Toronto Raptors 2014 NBA Free Agency: Ranking Top Targets Post-Draft
With a couple of their own free agents still left to sign and not a whole lot of cap space to work with, Raptors fans will be looking for general manager Masai Ujiri to work some of his renowned front-office magic to keep the Raps on their current upward trend.
Toronto didn’t waste much time making a move just before free agency, as Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported the Raptors have traded John Salmons to the Atlanta Hawks for Lou Williams and Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira.
Free agency officially begins July 1, and this move couldn’t have been more perfect for the Raptors. Instead of paying $7 million to a demising John Salmons, Ujiri was able to dump the rest of that salary and pick up two solid assets.
First there's Lou Williams, a combo guard who's proven he can be an effective scorer in the league. And then there's Nogueira, an intriguing, former first-round center who could have a good connection with 2014 selection Bruno Cabuclo, a fellow Brazilian.
As long as Williams stays healthy, he should prove to be a very good backup option at the 1 or the 2, especially if either Kyle Lowry or Greivis Vasquez chooses to leave. Nogueira is still young and raw but could be a very interesting development project.
Once the Salmons trade is made official, the Raptors should have about $16 million in cap space to work with.
Toronto’s top priority is to sign unrestricted free-agent and heart-of-the-team Kyle Lowry. Since the Raps own Lowry’s Bird rights, they should be able to offer him as much money as necessary to keep him without going into the luxury tax.
After Lowry, Ujiri would ideally love to bring back restricted free agents Patrick Patterson, Greivis Vasquez and Nando de Colo. The team has extended qualifying offers to each of them; however, Vasquez and Patterson will more than likely be searching for long-term deals that the Raps should still be able to oblige.
All in all, Toronto doesn’t have a ton of wiggle room to go after free agents, but with a couple of needs still waiting to be addressed (such as a backup center and a perimeter defender), Ujiri should be able to do some bargain hunting and find some help for cheap prices.
Of course this is all assuming that all of Toronto’s free agents re-sign; obviously if one or more of them decide to walk, then the Raps will have more room to work with in free agency.
Either way, let’s take a quick look at the top targets the Toronto Raptors should be considering in free agency.
No. 8: Aaron Brooks, Point Guard
If Lowry, Vasquez and de Colo all re-sign, then Brooks won’t be a necessary option. However, if one or two of those players departs Toronto, then Brooks could be a great guy to bring in.
Brooks is a very quick guard with veteran experience who is also great in transition and pick-and-roll situations. He could fit perfectly in Toronto’s run-and-gun offense, but only if the Raps’ first options at point guard decide to part ways.
No. 7: Greg Stiemsma, Cole Aldrich, Greg Oden & Nazr Mohammed, Centers
Pick a center, any center. All of these players have similar skill sets and can be had for a cheap price. Rather than create a separate slide for each, I thought it best to put them all together since the Raps would only need one of them.
Toronto has a glaring need for a backup center behind Jonas Valanciunas. Recently acquired Lucas Nogueira, if on the roster next season, won’t be ready to contribute yet.
Nazr Mohammed is a 15-year NBA veteran who has had a great career, and he would provide a solid, consistent presence behind Valanciunas as well as leadership and experience in the locker room. He could be brought in on the veteran’s minimum.
Aldrich and Stiemsma are both big and long and can clog the paint, block shots and rebound. Both will only demand between $1 and $2 million.
Lastly, Greg Oden, who’s had a tumultuous NBA career, offers the highest risk/reward situation. You risk his injury-riddled past keeping him from playing for the chance to get lucky and have him realize a sliver of the massive potential he had coming out of college. He'd also require just the veteran's minimum.
No. 6: Andray Blatche, Center
The reason Blatche isn’t on the last slide is because he's a significantly better and more-proven player than any of the other center options. He'll also, therefore, be a bit more expensive.
The 6’11” and 260-pound big man averaged 11.2 points and 5.3 boards for the Brooklyn Nets in 2013-14.
He recently opted out of his contract with the Nets, where he was only set to make $1.4 million next season.
Blatche isn’t quite as realistic as one of the centers on the last slide, but if Ujiri could somehow pull it off, it would make the Raptors seriously formidable down low with Blatch and Valanciunas.
The Nets will certainly be able to pay him more money; however, as reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, Brooklyn is in flux at the moment with the possible departure of head coach Jason Kidd, and Blatche may want to look elsewhere for a better chance of winning.
The Raptors are a hot team with big potential, and the mid-level exception could certainly be used here, paying Blatche up to around $5 million per year.
No. 5: Thabo Sefolosha, Shooting Guard/Small Forward
While not a dynamic scorer, Sefolosha has still been a very good player for a long time in his own right.
He averaged 6.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per game last season in what The Oklahoman's Anthony Slater speculates to be his last season in Oklahoma City.
Despite his last season not going as well as he’d have liked, Sefolosha is still one of the premier perimeter defenders in the NBA.
The Swiss wingman made $3.9 million in 2013-14. Toronto could be able to make something like that work with a mid-level exception.
The Raps would welcome Sefolosha with open arms as he would solve arguably their biggest need: a lockdown defender on the perimeter.
No. 4: Marvin Williams, Small Forward/Power Forward
The small forward spot is certainly a position the Raps need to address, and the 6’9", 230-pound North Carolina product could be a great fit.
Ever since Terrence Ross moved into the starting lineup, there’s been a void behind him. Williams could be a great presence off the bench, being able to play on the perimeter or go down into the post when necessary.
He averaged 9.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game for the Utah Jazz last season. He can score pretty well from the outside, but his most important contribution would be helping defend on the perimeter.
Williams would have to take a pay cut to come to Toronto, but at this point in his declining career, that may be his only option, and the Raps would certainly welcome him on a mid-level exception type of deal.
No. 3: Trevor Ariza, Shooting Guard/Small Forward
Trevor Ariza proved he could still ball out this season, averaging 14.4 points, 6.2 boards and 2.5 assists per game.
Ariza would be probably the most ideal player for the Raptors; however, in order to get him they’re going to need a minor miracle or to let go of a couple of their own players.
With natural athleticism, a solid scoring ability and great defensive prowess, Ariza would be ideal for the Raps. He can also shoot the three ball, hitting at a 40.7 percent clip last season, also perfect for Toronto’s system.
Ariza is most likely going to cost somewhere between $5 and $7.5 million, so Ujiri would have to do some serious work to get him to Toronto.
No. 2: Vince Carter, Shooting Guard/Small Forward
The Raptors are in need of a backup small forward and Vince Carter, the former Toronto great, is available to bring back to the city he once called home.
Carter did a lot of good things for the Dallas Mavericks last season, averageing 11.9 points, 3.5 boards and 2.6 assists per game.
Fans may have mixed feelings on a possible Carter return, but he would certainly be a great option at a reasonable price. He would require somewhere around $3 million, a price that Toronto should be able to make work if they so choose.
No. 1: Kyle Lowry, Point Guard
I just have to stress one more time how important it is for the Raps to re-sign Lowry. He is the heart and soul of this promising core, and the team goes as he goes.
I believe and trust is Masai Ujiri and pray that he's able to bring back the bulldog. Lowry averaged 17.9 points, 7.4 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game, and without him the Raptors would be in serious trouble.
It is expected that Lowry will get somewhere between $9 and $12 million per year. Regardless of the exact price, anything and everything needs to be done to ensure Lowry is in Toronto next season and for many years after that.