With the NBA Finals set to tip off next week and just about everyone else in The Association looking to next season, now is the perfect time to start digging in to what the Toronto Raptors could do during the offseason to improve.
This is one of those situations where fans that just look at wins and losses might get chesty, with the Raptors having notched a franchise-best 49 wins last season, but the cold, hard facts are that this squad struggled mightily in the second half, played poorly in the playoffs and need to make some changes in order to be legitimate contenders in the Eastern Conference.
Because they play in the Atlantic Division, they’re going to be assured a playoff spot and probably a division title even if they do absolutely nothing – Philadelphia still won’t be great next season, New York is New York and Brooklyn has to rebuild before they can be considered a real threat. But winning the worst division in basketball shouldn’t be good enough; this team has the foundation in place to be more than that and here are some potential free agent moves that could help them advance to the second round and beyond next season.
While it would be fun to throw out all the big names and talk about how they’d fit in Toronto’s lineup, the reality is that players like Kevin Love, DeAndre Jordan or Draymond Green aren’t signing with the Raptors. This is a team that has a bunch of good pieces in place and needs one or two more complimentary elements to make it all work.
Here’s a look at some players that could fill that description.
PF Amir Johnson
Let’s start at home with a guy that has started 72 games in each of the last two seasons. Johnson is only 28, but already a nine-year veteran, so what you see (10ppg, 6.5rpg) is what you get. That’s fine for an energy guy off the bench and if he’s willing to take the mid-level exception ($5.3M) he’s worth bringing back because he knows the system.
PF Tyler Hansbrough
“Psycho T” should be Plan B as the bench energy guy because even though he fouls a little too much, you know he’s going to give you all-out hustle every time you call his number. Give him 15-20 minutes of run a night and he’ll crash the glass, play tough defense and pitch in with some put-backs, plus he won’t cost you much on the open market.
SG Lou Williams
The last of the remaining “in-house” options Toronto should consider re-signing, the 2015 NBA Sixth Man of the Year is going to want a raise after averaging 15 a night for the Raptors last season. As long as he’s not asking for crazy dollars, Williams’ consistent offense off the bench should be welcomed back to Toronto.
PF Greg Monroe
Yes, everyone in the league seems to be moving to playing with a “Stretch Four” and Monroe is the antithesis of that player, but he’s a 25-year-old with four straight 15 and 9 seasons under his belt, including his first double-double year last season. He’s a force on the boards and could create open looks for others on the perimeter in the post.
SF Jae Crowder
If you’re going to be a team that claims defense first, you need wing defenders that can make a difference and Crowder is one of those guys. He flourished in a larger role in Boston and would be a cheap option to replace Terrence Ross in the starting lineup, allowing the struggling former first-round pick to find a rhythm off the bench, at least to start the year.
SF Al-Farouq Aminu
Aminu was a steal for the Mavericks last season and chances are we won’t exercise his player option to remain with the club. If he hits the market, the Raptors should seriously consider the 6’9” small forward who rebounds extremely well and would probably come close to averaging a double-double with consistent minutes.
PF Thomas Robinson
Why not take a flyer on a former Top 5 pick who has washed out in three different stops? Robinson has strong Per 36 averages, but has never been able to find regular run. He doesn’t turn 25 until March and was too good in college to be a complete bust at this level. He could be one of the best value adds on the market this year.
C Brandon Wright
Toronto needs a consistent rim protector and more guys that can clean the glass. Wright is a consistent rim protector and a willing rebounder. He’s an ideal third big – a guy that doesn’t need to get his shots up, but can score on dives to the hoop and put backs, plays defense and works best in restricted minutes.