Raptors' 2022 Free Agents, Targets and Draft Needs After NBA Playoff LossApril 29, 2022
Raptors' 2022 Free Agents, Targets and Draft Needs After NBA Playoff Loss
The 2021-22 season was a massive success for the Toronto Raptors.
After bottoming out last season with a 27-45 record, they quickly returned to form. They went 48-34 to earn the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference, but their playoff run came to an end against the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round after Thursday's Game 6 loss.
Toronto's 21-win improvement was the third-biggest jump in the NBA from last season, behind only the Minnesota Timberwolves (+23) and Cleveland Cavaliers (+22).
Scottie Barnes, the No. 4 pick in the 2021 NBA draft, won NBA Rookie of the Year and looks like a future star. Pascal Siakam scored 22.8 points per game and set career-high averages in rebounding (8.5) and assists (5.3) in 68 starts.
The core of Siakam, Barnes, Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr. and OG Anunoby is under contract through next season. Head coach Nick Nurse and president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri are arguably the best at their respective jobs in the NBA.
All of the pieces are in place for the Raptors to go from a solid playoff team this season to one of the favorites in the Eastern Conference in 2022-23. Looking ahead to next season, here are their impending free agents, potential targets in free agency and draft needs this offseason.
Unrestricted Free Agents
Thaddeus Young, PF
Chris Boucher, PF
Isaac Bonga, SF
Restricted Free Agents (Qualifying Offer Value)
Yuta Watanabe, SF ($2.2 million)
Justin Champagnie, F ($1.576 million)
David Johnson, PG ($1.576 million)
Qualifying offer values via Spotrac.
The Raptors are well set up to do something bold this offseason, if that's what they want to do. They aren't in danger of losing anyone significant in free agency.
Chris Boucher is the most significant pending free agent on the roster. The 29-year-old averaged 9.4 points and 6.2 rebounds primarily coming off the bench for Nurse.
Thaddeus Young performed well off the bench after being acquired in a midseason trade with the Sacramento Kings. He averaged 6.3 points and 4.4 rebounds in 26 appearances for Toronto. If the team wants to bring him back on a cheap one-year deal, it wouldn't be a bad investment.
The only other unrestricted free agent is Isaac Bonga, who only appeared in 15 games this season. The Raptors' restricted free agents were largely non-factors for the team in 2021-22. Yuta Watanabe and Justin Champagnie combined to play in 74 games.
David Johnson only had two appearances off the bench.
Potential Free Agent/Trade Targets
While Raptors fans won't want to think about the possibility of losing Nurse, it is at least out there and must be discussed.
Per Shams Charania of The Athletic on April 11, the Los Angeles Lakers are targeting the 54-year-old as a possible replacement for Frank Vogel.
There are many hurdles that would need to be cleared before the Lakers can even try to hire Nurse. He's still under contract with the Raptors, which would have to grant Los Angeles permission to speak with him.
If the Lakers receive permission to speak with Nurse and want to hire him, they would most likely have to negotiate a trade to facilitate the deal. There's no indication at this point that he wants to leave Toronto. The Los Angeles rumors could also be a smoke screen from his camp to get a lucrative contract from the Raptors.
As for potential player trades and signings, the Raptors are about $32 million under the luxury-tax line of $147 million. The biggest thing they really need is an elite scorer who can get a bucket from anywhere at any point in the game.
Toronto finished the season ranked 14th in offensive rating (112.9) and 20th in points per game (109.4), per Basketball Reference. The top scorers who could be available this offseason include James Harden, Bradley Beal and Zach LaVine.
LaVine has made it sound like he's at least willing to go into unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career. The Chicago Bulls can offer him a deal worth at least $210 million over five years, with the possibility for more if he makes an All-NBA team.
Other teams would only be able to give LaVine a four-year, $156 million deal, unless a sign-and-trade gets worked out.
Beal hasn't made any official decisions, but the 28-year-old told reporters in March it was "fair" to assume he was going to re-sign with the Washington Wizards this summer.
Who knows what's going to happen with Harden? He was supposedly going to opt in to his 2022-23 salary with the Philadelphia 76ers after being traded by the Brooklyn Nets, but he missed the deadline to file the paperwork, according to Charania.
Considering Harden's age (he turns 33 on Aug. 26) and erratic play over the past two seasons, is he the type of player a team would want to build an offense around?
Jalen Brunson's all-around skill set would seem like a natural fit for the Raptors, though the Dallas Mavericks are understandably going to try to re-sign him after his breakout season.
The Raptors' second-half surge wound up costing them a first-round draft choice in 2022. They sent a lottery-protected pick to the San Antonio Spurs as part of the package to acquire Young.
No one will argue it was bad business because of how well the Raptors played down the stretch. They also acquired the No. 33 pick in the trade that San Antonio originally received from the Chicago Bulls in the DeMar DeRozan sign-and-trade deal last offseason.
The Bulls acquired the pick from the Detroit Pistons back in 2018 as part of a trade involving Jameer Nelson.
With Wendell Moore Jr. declaring for the draft, he could be on the Raptors' radar. The Duke wing took a significant leap forward as a junior, shooting 41.3 percent from three-point range on 3.2 attempts per game. He was also named to the All-ACC Defensive Team.
Over his first two college seasons, Moore averaged just 8.6 points per game and shot 28.3 percent from behind the arc. His improvement in 2021-22 suggests there could be even more upside as he transitions to the NBA.