.
In a recent interview, he said, "We'll go for talent in the draft, but Kyle Lowry is our target and we'll try to get that done."
Lowry is due for the first big pay day of his career and the Raptors need to do whatever it takes to re-sign him and keep him as the starting point guard.
He averaged 17.9 points, 7.4 assists and 4.7 rebounds last season and is the unquestioned leader of this team, which is so close to taking the next step in the Eastern Conference. We have to believe that he will re-sign and spearhead the Raptors' charge toward title contention.
Reserve: Greivis Vasquez (Restricted Free Agent)
If Lowry unfortunately does part ways with Toronto, then Greivis Vasquez would at least be able to somewhat fill the void.
However, we are going to think optimistically and assume that Lowry does re-sign. Even so, the Raps would still love to re-sign Vasquez.
He averaged 9.6 points, 4.1 assists and 2.2 boards in just 22.5 minutes per game last season and proved to be a key piece in Toronto’s young core.
The Raptors have extended a qualifying offer to Vasquez, now it’s just a matter of waiting to see if another team offers more. If this were to happen, then it wouldn’t be awful for the Raps to let him walk and free up some cap space.
In a perfect world, Toronto would have Lowry as the starter and Vasquez as the reliable backup. Now let’s hope Ujiri can make that happen.
Reserve: Nando de Colo (Restricted Free Agent)
Considering Toronto did not take a point guard in the draft, it seems pretty certain that the right move would be to also re-sign Nando de Colo.
He received very limited action last season but showed flashes of serious potential.
The Raptors should try to keep him as well, for a cheap, just-in-case situation—and because he warrants solid potential down the road.
Starter: DeMar DeRozan
This is an obvious placement here with DeMar DeRozan coming off an NBA All-Star campaign where we saw him take tremendous strides in elevating his game toward the next level.
He averaged 22.7 points, 4.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game last season. He still needs to continue his improvement, particularly in his outside jump shot, defense and overall consistency, but he is one more All-Star season away from becoming a real and consistently recognizable star across the NBA.
Reserve: Landry Fields
Landry Fields and his bloated contract are one of the main reasons the Raptors have very little cap space to work with on the free-agent market.
Fields is set to make $6.2 million in 2014-15, which is nearly the same amount as Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas will make combined.
What has he done to earn this contract? Absolutely nothing. He’s been a huge disappointment so far during his time in Toronto. He managed to earn only 10.7 minutes per game last season, where he contributed a whopping 2.3 points per contest.
So all in all, yes it is a scary thought that Fields is likely going to be a direct backup to either DeRozan or Ross in the upcoming season, but maybe with an increased role he will finally step up and earn at least a small portion of that contract.
Starter: Terrence Ross
Terrence Ross had a nice breakout season in 2013-14 and has quietly developed into a potential future star.
With elite athletic ability and a smooth jump shot, the potential to become a real force in this league is right there for the taking for Ross.
In 2013-14, he averaged 10.9 points and 3.1 boards per game. Those numbers could very well be bolstered if it weren’t for DeRozan swallowing up many of the shots each night.
If Ross can take the next stride and begin to step out of DeRozan’s shadow, while still being able to co-exist, the Raptors could be in for a great ride with two of the more young and exciting wing players in the NBA.
Reserve: Steve Novak
Up to this point, Steve Novak’s time in a Raptors uniform has left a lot to be desired.
The sharpshooter didn’t receive much playing time, getting only 10 minutes per game. But when he was in, he didn’t always give coach Dwane Casey a whole lot of reasons to leave him on the floor.
Novak averaged just 3.3 points per game, but did finish the season 42.6 percent from beyond the arc.
Similar to Fields, he should have an increased role in the upcoming season with the likely departure of John Salmons and hopefully will be able to take advantage of the opportunity.
Reserve: Bruno Caboclo
This may be a serious case of wishful thinking putting Caboclo on the roster for next season considering how raw he is. But after hearing Ujiri’s post-draft presser, it seems the move may actually be realistic.
When asked in his press conference after the draft if he expects Caboclo to be on the roster next season, Ujiri said yes and seems to already have a plan in place. He later stated that he expects Caboclo to arrive in the next day or so and that the team is going to fly him to Los Angeles to work out with future teammates DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross and Amir Johnson.
