Plenty of uncertainty surrounds the Toronto Raptors as the 2017 off-season begins. Of course, Kyle Lowry is a free agent and has made it clear that his decision on where to play next season (and beyond) relies completely on who gives him the best chance to win a ring. The Raptors also have the impending free agency of Serge Ibaka, who provided the team with their first solid power forward since Chris Bosh.
While those are the two biggest concerns for Toronto, they aren’t the only issues that need to be addressed. Throughout the season, and even more during the playoffs, it became evident that DeMarre Carroll is not the small forward who can help propel the Raptors to the promised land. While I have nothing but respect for the man, his production does not warrant the gigantic contract he is currently signed to.
In other words, Carroll needs to go. It won’t be easy to move him as he’s in line to make US$14.8 million next season and US$15.4 million the season after that. In any trade Toronto makes involving Carroll, they’ll almost certainly have to send back an asset of some sort. Taking all this into account, the Raptors need to find an upgrade for the small forward position. As discussed earlier, the team is strapped for cash and will have to make some magic happen from a financial standpoint in order for any of these moves to materialize.
With that being said, here are 3 free agents that Toronto should target in order to boost the small forward spot.
Some might argue that after the whole Andrea Bargnani experiment, the Raptors should stay away from Gallinari. If that’s not the issue, there’s also the shaky injury history of the Italian forward. However, when healthy Gallinari can really play. He’s a threat from deep and can slash to the basket. While his defense is questionable at best, he’s not a complete liability on that end.
All things considered, his injury history could work in favour of the Raptors when it comes to negotiating a contract. Gallinari would definitely serve as an upgrade over Carroll, offensively, and because of the latter’s drop off in defense, the Italian isn’t a complete dud on that end. In fact, his footwork isn’t the question but rather his effort and energy when it comes to guarding opposing players is.
Here’s some highlights from when Gallinari torched the Phoenix Suns for 32 points:
Third time’s the charm, right? The former 2-time Raptor enjoyed a career season with the Miami Heat. Johnson spent 2 seasons in Toronto so there’s no concern over whether he likes the city or not. The biggest worry for Johnson is his effort. He’s a bigger body (6’9, 250 lbs) and can definitely play defense. He’s not going to put up the offensive numbers that Gallinari does, but he brings the intensity, hustle and toughness that the Raptors are desperate for.
Again, after his best season yet, Johnson will definitely be seeking big money this summer but if Toronto is unable to re-sign Lowry or Ibaka, there’s no doubt they’ll have some money to spend. Johnson is not the same player he was a couple seasons ago. He’s better conditioned and after watching him play for Miami this past season, he looks poised to make some noise.
Here are some of Johnson’s highlights from this season:
This could be seen as a long shot when you factor in that Iguodala has been a key player in Golden State’s success over the last 3 years. However, there’s also a possibility that he wants a bigger role. He’s currently behind Kevin Durant and Draymond Green on the Warriors’ depth chart.
It’s safe to assume that competing for a championship is the main priority for him and any team not named Golden State or Cleveland might be outside of his realm. However, his stats don’t reflect the on-court and locker room value he provides for any team. Once considered one of the most versatile players in the league, Iguodala has become more of a veteran presence and at 33 years old, he’s still one of the most efficient perimeter defenders.
This is the kind of defense the Raptors needed to suffocate LeBron James with:
These aren’t the ‘sexiest’ options for the Raptors, but these 3 are certainly capable of making an impact and would serve as an immediate upgrade over DeMarre Carroll. Kevin Durant and Gordon Hayward are the class of free agent small forwards but with all the talk of luxury tax and uncertainty surrounding who’ll be suiting up for Canada’s lone team next season, it’s better to look at things from a realistic point of view.