The Toronto Raptors were aware that their off-season would be quiet this year. After losing to the Boston Celtics in the second round, this off-season was more about retaining than signing new players. This is especially true for players that played a key role in the Raptors’ success this year.
The Off-season Transaction Grades for the Toronto Raptors
This was the biggest signing in the Raptors off-season. Fred VanVleet, who was not drafted in the 2016 NBA draft, was arguably the Raptors’ best player offensively in the 2020 NBA playoffs. In the playoffs, he averaged 19.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 6.9 assists, and 1.6 steals per game.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) November 21, 2020
He also played well in the 2019-20 NBA season, averaging a career-high with 17.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, 6.6 assists, and 1.9 steals per game. This was a great move by the Raptors. VanVleet was the best player the Raptors needed to re-sign and they accomplished that goal. They also re-signed Chris Boucher to a two-year $13.5 million contract with the Raptors according to Rob Williams of Daily Hive. He had a career-high in many categories in the 2019-20 NBA season. This includes averaging a career-high with 6.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.0 block per game.
According to Daniel Reynolds of SB Nation: Raptors HQ, Boucher signed a 2-year $13.5 million deal with the Raptors. Expect him to get more playing time at the center position is now more of a weakness for the Raptors heading into the 2020-21 NBA season.
The last player signed was Terence Davis. In normal circumstances, this would be a great deal for the Raptors. He had a great 2019-20 NBA season, where he averaged 7.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game. However, according to Williams Lou of Yahoo Sports, he has alleged criminal charges. If the Raptors drop him, there is a possibility of the NBA Players Association suing the Raptors organization. So, that means the Davis signing will not affect the Raptors’ off-season grade or transactions one way or another.
Players the Toronto Raptors were not able to sign
Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol
The Raptors were unable to sign Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol, two big-free agents who played a pivotal role in the Raptors 2019 championship run. Gasol leaving (he went to the Los Angeles Lakers) was expected and was not a big surprise. Losing Ibaka to the Clippers though was a big hit to the Raptors. In the 2019-20 NBA season, he averaged 15.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game. This includes career-highs in points and assists per game. Ibaka has also become a good passer with the Raptors. This is thanks to the influence of Gasol on the team. He can also play either the center or the power forward position.
Ibaka credited his improved passing to playing with Marc Gasol. "As a big, when I see him, he really inspired me to work on my passing… When I see the way he passes, he always helps our team, so when I step on the court I have to make sure I keep the same vibe."
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) February 6, 2020
It is also hard to lose Ibaka off-the-court for many Canadian NBA fans and the Raptors. He started two shows while being with the Raptors organization. These were How Hungry Are You and Avec Classe. These two shows brought to light and marketed other Raptor players to the spotlight.
The love I have received during this journey I will never forget. I want to thank Larry Tanenbaum and MLSE and the whole Toronto Raptors organization. It is really a great organization that takes care of its players and I'm thankful that I became an NBA Champion with them.
— Serge Ibaka (@sergeibaka) November 22, 2020
Ibaka will be missed as he heads to the Los Angeles Clippers. He signed a two-year $19 million deal with the Clippers. He accepted less money though as Michael Scotto, an NBA writer and podcast host for Hoopshype said that the Raptors offered him a 1-year $12 million contract. This seems to indicate that Ibaka wanted a longer-term deal with the Raptors. However, with possible players like Giannis Antetokounmpo possibly going to free agency next year, the Raptors may be trying to save money.
Lastly, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson averaged 7.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game in the 2019-20 NBA season with the Raptors. He has now gone to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Hollis-Jefferson was a great bench player for the Raptors next year and will be missed for the 2020-21 NBA season. It will be hard to replace him as a back-up in the small forward position. The current starting small forward for the Raptors is OG Anunoby.
Players Signed in Free Agency
The Raptors signed Aron Baynes, who last played with the Phoenix Suns. He was signed on a two-year 14.3 million contract. The Australian international who was born in New Zealand averaged career highs in the 2019-20 NBA season. This includes a career-high of 11.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game. However, it is important to note that he only played 42 games that year. It is likely that Byrnes will be the starting center for the Raptors.
Nurse said he anticipates opening the season with Aron Baynes as the starting centre.
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) December 10, 2020
It is also important to note that the Raptors signed other centers as well. According to the Athletic’s Sham Charania, Alex Len signed a one-year contract with the Raptors. In the 2019-20 NBA season, he averaged 5.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.0 block per game. They have also signed former Atlanta Hawks shooting guard DeAndre’ Bembry according to Gilbert McGregor of NBA to add bench depth.
He averaged 5.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.3 steals per game in the 2019-20 NBA season. The guard position though is quite a contested position with Kyle Lowry, Davis, VanVleet, Norman Powell, and two of their draft pick in the 2020 NBA draft all playing the guard position. It will be hard for him to get some playing time for the Raptors.
Lastly, they signed shooting guard Henry Ellenson, who will most likely replace Hollis-Jefferson at the small forward position. His 2019-20 NBA season was with the Brooklyn Nets, but only averaged 0.4 points, and 1.2 rebounds per game in only five games played. However, it has been shown in the 2018-19 NBA season that he can be a decent player, averaging 6.0 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.
Toronto Raptors Off-Season Transactions Overview
The Raptors at least on paper became a worse team than it was before the off-season transactions began. A large reason for this is the Raptors not being able to sign two of their top three free agents in free agency. One of them is Ibaka, who on and off the court represents the Raptors fanbase. It will be hard to replace someone like him, who has improved such a lot with the Raptors organization.
However, to give credit to the Raptors, they did try to fill that void. They signed Byrnes and Len and also re-signed Boucher. These three players are going to battle for the starting center position. Whether they can replace Ibaka though is yet to be seen. Furthermore, the Raptors still signed the most important of the three-free agents with VanVleet.
Their off-season transactions grade is a C.
Come along for the journey. #WeTheNorth
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) December 4, 2020
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