Seems like Ujiri is going full steam ahead with Caboclo. Considering that no one really knows much about him besides the Raps’ GM and his staff, we will all just be on the roller-coaster ride that is bound to be his first couple years learning the ropes of the NBA.
From those comments, it sounds like Ujiri really expects Caboclo to be on the roster next season. So for now, I have him listed as a third-string small forward. According to ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla, people refer to Caboclo as the “Brazilian Kevin Durant,” and hey, I’d certainly take a foreign version of Durant. Let’s hope for the best.
Ujiri also commented on Toronto’s second-round pick, DeAndre Daniels, saying, “He’ll play with us in Summer League and we’ll see and make a decision there, but there’s a good chance that he’ll be playing overseas or in the D-League.”
Sounds like Daniels, despite being significantly more polished than Caboclo, will more than likely spend time developing on the lower levels before he makes it up to an NBA roster.
I sure hope Masai knows what he’s doing.
Starter: Amir Johnson
Amir Johnson had a very good year for Toronto in 2013-14. He averaged 10.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 28.8 minutes per game.
If it weren’t for some nagging injuries, Johnson could have had an even bigger impact on the team.
Johnson is a key part of Toronto’s core and is entering the last year of his contract. Ujiri should look to offer an extension to Johnson in the near future as he deserves to stay with the Raptors.
Reserve: Patrick Patterson (Restricted Free Agent)
Obviously the main priority for Ujiri and the Raptors this offseason is to retain Kyle Lowry, but second in line should be retaining Patrick Patterson.
He is a restricted free agent and Toronto has given him a qualifying offer. As long as another team doesn’t come in with a ridiculously high offer, the Raps should be able to keep Patterson, which will greatly help solidify the team’s future at the power forward spot.
He averaged 8.5 points and 5.3 boards in just 23.6 minutes per game last season and seems poised to take on a bigger role come 2014-15. He proved that he can bang with the bigs down low and also step out from the key and even beyond the arc to knock down jumpers.
With Amir Johnson’s health constantly causing concern, the Raptors could even consider moving Patterson to the starting lineup and having Johnson be the first guy off the bench. The team wouldn’t miss a beat.
Either way, assuming Patterson is re-signed, the Raptors will look pretty solid at the power forward spot.
Starter: Jonas Valanciunas
The big man out of Lithuania took huge strides for the Raptors last season. He finished the season with averages of 11.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.
Valanciunas really came on strong, particularly toward the end of the season, and showed that he has all the potential to become a dominant big man in the NBA.
He seems to be taking the right steps to ensure this transition, as it was reported in May that Valanciunas plans on working out and learning under NBA legend Hakeem Olajuwon this summer. That's a pretty fantastic place to start in learning from one of the best big men of all time.
He possesses the work ethic and the passion to become great; now let’s see if he can put it all together. If so, the Raptors could have a perennial All-Star center manning the paint.
Reserve: Chuck Hayes
Unfortunately the Raps didn’t help this area in the draft, so for now we are left with Chuck Hayes as the backup center.
Just like Landry Fields, Hayes’ contract is simply absurd. He is set to make just under $6 million in 2014-15 and, also like Fields, his contributions have not amounted to anywhere near what they should be for that type of money.
He averaged 2.2 points and 3.4 boards in 12.3 minutes per game last season.
However, with very little success so far in Toronto and this most likely being his last year suiting up for the team, maybe we’ll get lucky and see a different, more successful version of Hayes who’ll want to go out on a high note.
Obviously, this depth chart is assuming the best in that the Raps are able to retain all of their free agents.
Nando de Colo
No more John Salmons. Ujiri will most likely not be able to get rid of his contract, so the team will buy him out and save $6 million in salary cap space.
No more Tyler Hansbrough. Similar to Salmons, barring a trade, Hansbrough will be bought out, which will save the Raps over $2 million in salary cap space.
The addition of Bruno Caboclo. Again, I would have not included him on this depth chart had it not been for Ujiri’s comments in his press conference that sounded like he was determined to have him on the roster in 2014-15.